Gross as it feels, earwax actually cleans your ears by collecting dirt and debris, then carrying them out. Scraping that protective goop from the ear canal will leave your ear unprotected—or worse, says otolaryngologist Dr. Erich Voigt, MD, of NYU Langone Medical Center. “If you put a [cotton swab] in, you push that wax in further and then prevent it from being able to flow out naturally,” he says. “The wax is continually produced, and it rolls in on itself and becomes larger, deeper, thicker, and denser over time.” That buildup could give you hearing trouble or an ear infection, so keep cotton swabs, fingers, and other objects out of your ear. Instead, wait to wipe wax away until it’s reached the outside of your ear. Don’t miss these other hygiene habits that are actually bad for you.