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LastSwab: Cut down on plastic use with a reusable cotton swab

The sustainable swap can be used up to 1,000 times.
Collage of woman looking in the mirror using ear swab and a hand holding the swab
TODAY Illustration / Emma Stessman

I frequently clean my ears, which means that I've used a lot of cotton swabs in my lifetime. But I had never given it much thought until I discovered LastObject, a company that makes reusable alternatives to common single-use items.

According to the brand, 1.5 million disposable swabs are produced every day, and since they're not recyclable, many of them make their way into landfills or even into the ocean. Now I know that you're not supposed to clean your ears with swabs, but as a rule-breaker who does it multiple times a week, I started to think about all the Q-tips I had been tossing through the years — and let me tell you, it was in the thousands.

Of course, the concept of a reusable swab struck me as a little weird (and pretty gross?). But in the name of sustainability, I wanted to give it a try. And now that I have, I'm never going back.

LastSwab Reusable Cotton Swabs

For anyone who is looking to cut down on their plastic use or is simply tired of spending money on packs of swabs that seem to always be disappearing from the medicine cabinet, this is a great solution.

The swab is about the same size as disposable versions, but the ends are made with a rubber-like material and the rod is made from plastic that's been reinforced with glass fiber. Thanks to its sturdiness, the brand says the swab should last up to 1,000 uses.

It's also pretty cute: It comes in seven fun color options, like Sea Turtle Green and Krill Peach, and has a storage case that keeps it safe.

As far as effectiveness, after two weeks of using only the LastSwab, I used a regular cotton swab to test how clean my ears were, and it came out completely wax-free. Plus, my AirPods stayed pretty clean over the period, even when I wore them for most of the day (which, I think, is another good testament to how well it works).

It has textured ends, which give you a soft and pleasant inner-ear scratch. Although, as with regular swabs, you should just stick to the outermost part of your ear canal — aka, don't go poking around in there.

Unlike single-use swabs, you do have to clean it regularly, which can be done with water and soap or a disinfectant, like rubbing alcohol. As someone who is big on convenience, I was worried that the constant cleaning would feel like a nuisance. But since I usually clean my ears right when I get out of the shower, I've now started using it while I'm in the shower and cleaning it immediately after.

Swab being washed in the sink
Emma Stessman / TODAY

Some reviewers note that since it's not absorbent, like cotton, it won't help you get water out of your ears post-shower. According to the brand, though, users have found that wrapping the tip in tissue or toilet paper will provide the same effect.

While that's not a huge influencing factor for me, I tested out the strategy and found that it worked pretty well. The toilet paper does get stuck in the tip's small ridges when it gets wet, but it easily comes off afterwards while you're cleaning.

It can also be used for plenty of other purposes as well, like removing nail polish or makeup.

Beyond swabs for your ears, the brand offers a range of sustainable alternatives for some common single-use items. They have a swab made specifically for beauty applications with a soft pointed tip, so it's perfect for makeup touch-ups. On top of that, you can buy reusable tissues and cotton pads if you want to swap out other essentials for eco-friendly alternatives.

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