Oh, pétard! The things you hear (and see) when eavesdropping
You'll love this term for "family reunion"!

Bilingual post: Le Coton-tige + a French doctor's thoughts on cleaning your ears

Maison des Pelerins ancient door in Sablet Provence
Spectacular views from every window, a charming, private courtyard, comfortable spacious rooms, and air-conditioned bedrooms make Maison des Pèlerins very inviting all year round. View this rental property.

Don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Ne mettez jamais rien de plus petit que votre coude dans votre oreille. Don't miss the rest of this post...and thanks for sharing it with a friend who might enjoy learning French.

"le coton-tige"

    - cotton swab
    - cotton bud
    - Q-tip

Coton-Tige: click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following text in French

Particulièrement polluants, les cotons-tiges en plastique seront interdits en France dès le 1er janvier 2020. Dans le cadre de la loi Biodiversité adoptée le 20 juillet, le Parlement a interdit la mise sur le marché de ces bâtonnets très utilisés en France pour l'hygiène ou le maquillage, mais entrant dans le triste classement des plus gros déchets retrouvés sur les plages et dans les milieux . --La Fin du coton-tige

Particularly polluting, plastic cotton swabs will be banned in France as of 1 January 2020. Under the Biodiversity law adopted on July 20, Parliament has banned the placing on the market of these sticks widely used in France for hygiene or makeup, but falling into the sad ranking of the biggest waste found on the beaches and in the environments. - "The End of the cotton swab"

by Jean-Marc, winemaker, nature lover

Whether writing about falling off his bike in Marseilles or spending a day in his favorite coastal spot, Jean-Marc is always happy to contribute a story for us. Enjoy today's....

Avec les beaux jours et la chance d'habiter à proximité de la plage, j'ai redécouvert le plaisir de nager en mer. Se faisant, j'aime bien mettre la tête sous l'eau, pour admirer les fonds marins...et quelquefois "braconner" quelques oursins.
With this beautiful weather and the chance to live near the beach, I rediscovered the pleasure of swimming in the sea. So doing, I like to put my head under water, to admire the seabed ... And to sometimes "poach" a few sea urchins.

Violet sea urchin

Néanmoins, ces derniers temps, j'ai remarqué que mon oreille droite se bouchait dès que je mets la tête sous l'eau. Et le temps passant, j'avais de plus en plus de mal à la déboucher ce qui était assez désagréable. J'essayais bien d'utiliser un coton tige pour la déboucher mais cela fonctionnait de moins en moins bien.
Nevertheless, lately, I noticed that my right ear was corked as soon as I put my head under water. And as time passed, I had more and more trouble uncorking it which was very unpleasant. I tried to use a cotton swab to unclog it but it worked less and less well.

Finalement, je suis allé consulter un "ORL" (Oto-rhino-laryngologiste) qui m'a regardé l'oreille et m'a dit que j'avais probablement un bouchon. Avec un tube et un aspirateur, il a retiré sans difficultés ce bouchon et en a profité pour nettoyer mon autre oreille.
Finally, I went to consult an "ENT" (Otolaryngologist) who looked at my ear and told me that I probably had a blockage. With a tube and a vacuum cleaner, he easily removed this plug and took the opportunity to clean my other ear.

Je lui ai dit mon étonnement à voir autant de saleté dans mes oreilles, moi qui me les lavent régulièrement avec un coton tige.
I told him of my astonishment to see so much dirt in my ears, I, who wash them regularly with a cotton swab.

Il m'a alors fortement déconseillé d'utiliser cet ustensile. "C'est comme passer le balais et mettre la poussière sous le tapis" m'a dit-il. Pour se laver les oreilles, rien ne vaut un gant de toilette et du savon.
He strongly advised me not to use this utensil. "It's like sweeping dust under the carpet," he said. "To wash your ears, nothing is works better than a washcloth and soap.

To comment on Jean-Marc's story, find the link at the end of this post.

Jean-marc about to swim off boat
I hope you enjoyed JM's article. He is happy to return to his beloved sea, now. Remember "Don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear" :-) Ne mettez jamais rien de plus petit que votre coude dans votre oreille--çela dit, that said, you may gently clean your outer ear with the help of these items.

