Why Do My Earrings Smell? | The Reasons & How to Get Rid of the Ear Cheese

Owning a nice pair of earrings can be exciting, but it can also have side effects like an unpleasant smell. The foul smell of the earrings can be awful.

Have you noticed a foul odor coming from your earrings? It smells like stinky cheese or smelly feet. Most women experience this, so it’s totally normal. 

Ear piercings can develop a bad smell for several reasons, affecting the quality of your earrings and your motivation to wear them. Earrings may smell bad because of the piercings that often harbor bacteria. 

Lack of proper hygiene and cleaning behind your ears each day results in the spot of your earrings turning into a cause for unusual odors.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ear cheese, the unpleasant smell often associated with earrings, is caused by a buildup of oil and dead skin cells between the skin and jewelry in your piercing.
  2. The main reasons for smelly earrings are the production of dead skin cells and sebum, bacterial infections, physical barriers and pollution, other infections like fungi and yeast, poor hygiene, and injuries.
  3. Preventing ear cheese involves maintaining cleanliness, ensuring proper post-shower drying, choosing hypoallergenic materials, wearing well-fitting earrings, avoiding heavy lotions and oils, regularly cleaning pierced ears, and limiting earring wear time.
  4. Home remedies for treating ear-piercing smells include using tea tree oil, aloe vera, neem, turmeric, clove oil, and saltwater to clean and soothe the piercing.
  5. If the smell persists despite home remedies, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider for further guidance.

a woman with long hair walking outdoors

So, What are the Main Reasons for Smelly Earrings?

The piercing of the ear is a fresh wound to your body. There are two main reasons for the bad smell due to ear piercings: 

Production of Dead Skin Cells and Sebum

The sebaceous glands in the skin produce sebum. Sebum is the oily fluid that lubricates and waterproofs your dermis. Your skin is constantly shedding dead cells from the ear pierced. Bacteria may penetrate the dermis when cleaning the ear from dead cells and sebum.

Around your ear, sebum and slow skin cell build-up can create a cheesy smell. The stink is due to a combination of dirt and oils.

Bacterial infection

A germ within the body is susceptible to infection, and this is usually the Streptococcus species of microbe. The presence of the germ is mainly if the smell is accompanied by drainage from the point of infection.

portrait of a woman with closed eyes

What Are the Reasons Why Ear Piercings Smell Bad?

Physical Barriers and Pollution

Items like hair stuff, dust, dirty water, automobile fuels, and other pollution can stick to your piercing. This various stuff may develop behind your ears and trap body secretions. These accumulations. They provide perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and can also obstruct the back ear pores, which later generate unpleasant smells. 

Other Infections

Fungi, yeast, and viruses prefer warm places behind your ears. The yeast, fungi, and germs reach your derm when you wear eyeglasses constantly, scratch your ears with untidy hands, or the infection discharged from the ear piercing. 

These discharges make the piercings smell bad. The fungi and yeast accelerate cuticle infections caused by the bacteria, which can worsen when there is a moist condition.

Poor Hygiene

When taking a shower, it is possible to neglect the dermis behind your ears. Sweat secretions do accumulate in these hidden parts of the body. The accumulation provides a perfect breeding ground for yeast. Sweat will start producing a foul odor when this goes on for a while.


Injuries can result from cuts, scrapes, or pimples on the earring hole. When these fresh wounds from cuts are not taken care of on time, they cause infections. The secretions from these infections cause a foul smell in the earrings.

How to Get Rid of the Funky Smell

Ensure your ear piercings are clean

Regularly wash your earrings and piercings with soap and water, because cleaning the earrings more often helps avoid the accumulation of dirt on their back. The use of warm water is essential in killing the existing bacteria and other fungal and yeast infections. Also worth mentioning is that you store your earrings properly, which will help them last longer.

