3 safer ways to remove ear wax than using cotton swabs or Q-tips – according to doctors

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  • Many doctors recommend not sticking anything in your ears, especially Q-tips or metal tools.
  • Some recommend drops or irrigation systems for loosening hard wax.
  • Keep in mind that wax is a normal substance made for a reason by your body.

Ear wax is the natural safeguard for your ear canal, acting as protection against sand, bugs, and dirt getting in and damaging your canal or eardrum. But if ear wax builds up too much, it can impair your hearing – everything sounds muffled, and it can give you that feeling like you are underwater. Instead of reaching for a cotton swab or Q-tip, which experts say aren’t safe because they can puncture your eardrum and do other damage, try one of these products instead.

According to Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist (ENT) and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, irrigation systems are “perfectly fine as long as there’s not too much pressure and as long as it’s comfortable.” He says to avoid using cold water in the ear, which can cause vertigo or dizziness. Irrigation systems are one of the tools ENTs would use in the office if a patient came in with excessive ear wax, and is a home remedy you can try without doing harm.

In addition, if people have an uncomfortable amount of ear wax clogging the ear, it can help to liquefy the wax with drops, which Dr. Mehdizadeh says are usually composed of peroxide, which fizzes in the ear. “It’s okay for one to two weeks max, but not on a regular basis because it can cause irritation.”

Here are the best ear wax removal tools

The best water irrigator

 Elephant Ear Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy
This system comes with three disposable tips.

The Elephant Ear Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy is a simple and straightforward solution that won’t damage ears. 

What we like: No ball syringe, simple mechanism, gentle

This irrigation system is ideal because it offers a simplistic mechanism involving a spray bottle with three disposable tips. It doesn’t have a lot of extra bells, whistles, and complicated parts that make ear wax removal intimidating. Some systems have the ball syringe to suck out the remaining fluid and wax, but this one doesn’t, which means it can be considered safer than other products that are supposed to be inserted into the ear. In fact, ball syringe options fall in the category of things Dr. Mehdizadeh thinks may be dangerous to insert in your ear.

The price is reasonable, and you can buy replacement tips if you plan on using it more than three times. One downside of this design is that it doesn’t come with instructions, but there are instructional videos on the purchase site that can help.

The best ear drops

Debrox Detox Earwax Removal Aid
These drops use a doctor-recommended active ingredient.

Detox Earwax Removal Aid is a non-irritating formula that can loosen tough wax.

What we like: Non-irritating formula, super easy to use, loosens wax

This popular and affordable alternative to a pricey doctor’s visit can help loosen the toughest ear wax. The active ingredient is the doctor-recommended carbamide peroxide, and users can expect a foaming, cracking, fizzing sound and feeling when they try it. This simply means it’s working well and should not be alarming. The formula claims to be non-irritating, and it’s one of the easiest-use processes for ear wax removal.

The best water irrigator for kids

Earwax MD for Kids, Ear Wax Removal Kit and Ear Cleaning Tool
This option made just for young kids has miniature tips that won’t damage small ears.

Earwax MD for Kids, Ear Wax Removal Kit and Ear Cleaning Tool is specifically designed for kids with a smaller bottle and tip.

What we like: Gentle, small parts for kids

Dr. Mehdizadeh says the only way parents should be trying to clean ear wax out of their kids’ ears without a medical professional is with an irrigation system such as this one. The small bottle and miniature tip make this a more manageable option for a young child, as opposed to the adult irrigators.

Parents can simply have a child lay down, with a towel handy, and slowly fill the ear canal one drop at a time, then set a 15-minute timer and wait. Afterward, you can use the bulb to rinse the ear or allow it to drain naturally. 

Should you remove ear wax?

Ear wax is an oil secreted by the ear canal, which Dr. Mehdizadeh explains as a collection of oil, skin, debris, and dirt. While it seems gross with its light yellow to dark brown color, he says it has a protective effect: it’s moisturizing and antibacterial and is protecting your eardrum and ear canal.

