Clean Your Ears with a Spoon

Bamboo Mimikaki Ear Spoon Set

Bamboo Mimikaki Ear Spoon Set

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.

Adornments on a Set of Bamboo Mimikaki Ear Spoons

Adornment on a Set of Bamboo Mimikaki Ear Spoons

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.

Bamboo Mimikaki Ear Spoons

Bamboo Mimikaki Ear Spoons

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.

Bed & Bath Ideas via Trash Backwards

Bed & Bath Ideas via Trash Backwards

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Categories: Plastic-Free Living, Reduce Your Use


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12 Comments on “Clean Your Ears with a Spoon”

  1. whenlifeisgood
    June 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    What a great idea! I am for less plastic, too.

    • June 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks! If you give this a try, please let me know how it goes – My family is hooked on our tiny bamboo ear spoons, but it’s a funny thing to bring up in conversation 🙂

      • whenlifeisgood
        June 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

        My husband will like this. He dislikes Q-tips and is a “no perfume in soap” man. 🙂

  2. Cate Sparks
    June 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Please,,, just get some sweet oil and drop a couple of drops in your ears once a week… Much safer than poking objects into your ears…

    • June 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      Thanks for your words of wisdom! Yes, my family loves ear oil, too…But despite all the risks, we also apparently love to poke things gently and very carefully into the very outmost parts of our ears…I know it’s not advised, but I also know we’re not the only ones who ignore all advice to the contrary 🙂

  3. June 14, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Ear scoops were also used in Europe a long time ago. The Romans had them, and the Anglo-Saxons, and many others. They would wear what we re-enactors call a toilet set dangling from their belt, or carry it in a pouch. It would usually have an ear scoop, tweezers and a toothpick. I have seen much later examples, Georgian or even Victorian, which some antique dealers seem to think were used to obtain ear wax for use in sewing, but I am not convinced they would have used such a nasty substance when beeswax was also available and used for the same purpose, I think those ear scoops must have been used for the same reasons most others are, just to clean the wax out. So there is no reason they wouldn’t work on sticky orange ear wax. I sometimes use my Anglo-Saxon replica one 🙂 but if the wax is very wet and sticky it is just not as good as the cotton buds. But a corner of cloth folded over the scoop can soak up some of the sticky. I don’t see why they can’t make cotton buds from wood rather than plastic though.

    • June 14, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      Thank you so much for sharing this history! And I love the idea of using a bit of cloth folded over the spoon to soak instead of scoop – My own earwax is so different from that, I wouldn’t have thought of it, and I didn’t come across that tip in my research. This is why I love writing about things like this that are rarely discussed in public; there’s a lot of wisdom in the world that can get us off the single-use plastic train!

  4. June 16, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    I’m going to try bamboo ear cleaners when these nasty plastic ones are done.

  5. david barr
    October 26, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    i bought my ist and only ear spoons at worlds fair in 1974 a three pk and lost the last one in florida in 10 and now have found them ! all i could find befor were plastic fool stuff . Thank god i it came to me to look for bamboo . Now no more swimmers ear and i will have relief from my itchy ears.,

  6. Gail
    July 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    My mom use to use a bobby pin to clean my ears as a kid growing up (to which I am in my 50’s now). I have been working at eliminating plastic and avoiding accumulating it for a few months now. It is amazing how challenging it is to do. I have also learned to be an advocate occasionally and ask businesses I like to frequent alternative options to consider. Did you know most clothing today is a petroleum based (type of plastic) as well?


  1. Friday Faves, Freshly Pressed? | Living Simply Free - June 20, 2013

    […] my cotton swabs are plastic free but still. Leave it to Liesl to introduce me to the alternative, an ear spoon. I plan go order one soon and will let you know what I think of […]

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