Select Your Metal Jewelry With Care

Earring accessories like studs capture dead cells inside the piercing and trigger an infection. It is a prevention mechanism that protects the ear from bacteria. There is room for mobility, so the microbes are inactive for a long time.

Know your skin’s allergies to jewelry. It protects the piercing from any allergic reaction—some metals like nickel cause allergic reactions in many people, leading to itching that comes with skin redness. Avoid such jewelry. You can opt for sterling silver earrings that are well-coated and easy to clean.

various pieces of jewelry

Avoid Over-Cleaning of the Ear

Over-cleaning sounds hygienic in preventing microbes, but do you know it hurts the skin? The skin around the earlobes is delicate and requires sharp handling. Some antibacterial soaps contain harsh chemicals that deteriorate sensitive ears. When cleaning the ears, use soap and water.

Changing Your Bedsheets Frequently

Grimy, dirty bed sheets can cause infections in your piercings. You must be mindful when you have a wound on your ear, and changing clean bedsheets will ensure no infections. 

Ensure that when you wear earrings, they fit perfectly, not loose or too tight.

Avoid Sharing of the Earrings

Earrings are personal items that are strictly for personal use. When you share the same pair of earrings, infections from other persons can cause a foul smell to the earrings. Avoid sharing the pair of earrings to prevent other body infections. There are different home remedies for taking care of smelling earrings.

earrings and bracelets in the jewelry box

Remedies for Cleaning Ear Piercings that Have a Funky Smell

Earring odor can be due to constant contact with your skin. To get rid of this bad smell, you must ensure that the piercing is in good condition. Here are some home remedies for cleaning your earrings and getting rid of the earring smell:

Tea Tree Oil: Oils from tea trees contain antimicrobial and antibacterial features that treat ear-piercing smells. You may apply tea tree oil when you have an infection on your piercing. The oil has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe skin irritation or inflammation, making it one of the best remedies for the odor caused by ears smell from earrings.

Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is widely known for its medical attributes. These attributes include soothing inflamed skin and irritation. The aloe vera gel also contains antibacterial features that prevent bacterial growth in ear piercing. 

aloe vera and a small glass jar

Neem: Like aloe vera, the neem plant also has various medical benefits. Neem contains antibacterials that destroy the germ in the infection. You can use the neem stick to the new piercing or apply neem paste to the old piercing if it starts itching. Neem is also essential as it removes pus from the infected area and keeps the ear piercings clean.

Turmeric: Turmeric holds some healing attributes. These healing attributes can ensure your piercing is in good condition. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has antiviral and antibacterial features for treating the infection. The antiseptic qualities of turmeric will keep your piercings clean and prevent bad smells from developing, making it the most effective remedy to get rid of the ear piercing smells badly.

Clove Oil: Clove is very effective in preventing earrings from smelling. The oil extracted from clove has antifungal and antibacterial features. It heals and treats infected areas of the ear piercing by eliminating the infection.

a bottle of clove oil

Saltwater: Saltwater is one of the safest ways to remove a bad smell and sterilize the earrings. The saltwater holds antimicrobial features that inhibit dangerous microbial growth. Lack of microbial growth prevents the development of infections and initiates the healing process. The saltwater contains anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities that soothe the ear piercing. This feature keeps the earpiece clean and removes the bad smell.

To keep your earrings from having a bad smell, you have to keep these things in mind:

  • Ensure you keep your piercings clean.
  • Avoid squeezing alcohol over infected areas when sanitizing.
  • Maintain the earring and the ear dry.
  • Give the wound treatment while allowing it to heal.
  • Sterilize the jewelry ahead of wearing it to prevent infections.
  • Ensure that your hair is clean and your hair product does not cause fungi growth.

If the smell of the earrings persists despite applying these remedies, it is recommended that you consult a healthcare provider.