So, there’s no real reason to try to remove ear wax unless it’s impairing your hearing or causing discomfort. Still addicted to those cotton swabs? Be aware that they are “pushing the wax in deeper,” and that nothing should go into the ear to the point that you can’t see it or you risk painful injuries such as eardrum perforation. If the above products don’t work, or you are unsure how to use them correctly, consult your primary care physician or an ENT.

 

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The 5 best skewers of 2021 for grilling, roasting, or garnishing cocktails

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  • Whether at the grill or around a firepit, a quality skewer makes cooking easier.
  • Bamboo is a good option for one-time use, while stainless steel is a reusable alternative.
  • We rounded up the best skewers for grilling, roasting marshmallows, making cocktails, and more.

A set of skewers is a valuable addition to any kitchen or grill set-up. Before purchasing, consider how you intend to use the skewers to help decide between materials and lengths. Most skewers are made of bamboo or stainless steel, but lengths can vary from four to more than fourteen inches. A longer skewer is better for an open fire, and shorter ones are great for use as cocktail garnishes, sandwich picks, and grilling small items. Whatever your needs may be, here are the best skewers for grilling, making s’mores, and more.

Here are the best skewers

Best multi-use

Norpro Stainless Steel 14-inch Skewers
The wide body of the skewer helps to keep food stationary while grilling.

The Norpro Stainless Steel Skewers are versatile tools, with the length to reach a campfire and the shape to lay flat on a grill.

What we like: Good for open fires and grilling, looped handle

The Norpro skewers are the best option for multiple uses because of their length and shape. The 14-inch skewers are longer than average for kabobs, but this makes them more comfortable for roasting marshmallows. Additionally, they are flat and made of stainless steel, which is the ideal combination for grilling. The small, looped handle at the end of the skewer is easy to grasp with tongs and makes hanging storage possible. 

Best for grilling

Blue Donuts Stainless Steel Kabob Skewers
Use the small loop at the end of the skewers to hang and store them.

The Blue Donuts Kabob Skewers are made for grill masters and constructed from dishwasher-safe stainless steel.

What we like: Top rack dishwasher safe, flat length, pointed end

These flat, 12-inch long skewers are great for making kabobs, sausages, and more on the grill. Since the entire skewer is stainless steel, you don’t have to worry about taking special care of the handle. There are 24 in a pack, so you will always have some at hand even when others are in the dishwasher. Though they’re meant for grilling, these skewers can be used for fondue and close-up marshmallow roasting.

Best for s’mores

SUMPRI Marshmallow Skewers
With six different colored handles, these skewers are great for groups.

Roasting the perfect golden marshmallow is easy with the dual-pronged SUMPRI Skewers that extend up to 34 inches.

What we like: Comfortable handles, adjustable length

You can get close to a small camping fire or stay comfortably distant from a bonfire with this set of six marshmallow roasting skewers. These skewers extend from 10 to 34 inches, including the handle, and allow users to adjust the reach whenever they want. The stainless steel dual prongs do need to be hand-washed, but the convenience of having reusable roasting sticks that won’t burn your hand is worth it. The included travel pouch makes this set great for vacations. 

Best for cocktails

Top Shelf Bar Supply Stainless Steel Cocktail Picks
These cocktail sticks are also great for hors d’oeuvres and as sandwich picks.

The Top Shelf Bar Supply Stainless Steel Cocktail Picks are classic and practical cocktail skewers that easily add flair to drinks while holding garnishes in place.

What we like: Dishwasher safe, classic design

Simple and elegant, these cocktail sticks are balanced with a sharp point to pierce garnishes and a rounded top to handle. The stainless steel sticks come in sets of 12 and are available in lengths of four and eight inches. They’re dishwasher safe, so you can spruce up at-home drinks with minimal extra work.

