The human body can be a paradoxical thing, both magical and elegant, yet also gross and confusing. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something new can surprise you. One such surprise can come in the form of a stench that seems to come from within, a smell that no amount of showers or body washes can seem to eliminate.

As it turns out, this smell may not be coming from within at all. Instead, it may be emanating from a pair of everyday earrings that have become a part of you, and the culprit may be the earring hole itself. This phenomenon of earrings smelling like cheese is not uncommon, and it can leave many people wondering if it is normal or a sign of something more concerning.

Key Takeaways

  • Earrings can develop a cheesy smell that is caused by bacteria in the earring hole.
  • This phenomenon is not uncommon and is not typically a sign of a serious health issue.
  • To prevent earrings from smelling like cheese, it is important to regularly clean both the earrings and the earring hole.

Earring Hole Smells Like Cheese – Is It Normal?

The cheesy smell emanating from your earring hole is commonly known as cheese ears and is experienced by many people worldwide. However, it is not considered normal. In extreme circumstances, it can be normal, which will be discussed further in the following sections.

The putrid smell often indicates a significant buildup of dead skin cells and natural oils clogged up in the earring hole. This buildup can lead to the unpleasant odor you’re experiencing.

If you or a loved one is struggling with this issue, it’s important to note that it’s a common problem. There is a wealth of information available to help you understand and address the situation. Don’t panic, take notes, and work to prevent it from happening again.

To prevent cheese ears, it’s essential to maintain proper hygiene by cleaning the earring hole regularly and avoiding wearing earrings for extended periods. Additionally, changing earrings frequently and avoiding low-quality materials can also help prevent the buildup of dead skin cells and natural oils.

Why Do Earrings Smell Like Cheese?

The smell of cheese emanating from your earrings can be quite unpleasant. However, there are several reasons why this might be happening. In this section, we will explore the three main reasons why your earrings might smell like cheese.

Poor Hygiene

One of the main reasons why your earrings might smell like cheese is poor hygiene. If you neglect cleaning your earrings and/or your earring holes, dead skin cells, sweat, and natural and artificial body oils will accumulate around the area, leading to a foul smell. The areas behind your ears are hotspots for trapping sweat and oils, and if you have long hair, the situation can be worse as the hair traps oils and other debris.

When your earrings and jewelry are not cleaned and are covered up most of the time, dirt can accumulate, and if left uncleaned, it may turn into a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to an even worse stench. The skin is the largest organ in your body and secretes an oil called sebum from the sebaceous glands. Sebum mixed with dead skin cells, hair/skin products, and bacteria combines to form the greenish-brown sticky and smelly cheese on the ear.

Infected Ear Piercings

Another reason why your earrings might smell like cheese is an infection in the ear piercing(s). An open wound from a piercing is an ideal area for bacteria on your skin to enter, and if neglected and unclean, the bacteria can breed, ultimately causing an infection. Signs of an infected ear piercing include a bad smell, pus draining from the piercing, and earrings that are stuck in the piercing due to the buildup of dead skin cells, oils, and bacteria.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that can affect any area of your body, including the back of your ears and, in some cases, the ear itself. The condition is often caused by fungi on the skin, and although it doesn’t always give off a bad smell, the interaction of the flakes from the skin with oil and sweat can create an odor that may be transferred to your earrings. Treatment and guidance on how to clean the affected areas are recommended, and gently dabbing the area with a warm damp cloth would be a great start.

In conclusion, if your earrings smell like cheese, it could be due to poor hygiene, infected ear piercings, or seborrheic dermatitis. Maintaining good hygiene practices, cleaning your earrings and earring holes regularly, and seeking medical attention for infections and skin conditions can help prevent this unpleasant smell.

How to Stop Earrings from Smelling

Earrings are a fashion staple for many people, but they can also be a source of embarrassment if they start to emit an unpleasant odor. The smell can be caused by a buildup of bacteria, oils, sweat, and dead skin cells in the piercing area. Here are some tips to help you prevent and eliminate the smell.

1. Work on Your Hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene is crucial to preventing the buildup of bacteria and other substances that cause the smell. It is essential to clean the piercing area frequently, especially after the piercings have healed. Take off the jewelry and clean it while gently cleaning around the piercing area. Don’t forget to wash the earring posts and backs, as they are breeding surfaces for bacteria. Use warm soapy or salty water to clean them up.

2. Follow the After-Care Instructions for New Piercings

When you get a new piercing, the piercer will give you a list of after-care instructions to follow. Cleaning the ears and piercing area is usually at the top of the list. These recommendations protect you from infected ear piercings that may not heal and become stinky. If you failed to follow the advice and now have an infection, you should start cleaning the ears and piercing area using warm water or saline water and a soft cotton cloth.

If the infection isn’t severe, clean the ears, earring posts, and backs by either taking out the jewelry or gently twisting the earrings around and up and down. You could soak the area with ear piercing solution, saline water, or rubbing alcohol for some minutes before cleaning. If the earrings are not loosening or coming off and you’re in pain, go back to the piercer for help. However, if the infection is extreme and you are in pain, have a fever, swollen lymph nodes, reddening, or bleeding, please seek professional medical care.

3. Visit a Dermatologist for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that can cause a buildup of oils and dead skin cells in the piercing area, leading to a foul odor. If you suspect that you have seborrheic dermatitis, it is important to visit a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. They may prescribe specific antifungal medication and other particular medications to help deal with and resolve the problem.

4. Take Out the Piercing Jewelry

If your earrings stink and you can’t seem to get rid of the smell, it may be time to take them out. This may interfere with healing for new piercings, but for the new piercings, it gives your ears time to breathe and prevents the bad smell. You also get to clean or change the jewelry.

5. Cleaning Jewelry

Cleaning your earrings thoroughly can help eliminate the smell. You don’t need to scrub them; just get rubbing alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide to clean the jewelry. But let the earrings dry and sit for some time before putting them on again. Don’t forget to clean the ears. To avoid recurrence of the problem, take your earrings out when working out and at home. Clean the ear and earring backs regularly, but don’t over-clean the earrings because the harsh chemicals used may be transferred to the ear, causing even more damage. Avoid touching piercings with dirty hands and change your bed sheets frequently.


It is important to keep your earrings and ear backs clean to prevent the buildup of bacteria, dead skin cells, and sweat that can cause unpleasant odors. Tight earring backs or earrings with large backs can exacerbate the problem. However, with proper care, you can continue to enjoy wearing your favorite earrings without worrying about unpleasant smells.

Stephanie, a jewelry designer and writer for our website, recommends taking the necessary steps to keep your earrings and ear backs clean. Regularly cleaning your earrings and ear backs with soap and water or a gentle cleaning solution can help prevent the buildup of bacteria. Additionally, choosing earrings with hypoallergenic materials and avoiding tight or large backs can also help prevent odor buildup.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure your earrings and ear backs stay clean and fresh, allowing you to enjoy wearing them without any worries.