This type of pocket-shaped wash mitt, or gant, is the standard washcloth in French homes. Do you remember seeing these in France? Share in the comments and you can order a few here

SAVON de MARSEILLE soap with olive oil. Perfect for all skin types. Order here

Beach near La Madrague  vue of La Ciotat Parc du Mugel

"Beaucoup de gens jettent les cotons-tiges dans la cuvette des toilettes plutôt que dans la poubelle de la salle de bains. Et ils font en effet partie des déchets les plus présents dans les milieux aquatiques. En 2015, nous en avons ainsi retrouvé pas moins de 16 226 dans les rivières ou sur les littoraux européens. Mis bout à bout, cela équivaut à trois Tour Eiffel et demie !" -Antidia Citores, of Surfrider Foundation

A lot of people toss cotton swabs into the toilet bowl rather than in the bathroom garbage can. And this makes up a good part of the waste most often found in aquatic areas. In 2015, we found no less that 16 226 (coton swabs) in rivers or along European coastlines. Put end to end (these coton swabs) this equals three and a half Eiffel Towers! Surfrider Foundation

La Madrague beach yellow flowers
The beach at Port de La Madrague in St. Cyr-sur-Mer

Dear Kristin,Thank you so much for your amazing assistance in my French language learning. 😊 -Divya

Your "Day in a French Life" story, and your language lessons, are worth many times this amount to me. -David

Thanks for all the great stories you've shared over the years. I feel I've become a part of your family in France! -Augusta


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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Catherine Berry

As much as I understand it seems that so much in France is becoming focussed on the ´mustn't do's', the rules and the negatives. Where has the famous French insouciance and joie de vivre gone? And please don't say to having to ban cotton buds 🙂

Jules Greer



Dear Kristi (and Jean-Marc),

Isn't it wonderful as a professional to be able to make authoritative statements and expect them to be taken as infallible law!

As a GP (family doctor) I spent 35 years telling my patients never to use cotton buds to clean the wax from their ears.

A couple of years ago I found myself referred to an ENT specialist with impacted wax ... and after suctioning my ear canals clear was advised in future to use cotton buds rather than allow the wax to accumulate!!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi and Jean-Marc,

Thank you for your story today and the beautiful photos! My doctor also told me not to use Q-tips. He said people tend to put them to deep into the ear canal and also it can push ear was farther in and cause a blockage. Everyone should just stop buying them.

Enjoy the beautiful sea and the sea urchins! I will try them one day. What do they taste like? :-)


Bravo to Jean-Marc and Bravo to the French Parliament! Will the original type of cotton swabs, with cardboard "batons" still be allowed? That is the only kind I buy. I'm so tired of all the "disposable" plastic items filling up our lives-- throwaway grocery bags, razors, pens, mop and broom heads and on and on...

Hélas, our U.S. Congress & president seem to be moving in the opposite direction as your parliament, with such actions as withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, moving to undo national monument designations the better to mine in them, and most recently, endangering whales and other marine life by moving to allow seismic blasting along our entire Atlantic coast!

May I just quietly point out 2 typos in the post? In the paragraph beginning >, 3rd line, the 'z' was left off of >. In the next paragraph, the 'd' was left off of and that sentence should translate that the ORL "looked in my ear," rather than "listened to me." Veuillez pardonner mon impertinence!

Connie becker

Looking for a rental house that will sleep 5 women comfortably in Provence between Nîmes and Marseille - one week in Rousillon and a second week somewhere else

Nyla Witmore

Precisely because I have read in past blog entries about JM's adventures seeking out "oursin", I decided to try an entre while staying in a lovely hotel in Nice. The first course to a three course meal. It arrived beautifully displaced, the flesh scooped out, and mixed into a fluffy mousse which was then stuffed back into the shell. This "nest" was placed over a bed of large risotto and toast triangles. Unusual. I knew not to eat the shell itself. Glad I tried it. DO TELL US HOW JEAN MARC PREPARES IT.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Marie, for the helpful corrections--always appreciated. I will update the post at the next chance.

Anne J

Thank you, thank you for the French mitt web site! I have been looking for them in the USA for years. I just ordered 6. Wonderful things!

Nancy Stilwagen

Before plastic was used in cotton swabs, paper was used. It was rolled tightly to make a sturdy stick for the cotton tips, and it was biodegradable. I would guess manufacturers will go back to that.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your order, Anne!

Cheryl in STL

We always had a supply of cotton swabs in our house, but neither of my sons ever knew about them being used for ears! My younger son used to get a lot of bad nose bleeds. He had problems keeping his nasal membranes moist. So every night he would dip a cotton swab in some Vaseline and then use it to coat the inside of his nose! He finally outgrew the problem.
And I love seeing the oursin pictures! I've never tried to eat them, but I have always been fascinated by them! I love tidal pools.
And thanks for the bilingual fun!!

Russ W.

Hum, I have never had an ear doctor tell me to put a cotton swab (Q-Tip) in my ear.


There are stills swabs made with this hard paper.

Maggie Grace

I remember my Daddy saying to never place anything smaller than your elbow into your ears. The cotton swabs are supposed to be for your outer ear. To clean the inner ear, I often use a little hydrogen peroxide. It really works! My kids used to swim on a swim team and we had swimmer's drops for their ears, I think they were made up mainly of alcohol.

Does France have Q-Tips, with the paper stems instead of plastic? BTW, never heard of flushing a Q-Tip before!!