Best bamboo

Fu Store Bamboo Skewers 8-inch
Bamboo skewers are eco-friendly and disposable.

For a cheap and disposable option, Fu Store has bulk packages of bamboo skewers in a range of sizes.

What we like: Bulk purchasing, multiple size options

If you don’t plan to use your skewers frequently, disposable bamboo skewers are an easy and cheap option. The Fu Store Bamboo Skewers are made with multiple uses in mind, offering sticks in four lengths and packs of 100 or 200. The six and eight-inch skewers can be used as long cocktail sticks, and the 10 and 12-inch skewers are ideal for grilling.

When grilling, keep in mind that these skewers are round and don’t have handles. Kabobs will need to be positioned so there is part of the skewer to grab onto. As with all bamboo skewers, soak these in water for 30 minutes before using near heat.

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The 6 best Pilates bars of 2021

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  • A Pilates bar challenges and tones the body in dynamic ways, and especially helps strengthen the core. 
  • Our top choice is the Gaiam Restore Pilates Bar for its quality and functionality.
  • We’ve also included options for beginners, those on the go, and more.
  • Read more: The best yoga mats

Pilates was first developed in the 1920s as a low-impact form of exercise specifically designed to strengthen the core, as well as other muscles in the body, and promote postural alignment. As a Pilates instructor, it’s my job to challenge clients in each and every session. Adding equipment to the workout is one way to ramp up the intensity and add new and creative movements. Pilates bars are great tools that can further target the core and work the body in dynamic ways. Lightweight, portable, and with bands for added resistance, the bars will add a strengthening element to your Pilates workout that can help better define your muscles.

Here are the best Pilates bars

Best overall

gaiam pilates bar
Disassembles for easy storage.

The Gaiam Restore Pilates Bar is a high-quality piece of equipment to practice reformer-style movements. 

What we like: Quality, ease of set up, digital workouts included 

This polished and robust Pilates bar has been thoughtfully designed to help you build a strong core, while also increasing flexibility and improving balance. It features two, 30-inch Power Cords and attached foot straps, plus downloadable exercise workouts that guide you through essential Pilates bar movements with proper technique and form. The intensity can be increased simply by rolling the bands around the bar to generate greater resistance. Weighing just two pounds, this lightweight bar is designed for you to flow between reformer-style exercises with grace and ease.

Best on a budget

BQYPOWER pilates bar kit
The eight-character tensioner helps tone the body from all angles.

The BQYPOWER Pilates Bar Kit is an affordable option that doesn’t sacrifice quality.

What we like: Price, multi-use, straps hold their stretch 

For those on a budget, the BQYPOWER Pilates Bar Kit delivers on all fronts without neglecting quality. The strong steel bar is protected with sweat-absorbing foam pads for comfort as you maintain optimum postural alignment, and the straps are made with TPR (thermoplastic rubber) elastic tubes which help them keep their stretch, even after continued use. As a bonus, the kit includes an eight-character tensioner, useful for both strengthening and stretching purposes.

Best for beginners

Viajero Pilates Bar Kit
Easy to increase or decrease resistance.

The Viajero bar is flexible in resistance and comes with a guided e-book for beginners to learn proper technique. 

What we like: Durable, portable, exercise guide included

For beginners, the Viajero bar is an effective addition for your workouts. You can adjust the resistance by simply rolling the tubes around the bar, which is useful for alternating between strength exercises. The bar splits into three sections for easy transport and has two attachable natural latex resistance bands (up to 50 lbs) that can stretch six to 10 times in length without losing resilience. The bar also comes with a handy workout e-book and video to teach you proper form and movement patterns.

Best for strength training

cretee pilates bar
Build muscle with just one piece of equipment.

Adjustable between 60-180 pounds, the Cretee Pilates Bar is best for those who want to build strength.

