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How to Clean Your Dog's Ears With Apple Cider or White Vinegar

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Use apple cider or white vinegar to clean your dog's ears.

Use apple cider or white vinegar to clean your dog's ears.

How to Clean Dog Ears With Vinegar

From the moment you start the bonding process with your new puppy, grooming should be a daily activity. Taking care of her ears is part of that process because sometimes they get dirty and even infected. The ear cleaner you can buy at your local veterinarian's office is effective but expensive.

Making an ear cleaner is really easy. All you need is regular white vinegar, or organic apple cider vinegar, and water. This is a recipe for an ear cleaner you can make at home.

Homemade Dog Ear Cleaner

This method is effective in removing the excess wax. It will diminish the effects of infection, and since the solution is acidic it will kill a lot of the bacteria. If the condition is severe and has been going on a long time it will probably only be cleared up with other treatments, maybe even antibiotics.


  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (ACV) or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water

Important Notes

  • Be sure to take a look at your dog's ears first to see if they are red and inflamed. If so, you need to make the cleaner with a lot less vinegar.
  • The quantities do not need to be exact. Some vets recommend using only a 10% solution. If it is too strong and your dog has been scratching a lot because of allergies, ear mites, or some other infection, the vinegar can sting.
  • Use up all of the solution and don't save any for next time—just mix it again the next time you need it.

Ear Problems This Cleaning Solution Can Be Used For

Vinegar and water cleaning solution can be used for:

  • Ear mite infections
  • Dogs with inhalant allergies
  • Food allergic dogs
  • Dogs with normal but dirty ears (excessive wax production)
  • Dogs with wet ears canals after swimming or bathing

How to Clean Your Dog's Ears With Vinegar

  • Be sure to take a look at your dog's ears first to see if they are red and inflamed. If so, dilute the recipe by using less vinegar.
  • Wipe the heavy wax from the inside of the ears with a cotton ball and then fill the ear with the cleaning solution (see recipe above), usually only a small amount but it depends on the size of the dog.
  • Massage the ears, especially the base of the canals all the way down to the head. You should hear the liquid as you move the solution around in the ear.
  • Stand back—your dog is going to shake her head and the wax and other gunk in the ear canals are going to be loosened by the vinegar and will go everywhere.
  • If your dog does not make a mess, even with an ear infection, you might need to repeat this. Make sure to give the ear canals a deep massage.
  • Wipe the excess out with a dry cotton ball. I do not recommend you stick a cotton swab down into the ear canal.
Westie ears are small but may need cleaning.

Westie ears are small but may need cleaning.

What Kind of Vinegar Should I Use?

For ear infections, some people who are in favor of natural care recommend using apple cider vinegar in place of antibiotics. Apple cider vinegar may make the environment in the ear hostile to the bacteria and the issue might clear up without you having to resort to antibiotics or other products that are not natural.

If your dog has smelly earwax and you want to try the vinegar before taking him in to the veterinarian, clean the ears then apply a few drops of the apple cider vinegar to each ear once a day. Ear infections are hard to clear up so try this at least two weeks before giving up.

If your dog has ear mites, she will have a lot more wax and will need to be treated more vigorously.

If the dog's ears smell normal but her ear canals remain swollen and itchy despite being cleaned, she may have an allergy. Food allergies commonly present as ear swelling and itching. This is a problem you need to tackle as soon as possible. Chronic ear infections in dogs with floppy ears require expensive surgery.

Boxer ears

Boxer ears

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Read More From Pethelpful

How Often Should I Clean My Dog's Ears?

Using vinegar and water to clean your dog's ears is a simple and effective way you can keep her healthy. Some vets and breeders complain that excessive cleaning will lead to new infections.

Cleaning does not need to be done every day. Use it every time you give her a bath, every time you take her swimming, or at least once a week when you are giving her a brief physical exam.

More Resources for Canine Ear Problems

Doberman ears

Doberman ears

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I look into my dogs' ear for mites?

Answer: You can take some of the wax out of the ear, put it on a wet paper towel, and if this black wax "bleeds" red onto the towel that means that it is blood.

Blood is usually caused by ear mites, but that is not a definitive test. If your dog has an ear infection and has torn the inside of the ear with their nails, they will bleed a little.

The only way to be absolutely sure if your dog has an ear mite infection is to take the ear wax and examine it under a microscope. The ear mites will be visible.

Question: I just treated my dog's ear with peroxide solution but it doesn't seem to be helping, can I go ahead and put apple cider vinegar water solution in now or should I wait until tomorrow?

Answer: Were you trying to pour peroxide in there as a cleaner or to clean up an infection? Yes, you can go ahead and clean the ear with vinegar, but I am not sure if you are expecting an immediate solution to a problem. It is an effective cleaner.


Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 20, 2019:

Collette, to diagnose this you need to take your dog to your local vet.