Understanding Ear Cheese: The Cause Behind the Smell

We’ve all heard the term ‘ear cheese,’ and it might sound a bit off-putting, but rest assured, it’s a common occurrence with ear piercings. This peculiar smell has a straightforward explanation—it’s the result of a natural buildup of oil and dead skin cells. As these cells are shed, they accumulate between the skin and the jewelry in your piercing, leading to the distinct aroma known as ‘ear cheese.’ While it might not be the most pleasant fragrance, it’s essential to remember that ‘ear cheese’ is entirely normal and part of the piercing journey. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help keep it at bay and ensure your ear piercings remain healthy and odor-free.

Tips for Preventing Ear Cheese

Nobody wants to deal with the discomfort and odor of ear cheese, so here are some practical steps to help you keep your earrings free from this natural buildup:

  1. Maintain Cleanliness: Regularly wipe your earrings with a soft cloth to prevent the accumulation of dirt, sweat, and oil. For pierced ears, use alcohol-free solutions and gentle cleaning wipes to keep the skin irritation-free.
  2. Post-Shower Drying: Ensure your ears are thoroughly dry after bathing or swimming, as water can accelerate earwax buildup.
  3. Choose Hypoallergenic Materials: Opt for earrings made from hypoallergenic metals like titanium or stainless steel to minimize the risk of skin reactions that can lead to ear cheese.
  4. Proper Earring Fit: Ensure that you wear earrings that are neither too tight nor too loose. Snug earrings are less likely to trap sweat and debris, reducing the chances of ear cheese formation.
  5. Avoid Heavy Lotions and Oils: Try to avoid applying heavy lotions or oils directly onto your earlobes when wearing earrings. These substances can contribute to the buildup of ear cheese.
  6. Regular Ears Pierced Cleaning: Clean your ears pierced regularly, especially if you have pierced ears. Gently cleanse the earlobe and surrounding area with warm water and mild soap to remove excess oil and prevent buildup.
  7. Rotate Your Earrings: Wearing the same pair all day can lead to sweat and bacteria buildup. When changing earrings, replace the old metal backings with fresh ones.
  8. Limit Wear Time: Avoid prolonged earring wear, limiting it to 1-2 hours at a stretch. Remove them if you experience itching or discomfort to prevent irritation and potential ear cheese development.

FAQs Related to Why Do Earrings Smell

How to Get Rid of Earring Smell?

One effective method I’ve found is to soak the earrings in warm soapy water. This gentle yet effective approach helps to eliminate accumulated dirt and oils from your earrings. Using a mild soap, immerse the earrings in warm water for about 10 to 15 minutes. After soaking, you can wipe them clean with a damp cloth, leaving your earrings refreshed.

Why Does My Earring Hole Smell?

The earring hole smells bad when you don’t clean your ear piercing properly, your skin’s natural oil (sebum) can mix with dead cells around the piercing, resulting in an unpleasant smell.

How to Get Rid of Ear Piercing Smell?

As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”. So, regularly cleaning your ear piercing and jewelry is key. Warm water and soap can help remove bacteria, sebum, and dead cells, keeping your piercings fresh.

What Is the Smelly Stuff on My Earrings?

The smelly substance on your earrings is often referred to as “Ear cheese.” This phenomenon occurs due to a buildup of natural oils and dead skin cells that you’ve shed. It’s a common occurrence and can contribute to the unpleasant odor you might notice around your earrings.

What Do You Soak Smelly Earrings In?

For soaking smelly earrings, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide can be effective options. These solutions help to disinfect the earrings and eliminate odor-causing bacteria. Alternatively, using a gentle, mild soap can also work well. Soaking your earrings in any of these solutions for a short period can help refresh and cleanse them.

Final Thoughts on Stinky Earrings

Overall, the main reasons for ear piercings smell bad are caused by dead skin cells and sebum, as well as bacterial infections. It’s important to take care of your piercings and maintain proper hygiene to prevent the buildup of dirt and oils that can cause odor.

Avoid using hair products or exposing your earrings to pollution, as these can also contribute to the foul smell. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy your earrings without worrying about any unpleasant smells.

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