What we like: Multi-functional, height adaptable, up to 180 pounds of resistance

The Cretee Pilates Bar comes with six bands, varying in resistance from 60 to 180 pounds, with the strap length adjustable depending on your height and the exercise. The bands are made from durable natural latex and can withstand daily exercise sessions without losing elasticity. As a multi-functional bar, the resistance can be reduced for Pilates and more stabilizing-focussed workouts, or increased to challenge the muscles in a strength-training session. 

Best portable

NoviFit Pilates Bar
This band comes with a cooling towel and a storage bag.

The NoviFit Pilates Bar is the best portable option for those working out on the go.

What we like: Adjustable, comes with a carry bag and training guide

The anti-slip NoviFit Pilates Bar has adjustable bands to change both height and resistance, making it suitable for all heights and fitness levels. It also features widening, non-slip foot belts and thick resistance bands for lasting durability. The bar folds up to a compact 19 inches and comes with a cooling towel and waterproof storage bag for workouts on the go. As a bonus, the included workout guide offers a selection of exercises for the entire body. 

Best for added value

CHAMPYA pilates bar
A guided app is included.

With additional straps and a follow-along workout app, the CHAMPYA Pilates Bar offers nice extras.

What we like: Adjustable, sturdy nylon handles, fitness app included

The bar is made from durable materials, including a three-part stick made from sturdy steel, a thick foam exterior, and tough nylon handles to withstand up to 40 pounds of resistance. The adjustable knobs allow you to change the height as desired, and there are two additional foot straps that can be connected for workout variation. Included is access to the Champya App, with a follow-along guide teaching you how to properly stretch, strengthen, and sculpt. 

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The best sleep sacks and wearable blankets for babies in 2020

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  • To ensure babies stay safe and warm without a blanket or swaddle, many parents buy sleep sacks, which are essentially wearable blankets.
  • After much research and testing, we found the Halo Sleep Sack Wearable Blanket to be the best sleep sack for most babies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents keep blankets, toys, and other objects out of the crib for the first 12 months to limit the risk of suffocation and of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Many parents decide to buy sleep sacks in lieu of blankets to keep their newborns warm.

Sleep sacks are basically zippered cloth sacks with armholes. You don’t have to worry about extra material interfering with a baby’s breathing or a baby becoming uncovered at night. 

Sleep sacks come in a variety of materials and sizes. When I first started using them, I felt overwhelmed by the choices. Plus, depending on the season and where you live, you have to choose from different weights or thermal overall grades (TOG), which tells you how much insulation is in the material. 

When I looked at the best sleep sacks for babies, I evaluated each one based on material, design, and cost. I also relied on my own personal experience to select the best sleep sacks.

Here are the best sleep sacks you can buy:

Prices and links are current as of 12/18/2020. We are currently testing sleep sacks for an update to this guide.

The best overall

halo sleepsack wearable blanket

The Halo Sleep Sack Wearable Blanket is super soft, high quality, and well designed. 

Pros: Super soft, roomy and hip-friendly design, high-quality

Cons: Need different ones for each season

Halo Sleep Sack Wearable Blanket is super soft and available in a range of sizes and weights for any season. The bag has two-way zippers to make nighttime diaper changes easier. 

The roomy design allows babies plenty of room to move around and doesn’t constrict the hips. The sack comes with a seal of approval from the Hip Dysplasia Institute. I started using these sleep sacks with my baby around the 2-month mark after using swaddles. 

My absolute favorite was the Halo Sleep Sack Plush Dot Velboa Wearable Blanket. The sleep sack comes at a TOG 1.0, which is suitable for fall or early winter. If you want a warmer winter sleep sack, I also used the winter-weight Halo at a TOG 2.5 for cold winter nights. 

The Halo sleep sack is by far the best choice you can make when it comes to wearable blankets. My only criticism is that you need multiple sacks to cover different temperatures and seasons. You also need to have two sacks of the same weight in case of accidents. 

The best wool sleep sack

Merino Kids Sleep Bag

The Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag for Babies offers excellent temperature regulation for any season.