Collette on May 19, 2019:

Im concerened about my chipoo,chiuaua cross poodle might have ear mites starting to scratch his ears but not alot plus shakeing his head.

vena on January 17, 2019:

i have never used apple cider and water mix to clean my dogs ears.will i start

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 24, 2018:

Danii, I do not know what you mean by puffy? If you mean the external pinna (the ear flaps) are swollen then the answer is no, that is not normal. A dog can develop a hematoma, a broken blood vessel in the ear, but only after excessive shaking unless the dog is a hemophiliac and has bleeding problems. (like a Dobermann with Von WIllebrands disease), You need to have your dog examined by your regular vet.

Danii on November 23, 2018:

I used this solution for my female hound with floppy ears and as soon as she shook her head her ears felt puffy. Is this normal?

Jessnjim on May 03, 2018:

This solution really works! I could tell my dog wasn't himself for a couple days and he kept shaking his head and looking up and around. Thought it was odd. But my boyfriend gave us the idea of vinegar n water. He already seems to be feeling a little better. I'm going to keep doing it for the next couple days. Was a great idea! Suggest others to use to keep your pooches ears clean and feeling happy #happydog

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 13, 2018:

Kent, it is acidic so if your dog has open wounds on the ears (like from scratching) it can burn. You can dilute it with water but if the scratches are bad the dog will not like it.

Kent on March 13, 2018:

Will apple cider vinegar burn my dogs ears?

Shawn on November 13, 2017:

I use an alcohol/white vinegar solution when my dog has an ear infection. She had one so bad it was causing a rash on top her head outside her ear. I use 1 part 91% alcohol and 1 part white vinegar. Drop in ear and massage outside of ear to make sure it gets all over, twice daily for 2 weeks. Cleared it right up and we have also used this solution on rashes, hot spots, ect...clears it all up very fast!!!

Laurie Westbrook on August 13, 2017:

Trying it in 5 min.

nonnie on March 29, 2017:

i will try vinegar and water for ear wash.



Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 24, 2017:

Melody, she may be allergic to something she is getting in the garbage, which is leading to the ear problem. All I can really recommend at this point is to keep her out of the garbage, keep her ears clean, and see how she responds over the next few months.

Melody on January 20, 2017:

My pup is almost 2. She was in the hospital 2 days with GHD. Her vet said, She had this because she was eating everything. I'd watch her but in between, she continued eating things. So... started giving her coconut water, no sugar. She is very sensitive with everything. She is pretty small. She weighs not more then 12 pounds. She had bad ear infections as well. What can I do for, Lulu? Thanks so much!

Arlene on August 28, 2016:

Thank you, Dr Mark, for the good advice on an ear infection. I love to use home remedies when I can.

I love the photos of the dogs

Thank you once again


Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 18, 2016:

Angela, if she has scratched the ear up before you tried to dry it the vinegar can be painful.If she continues to keep her head tilted the only option is to pay for a vet exam so that the eardrum can be examined. If all is okay the vet will most likely prescribe a cream with steroids to reduce inflammation. Hopefully it was just water and she will be fine.

Angela on May 17, 2016:

My dog has red swollen ear only on one side after I gave her a bath.. she's been shaking her head a lot but I just tried the vinegar and water mixture. She didn't mind me doing it but then now it's like she hates me.. she's hiding under the bed. Shaking her head a lot and scratched her ear some. She's keeping her head tilted. Hoping it will help her and not make it worse.. I read someone said that it works for humans as well but can he painful.. hope my dog isn't in too much pain..

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 14, 2012:

Leave a comment on the hub (positive or negative!) I would like to hear how it works for you.

sallieannluvslife from Eastern Shore on July 14, 2012:

Thanks Dr. Mark, I did read the hub on apple cider vinegar and I think we will try that as well...there are many uses for apple cider vinegar with humans, why not dogs, too?! I guess I just never thought about it....that's why I love hubpages - Thanks!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 14, 2012:

Have you tried an elmination diet for allergies? Food allergies often cause chronic ear infections. Check out the hub on apple cider vinegar also, an old product that may provide a new solution to those ear problems.

sallieannluvslife from Eastern Shore on July 13, 2012:

This is a great tip! Maddie has a swollen ear from shaking or scratching because of allergies and the Vet told us to clean them out regularly. She is like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde when we mess around with her ears, though, so we are hesitant to clean them....we will definitely try this tip, though....thanks!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 29, 2012:

Glad I could help. I appreciate your articles here at hubpages.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on June 29, 2012:

The ear cleaner that I bought from the veterinarian has expired so I'll try the water and vinegar. Thanks!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 27, 2012:

The picture on the top is as African Wild Dog, not something that you would want around your house but really cute with those huge ears. Thanks for stopping by Fawntia, glad I could help!

Fawntia Fowler from Portland on June 27, 2012:

This is good information. We probably don't clean our dog's ears as often as we should, but next time we do, I'll keep this in mind!

wetnosedogs from Alabama on June 27, 2012:

Good to know about the vinegar and water.

I love that first picture of the dog. What breed, do you know?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 27, 2012:

Thanks Rebecca. I always worry that I am going to upset people with the photos of the cropped ears but I think they look nice.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on June 27, 2012:

Thanks for the ear wash recipe. Needed it! Good job! Nicely illustrated too.

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