Maggie Grace

I remember my Mom brought home a stack of those after visiting my sister in Germany, where she was posted in the Army. My sister ended up sending her more of those cloths, and then my Mom who was a great seamstress, decided just to sew two washcloths together to make mitts. My Dad passed away last year and those mitts were still in use after about 30 years. They are so handy!


Our dear Kristi and Jean Marc,
What a wonderful,informative post today!
Especially enjoy learning about daily life and what is happening France!
Jean Marc,so glad your clogged up ear is a thing of the past!
When I was in 2nd grade(I think),one of our home room teachers would tell us about the elbow theory,the other would revamp that statement to read " nothing smaller than a fence post with a wssh cloth wrapped around it."Seemed so silly,the thought sent us off into gales of laughter.But it did make an impression,even remembering it now,all these years later.
Natalia. xo

Laura C

Curious that France with its many heavy smokers of all ages would identify Q-tips as being the major problem. Here in California, the major problem along the coast and on beaches is cigarette butts. They're filters and those don't disintegrate. That fact in the San Francisco Chronicle two weeks ago. Around here smokers are pariahs - only a few young wanna-be cool types or older alco-types. When we're in Paris next week, I'll be sad to have to eat indoors in order to avoid the section outdoors where neighboring clients will light up. Hoping that will change in France as it has around here; such a fabulous place otherwise.


Dr. John House, himself, of the world-famous House Ear Institute, told me to never use Q-tips. When I admitted to sometimes using them, he said, "Cut that out!" I haven't used one in my ear since.
I do find other uses for them, but wouldn't think of throwing one into the toilet!

Happy swimming, Jean-Marc. Great pictures, Kristi.

Kathleen from Connecticut

The rule in our house and many places is don't throw anything other than TP in the toilet. I too have never thought of throwing a Q-Tip into the toilet.
I do use them in my ears but I am very careful about how far they will go in. Many people develop ear wax and it has to be removed by an ENT or even your primary doctor. It is a bit uncomfortable to have the wax suctioned out, but not bad.
Have a great summer and I hope that the house situation is resolved soon.



I learned the hard way, several years ago, to avoid using q-tips in my ears. It's a shame that so many people throw them into the toilet.


Had my own bad experience with a plastic swab. Out came the plastic with no swab on the end! It took 3 at the doctor's office to retrieve the swab! One holding my ear, one holding a light and one using a pincer to extract the offending object! As Katia said, learned the hard way not to put it into my ear.😊


Glad to see you're back posting in CAPITAL LETTERS! Always like seeing your greetings and comments

Kristin Espinasse



On a stormy Yorkshire day - the heatwave ended very suddenly! - and cringing somewhat at the coton-tiges stories but thank you everyone for the warnings and Kristi too re the environment - and the awful news that our septic tank is in serious deep trouble (I am carefully avoiding the obvious sh- word....) I am refreshed and comforted by the wonderful photos on Kristi's Instagram which take one away to a world of blue and pastel shades and memories of Provence. Thank you.


This story reminds me of my husband's last trip to emergency.
On the eve of our trip to Australia, last December, I suddenly saw blood oozing out of the left ear of mon mari when he was just happily typing in front of his computer. In other words, he did not feel any pain. It turned out he had cleaned his ears with a Q-tip, after his bath. Since our trip was the following day, we rushed to emergency to have his ear checked. Luckily, nothing was serious. the emergency doctor advised him to use two Q-tips, if he ever felt the urge to clean his ears next time and with two Q-tips, the Dr added, they could not go inside the ears to do any harm!
Sans souci, nous nous sommes bien amusés au soleil d'Australie, au mois de Décembre.

Robbie Lane Jackson

My husband is a many-years scuba diver, instructor, and EMS. He told me about Ear Beer after I'd gone to the dr. several times to clean out wax in my ears. Since using this for the last six months, and using only when I feel the itching or "blocking" coming on, or ear pain, I've had no more trouble. It is great, I think, for kids, as I believe it keeps swimmers' ear away, at least for us. Be sure to ck with your dr.

EAR BEER RECIPE (found online, no author listed)

50% Alchohol (I use swimmers ear drops because it's a purer alcohol than rubbing alcohol) 
50% White Vinegar (I use regular white vinegar found at the grocery store)  You mix these 2 ingreds. together in exactly same amount of each. Cap tightly in tiny jar or bottle. Plastic is ok.

Then place 4-5 drops into the ear canal while leaning your head to the side and work it into the ear by moving the outer ear and moving the jaw. Or just let it work its way in. You will feel it once it gets all the way in. Count to 10 slowly and then treat the other side in the same fashion. No rinse is required or recommended after treatment.  Just wipe it off if it runs down your ck. Keep towel or Tissue below the eye, so none will get into your eye. Really works well. Have had no more wax build up.

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