Black q-tips

Over at Boing Boing Gadgets, John Brownlee ponders why someone, other than the most hardcore goth, might prefer to clean their ears with black q-tips. Perhaps it's good preparation for these new ear buds he found that actually go into your Eustachain tubes. Black Q-tips (BB Gadgets)


  1. I brought back some of these from China a few years ago, and pondered the same question in the company of a Japanese friend.

    She explained that she uses black q-tips because they allow her to see her earwax more clearly than the white ones.

    I brought out the white cotton swabs and we did a series of tests and sure enough, her earwax was whitish, powdery, and showed better on the black swabs. My non-Asian, more waxy earwax did not show very well on the black swabs. It showed on the white swabs, and hers, did not.

    So yeah, there’s your explanation. Sorry if it’s kinda gross.

  2. Genius. I was using a black cloth to clean my ears and you would not believe how much gunk comes off and shows up on black. It made me almost OCDish when cleaning there. I bet you’ll use 10 times as many of these as you normally would once you try them!

  3. You know, apparently doctors recommend never putting q-tips in your ear. Seems they can be quite damaging.

  4. I got some a while back, they were no better or different then a regular white q-tip. They worked but I would by them again unless a local store was carrying them (ordered the first from J-list) at a better price.

  5. the eustachian tube isn’t the one from outer ear to ear drum, its the one from the inner ear to the throat to equalise pressure.

  6. Regardless what you think q-tips or anything else should not be put in the ear. Bad Boing Boing

  7. not for ears

    Q-tips® cotton swabs are the ultimate beauty tool – perfect for applying, blending and removing makeup. They are convenient, easy to use and made from 100% pure cotton. And with more cotton at the tip* than any other swab, Q-tips® are gentle enough for even the most sensitive parts of the face, including the eye area. They are available in a wide variety of packages tailored to consumers’ personal needs and are the leading cotton swab brand, trusted for quality and value for more than 80 years.

  8. There are black Biore-type nose patches, too. Same reason as #1 says. You can see what’s coming out better. They don’t work any better; they’re just more satisfying.

  9. Pretty much everyone in Japan uses q-tips and ear picks to clean their ears. The black ones show up the wax better so you can see what came out.


    Ear picks are sold at just about every tourist shop in Japan and are popular omiyage to bring back to someone after a trip.

  10. I keep both black and white cotton swabs on hand and choose which to use according to purpose.

    Blurring the eye-liner ==> white.
    Cleaning ears / belly button ==> black.

  11. I worked for a pediatric ENT for quite some time. I recall him mentioning at one point that the chemical composition of earwax varied between a very large portion of the Asian population, and the rest of humankind. This was apparently based on a single gene variation between those two population groups. I can’t remember the details exactly, but it may have been that Asian earwax (cerumen) was more or less “cheesy” than the stuff the rest of us produce. (OK, I know this sounds weird and gross, but ENTs do actually have a vocabulary to describe the consistency of earwax. “Cheesy” is one of those words.) I’m guessing that this preference for black q-tips has something to do with that.

    Any ENT want to clear this up for us?

  12. Farmfoodie @15: From the Wikipedia article on earwax:

    There are two distinct genetically determined types of earwax: the wet type, which is dominant, and the dry type, which is recessive. Asians and Native Americans are more likely to have the dry type of cerumen (grey and flaky), whereas Caucasians and Africans are more likely to have the wet type (honey-brown to dark-brown and moist). Cerumen type has been used by anthropologists to track human migratory patterns, such as those of the Inuit.

    The difference in cerumen type has been tracked to a single base change (a single nucleotide polymorphism) in a gene known as “ATP-binding cassette C11 gene.” In addition to affecting cerumen type, this mutation also reduces sweat production. The researchers conjecture that the reduction in sweat was beneficial to the ancestors of East Asians and Native Americans who are thought to have lived in cold climates.

  13. “cephalopod” is a term of convenience, as a courtesy to your kind’s as-yet-undeveloped natural science.

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