Pros: Regulates temperature, grows with baby, good for all seasons, super soft and cozy

Cons: Expensive, handwash only

While I adore Halo sleep sacks, the Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag is another great option, although it is pricey. However, the quality and longevity of the sleep sack really do justify the cost. With other sleep sacks, you’ll need to buy at least two for every season, but with Merino Kids, you only need one sack for the first two years. 

Wool regulates body temperature better than cotton or polyester. I never worried about either of my children being too hot or too cold when they wore the Merino.  Not only does the Merino regulate body temperature, but it’s also exceptionally well-made.

After almost three years of using the same sleep sack between two children, it’s held up well. Just be to use specially formulated wool shampoo when you wash the sleep sack. I used NikWax Wool Wash. You also have to line dry to avoid shrinkage or the moisture-wicking ability of the sleep sack. But the odor-resistant qualities of wool, require you to wash it less frequent washing.

The best for winter

baby deedee

The Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Sleeping Sack keeps hands, feet, and toes warm through cold winter months.

Pros: Breathable, soft material, ideal for winter

Cons: Pricier than other sacks, not for all seasons, large head opening

The winter weight 2.5 TOG Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Sleeping Sack keeps your baby warm at night. The quilted duvet material adds an extra layer of warmth to the 100% cotton exterior. It will be hard to find a winter-weight sleep sack better than the Baby Deedee.

Not only is the sleep sack super warm, but the fabric is also breathable, so you don’t have to worry about them sweating. Putting a baby in the cocoon-like design is more comfortable with its equally smart shoulder straps. The straps lay flat, making it easier for you to place your baby in the sack and then snap the shoulder straps together. You don’t have to lift up the arms and move them through the holes, possibly waking up your baby.

From the high-quality materials to the smart and warm design, you can’t go wrong with the Baby Deedee from the first winter storm to the smell of spring. The company also has a Sleep Nest Travel sack for camping or outside use. 

The best for summer

Nested Bean

The Nested Bean Zen Sack Classic mimics a parent’s touch with its lightly weighted center that can soothe fussy babies.

Pros: Light and soft material, mimics a loving touch, adjustable straps, reversible, two-way zippers

Cons: Expensive, need more than one as your baby grows

The Nested Bean Zen Sack Classic comes in soft, breathable cotton, making it perfect for hot summer nights. At a .05 TOG, you won’t find a sleep sack lighter than this weight. The bag can also be used year-round depending on clothing and temperature. 

The most unique design feature is a gently weighted pressure pad on the center of the chest to give the sensation of a parent’s touch. Before greeting the world, babies spend nine months snug in the womb, and once outside, they need constant contact. The Nested Bean mimics the soothing touch of a caregiver.

The smart design also has two-way zippers to facilitate quick middle of the night diaper changes, adjustable straps, and is reversible for stomach sleepers. While back is best until your baby rolls over, once they do, your baby might prefer the tummy frog position. For those with swaddling needs, Nested Bean also offers the Zen Swaddle Classic in a similar design and material.

Read our full review of the Nested Bead Zen Sack here.

The best organic sleep sack

Burt's Bees baby

The Burt’s Bees Baby Beekeeper Wearable Blanket is an organic cotton sleep sack that will keep your baby warm at night.

Pros: 100% organic, gentle on sensitive skin, zipper guard, cute designs

Cons: Not for all seasons

Burt’s Bees Baby Beekeeper Wearable Blanket is made with 100% certified organic cotton. It’s certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). You can really feel the softness of this sleep sack’s material to give babies extra comfort.

The design features a bottom zipper to allow for quick diaper changes and an interior zipper guard and snap tab zipper pull for safety. You won’t have to worry about accidentally zipping up your baby’s skin.

At a TOG of .05, the Beekeeper is perfect for the warmer months; pair it underneath a jacket or blanket to add an extra layer of warmth for the cooler seasons.

