Last updated: 16/10/2022

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Hello! Welcome to the Wellness Guide. Originally designed for babies, cotton swabs – better known as Q-tips – are an indispensable personal hygiene item and cannot be missing in the home. In today’s article, we will talk about the cotton swab and its uses. It is an indispensable item to ensure cleanliness and hygiene not only in the ears but also in other parts of the body.

The cotton swab can be used to clean the baby’s nose, navel and even to smear make-up. For a long time, it was sold in its wooden version. Plastic swabs only arrived on the market in 1962, and currently their use is very varied. Want to know how to choose the right cotton swab? Follow us!


  • The cotton bud is an indispensable item. Every home has at least one package. Besides being great for personal hygiene for the whole family, it has a thousand and one uses, is easy to find and cheap.
  • There are cotton buds on the market with more fragile stems and the cotton unravels easily. It is important to consider the safety of the product, especially if it is used on children.
  • Initially thought to clean the ears, this is the only function of the cotton swab that you should avoid. The recommendation is not to use it for this purpose, as the practice is considered dangerous by experts.

The Best Cotton Swab: Our Picks

Buying Guide

Buying a cotton swab does not require much expenditure. The best one is the one that will meet your needs satisfactorily. They all have the same goal: cleaning and hygiene. Be aware, however, of some details. Below we will talk a little more about them.

Imagem de mãe passando cotonete na orelha do filho.

The cotton swab can have multiple functions and is an inexpensive hygiene item. (Source: Andriy Popov / 123RF)

What are the benefits of the cotton swab?

The cotton swab is an indispensable item. Every home usually has at least one package. Besides being great for personal hygiene for the whole family, it has a thousand and one uses. Did you know that, when it comes to make-up, a cotton swab makes all the difference? From smoothing shadow on the eyelids to applying lipstick, it helps to give that extra touch, making everything look perfect. The cotton swab is also great when it comes to removing make-up, it cleans the most difficult corners. The versions with makeup remover are usually very effective for the eye area. The baby-specific cotton bud models have a kind of safety lock that prevents hurting the ear canal. Cleaning is only done in the external area of the ear.

Did you know that the cotton swab was first used in 1920? When American Leo Gerstenzang observed his wife cleaning their baby’s ears with a piece of cotton wrapped around a toothpick, he had the brilliant idea of registering the invention and selling it to help other mums and dads.

In addition to these two specific uses, the cotton swab also helps to remove blotchy nail polish, apply ointment or cream, can be used for hair removal and to clean household objects, among other uses. Initially thought to clean the ears, this is the only function of the cotton swab that you should avoid. The recommendation of experts is not to use it for this purpose, since the practice is considered dangerous by experts. To keep the cotton swab longer, do not leave the package open. Preferably, when you open the box, keep them in a container that is designed for this purpose. This way, you avoid contamination and ensure better use of the product.

  • Ideal for personal hygiene
  • Suitable for the entire family
  • Helps when applying make-up and removing it from the face
  • Models for babies have a safety lock
  • Has a thousand and one uses.
  • After opening the package, it is best to keep the cotton buds in a proper container.

What care should I take when using a cotton swab in the ear?

Although it was developed specifically to clean the ears, one should be very careful when using a cotton swab for this purpose. It is important to know that earwax is not dirt, it is there for a good reason: to protect the ear canal. By using the swab in the ear, you can cause an injury to this sensitive organ and push earwax inside. Not to mention the risks of otitis and bleeding and, in some cases, even deafness. When swabbing the ear, take the following precautions:

  • Rinse your ears thoroughly;
  • Swab delicately, only on the outside;
  • Do not put the cotton swab in the ear canal;
  • Need a deeper clean? Use a towel or your finger.

Imagem de pode de cotonetes.

It is important to be very careful when using the cotton swab in the ear. (Source: Gadini / Pixabay)

How much does it cost?

The vast majority of cotton buds are usually quite affordable. The packages with fewer units can be found from GBP$ 0,26. The price of a traditional cotton swab with about 300 units costs just over GBP$ 1,29. The specific models for make-up or for babies, on the other hand, require an investment of more than GBP$ 2.

Where to buy cotton swabs?

Buying cotton buds is very easy. With a quick search on the Internet you will find several options of online shops. Amazon has different types of cotton buds available, as well as Lojas Americanas, Carrefour, Extra, among other supermarket chains. The large pharmaceutical chains are also a good option and offer a variety of brands and types of cotton swabs. You can find them in the physical or online shops of DrogaRaia, Drogasil, Ultrafarma and Onofre, for example. Need a cotton swab urgently? Run to the grocery store or pharmacy near your home. There are also some options there. The variety may be smaller, but it will certainly meet your needs.

Purchase criteria: Key factors to evaluate a cotton swab

Paying attention to some features is essential before choosing your cotton swab. There are some details that you need to take into consideration. The most important ones are:

  • Type
  • Format
  • Safety
  • Quantity

Below, we will talk a little bit about each of them for you to make an assertive choice.


There are three types of cotton buds on the market: the traditional, the specific for make-up and the special for babies. Even though these last two are more specific, the common cotton swab that you know is also very useful in one case as well as in the other. Learn more about the types of cotton swabs:

Traditional cotton swab

The traditional cotton swab is the one you are used to seeing in pharmacies, markets and at home. It has rounded tips on both sides and can be used by the whole family, from babies to grandparents, with no age restriction.

A foto mostra a metade de dois cotonetes que estão na vertical. Um deles tem a haste branca e o outro azul. No fundo, um pouco desfocado, há um cotonete na horizontal e diversos outros dentro de um recipiente.

Recommended for the whole family, the traditional cotton swab is the most common on the market. (Source: PDpics / Pixabay)

Baby swab

This type of cotton swab has a different format. The tip of the cotton tip is usually a little thinner, with a fuller base. This works as a kind of safety lock. This extra cotton is very important as it helps not to hurt the baby’s ear. It only cleans the outer area of the ear, without running the risk of entering deeper into the ear canal. This cotton swab is also very useful for cleaning the navel in the first days of life, for drying the body folds after bathing and even for applying ointment, ensuring greater comfort and safety for babies.

Make-up Swab

With a slightly more ergonomic format, this type of cotton swab is more practical both when applying make-up and when removing it from the face. It is possible to find make-up swabs with tips in different shapes. The flattened ones are ideal for smoothing eye shadow application. The more pointed ones are great to be used as eyeliner and to make that kittenish line. In addition, there is also the version with makeup remover, perfect for correcting eye makeup or removing that shadow in the corner that neither the moistened tissue nor cotton can reach.


What needs to be taken into account here is the use you will give to the cotton swab. The shape of the cotton tip is important to ensure the effectiveness of the product. The most common shape is rounded at all ends. However, there are other shapes that can be very useful for other functions. The tip of the baby swab, for example, is smaller and has a wider shaft to prevent accidents. There are also make-up swabs that are more pointed, which help when applying eyeliner, for example.


Be very attentive in this aspect. There are cotton swabs on the market with more fragile stems and that the cotton loosens or unravels easily. It is important to consider the safety of the product. To avoid accidents in yourself and, especially, in children, buy quality cotton swabs suitable for each age.

Imagem de pote de cotonetes e mão pegando um deles.

It is important to buy a quality product for your own safety. (Source: teen00000 / Pixabay)


The quantity of cotton swabs inside the package varies between 75 and 300 units. The ideal here is to think about the daily use of the product. If you live alone or use little, invest in a smaller amount, according to your needs. For families with more people, it is better to purchase a more robust package of cotton swabs, to avoid having to buy them too often.

(Source of the highlighted image: Gadini /Pixabay)