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Cotton swabs (American English) or cotton buds (British English) consist of one or two small wads of cotton wrapped around one or both ends of a short rod made of wood, rolled paper or plastic. Concerns about marine pollution are leading to some countries banning the plastic-stemmed versions in favour of the biodegradable alternatives. Cotton swabs are commonly used in a variety of applications including first aid, cosmetics application, cleaning, and arts and crafts. Although physicians have warned for years that it is not safe to use cotton swabs for ear cleaning, that remains the most common use.

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