Reusable cotton swabs. For years I lamented the fact there was not a reusable cotton swab. I went through so many! Not enough to design and patent one obviously but there was woe. One of the hot green items of the spring was and is reusable cotton swabs. These are typically a plastic stick with silicone ends. Some versions have different shaped ends for different purposes: ears versus makeup.
I ordered the original product from LastSwab after a fellow Zero Waste Block Leader mentioned how excited they were. I was interested to try this as I regularly use organic cotton swabs. We are fortunate to be able to afford organic cotton and we prefer to support a cleaner environmental product. Traditional cotton has a lot of issues. As an allergy sufferer I tend to feel like I have a lot of fluid in my ears. I have been taking care of that feeling with a cotton swab.
The packaging and quality on the LastSwab itself is really excellent. The swab comes in paper packaging and the swab itself is super sturdy and extremely well made. The packaging (for my order at least) was a plastic mailer, which can be recycled at a plastic bag store drop-off center if available during COVID. I would prefer a paper mailer since I could drop that in my curbside recycling cart. I have seen padded paper mailers whose padding is made of recycled shredded paper instead of bubble wrap which would be another option if the company was worried about damage.
I tried both the Basic and Beauty versions in my ears and I didn’t get the same results that I do with a cotton swab. I can honestly tell you that I used the LastSwab and then a cotton swab and I got more visible material with the cotton swab on the second pass. If you want to feel clean and dry, I wouldn’t say the Basic swab works well for that.
There seems to be medical consensus that you should not put any object in your ears, this is of course your call. Wiping away visible wax appears to be the extent of ear cleaning recommended as experts say your ears clean themselves. I’m linking PubMed‘s Cotton-tip Applicators as a Leading Cause of Otitis Externa and The Cotton-Tipped Swab: A Major Cause of Ear Injury and Hearing Loss, and well as WebMD’s How to Clean Your Ears. So personally I will try once again to quit using swabs in my ears and just do an exterior wipe.
The Basic swab is EXCELLENT for getting gunk off the inside of dog ears! As mentioned above, don’t go deep and only work on the stuff at the outside of the ear creases, but it was super fast and efficient so I’m super stoked about this to clean my super fluffy dog’s ears in the future. No drops, wetting, wipes, etc. were needed, just a quick pass. It was so much easier than every other thing we’ve done to clean her ear gunk off.
I don’t wear eye makeup where I would use the Beauty swab so I checked with my friend who agreed to demo one for me. My friend said the Beauty swab worked well for underneath her eyes, but it wasn’t as effective for her upper eyelids; however she did express concern the lack of effectiveness on her upper eyes was perhaps because of her age and that she might not be able to use it as well as others might be able to. I think it would be helpful for eye makeup since you don’t have the fuzzy cotton bit to worry about smearing or catching on your eyelashes.
Disposal: Cotton tips on paper stick swabs may go in the compost. I’m not sure anyone actually makes cotton tips on plastic stick swabs anymore, but cotton on plastic sticks must go in the trash. If the LastSwab broke or was not longer wanted, it would go in a Hard Plastics recycling station at a recycling center since it’s a mixed material made of plastic and silicone.
You can be even more zero waste by not using any swab. My husband prefers to use a thin cloth to wipe his ears out and it’s very effective for him. It is for me as well but it doesn’t give me that “I really got everything out feeling” that a swab does. Based on the medical links I shared above, for me personally I’m going to work on being content with safer ears rather than super dry and squeaky clean ears.
I do recommend you read any product reviews that are available on the swab version you are looking to purchase. On some of the other brands the silicone tips don’t stay on well and owners had to super glue the tips on. Many times packaging is a ton of plastic you’ll have to dispose of like plastic casing and plastic bags. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any version of a reusable swab at any brick-and-mortar store so you will need to order one to try if you are interested.
Be safe and stay healthy!