Here’s to Tiny Bamboo Spoons Instead of Plastic-Stemmed Cotton Buds
by Rebecca Rockefeller
A few years back, when my family was just beginning to remove plastic, especially single-use plastic, from our lives, we stumbled across a solution to an item we hadn’t even thought to tackle yet. A friend of ours gifted us with a set of mimikaki, traditional Japanese ear-cleaning spoons. We got two, each with a small curved spoon at one end and either a puff of down or a small wooden doll at the other.
Ear spoons like the mimikaki are the traditional tools used for cleaning ears around Eastern Asia, where people have dry ear wax. Yes, there are different types of ear wax, the inheritance of which is determined by a single gene with two alleles (brush up on your human genetics via ear wax with this fascinating article here – I’m not kidding, it really is interesting!). Dry earwax (flaky and gray) is by far the most common in those of us whose genetic ancestors hail from Asia and North America, whereas the majority of us who’ve inherited our DNA from Europe and Africa have wet ear wax (sticky and orange). Just to complicate things, a tiny percentage of humanity has “indeterminate” earwax that can’t easily be described as either “dry” or “wet.” Perhaps due to my rather complicated genetic inheritance, I think my own ear wax falls into that category, while one of my daughters definitely has the classic European/African wet earwax. The good news is that the mimikaki we got as a gift work for all of the ears in my family.
I’m not advocating that anyone go and poke anything into their ear canal – We’ve all been warned plenty of times about that, haven’t we? But if there were a piece of earwax in your ear, poised to come out but not quite there yet, or if you happened to have an itch just out of reach of your fingertip, a very gentle touch from a bamboo mimikaki might be just the thing you need. And there’s nothing to throw away afterward, and no plastic packaging that needs to be sent to the landfill (our mimikaki arrived in a paperboard box perfect for travel storage). Although they’ve been used historically only by people with dry earwax, we’ve found that they’re great for those of us with wet earwax, too.
You can find your own set of mimikaki at a well-stocked Asian grocery/department store near you, or online if you’re not lucky enough to have such a brick-and-mortar store to visit. They’re generally inexpensive and last for years. It’s a good idea to have one per person, just like a toothbrush; an ear spoon is a rather personal thing, like a toothbrush or comb.
If you’re interested in more inspiration and ideas for bringing the Rs of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink to your home, visit our Trash Backwards app Bed & Bath Inspiration page here, or search by item on our home page.