Check out our other baby gear guides

parenting guides

The best baby swaddles

While swaddling does come with some controversy, it’s hands-down one of the best ways to get a fussy baby to sleep. But like all baby products, swaddles come in all shapes and sizes. Here are the best baby swaddles you can buy.


The best video baby monitors

Video monitors allow caregivers to keep both eyes and ears on the baby, answering questions that a simple audio monitor cannot. We tested nine of the top-ranked video baby monitors with my now 10-month-old across several categories.


The best baby bouncers

Babies find bouncing incredibly soothing, and a baby bouncer can be a real lifesaver when you need a break. To make our picks, we researched available options and tested some models to find the best baby bouncers


The best baby carriers

A baby carrier lets you and your little one explore the world together. You’ll be glad to have your hands free and your child nestled close, while babies love feeling warm and secure. These are the best baby carriers you can buy.


The best car seats

Car seats are one of the most critical pieces of gear parents with young kids need, but they’re also one of the most overwhelming items to buy. We’ve cut through the myriad options to find the best car seats and boosters for kids of all ages.


The best travel car seats

A travel car seat can help your kid stay safe and comfortable on any trip, and finding one that’s light and compact makes life so much easier. To save weight and space, travel car seats don’t have all the bells and whistles of other seats, making it hard to choose which features are most important to you and which you can do without. 


The best strollers

With the right stroller, you and your young one are ready for anything, from a quick trip to the store to a long trip. Whatever your needs or use-cases may be, here are the best strollers to consider.


The best umbrella strollers

An umbrella stroller is a smart investment to make when it comes to buying baby products. Once your child needs a sippy-cup holder and footrest, it’s time to purchase an umbrella stroller.


The best jogging strollers

There’s a huge difference in quality between the best and worst jogging strollers. But once you near the top, there are several amazing options. Which one you should get depends on preference and priorities. So here are the best of the best in a variety of categories.


The best baby bottles

When it comes to choosing the right bottle for feeding your baby, it can be overwhelming. To help you find the best baby bottle, we put together this guide by testing all of the bottles with a baby, from the age of newborn through 8 months old.


The best bottle warmers

Even though baby bottle warmers come in lots of designs, choosing the perfect one for your specific needs can be challenging. When researching and choosing the best baby bottle warmers, we took into consideration five essential criteria: safety features, warming efficiency, cleaning ease, bottle type, and cost.


The best breast pumps

Whether you’re running an errand, taking a short trip, or heading back to work full-time, you’ll need a good breast pump to get you through those times when you can’t breastfeed your baby directly. These are the best breast pumps you can buy.


The best nursing bras

When newborns are hungry, they let you know, and they’re not very patient. Thankfully, nursing bras make it quick and easy to feed your baby. There are a wide range of nursing bras to choose from, making it hard to know which type best meets your needs and which brand and style you should go with.


The best baby thermometers

We consulted a pediatrician, looked at current research, and talked to parents to select 11 of the most popular digital baby thermometers to test. Depending on your child’s age, you will want to use a rectal, temporal artery, tympanic, or oral thermometer.


The best diaper delivery

Once you become a parent, diapers are a fact of life. Save yourself a bit of time and hassle by having diapers delivered to your door by a great diaper delivery company.


The best cloth diapers

Cloth diapers are easy to use, economical, and better for the environment. To narrow down the options to the five best cloth diapers, we consulted other parents, researched user reviews and product specs, and relied on personal experience to find the best cloth diapers.


The best diaper bags

Whether you’re looking for a well-organized bag that can store all the things or you want something that looks cute while you carry it around, there’s a diaper bag to meet your needs. We tested a variety of styles to find the best diaper bags you can buy.


The best baby wipes

Baby wipes are an essential supply for diapering. They’re also ideal for all sorts of other uses, including wiping bigger kids’ hands, cleaning messes off tables before and after meals, and attacking spills before they set in and leave a stain.

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