I have to admit that I still use cotton swabs for ear wax cleaning. I don't think the problem is with cleaning the outer part of the ear, and I haven't found anything better to use for that purpose. I've been known to use paper clips or car keys if cotton swabs aren't available.
I really should look into a much safer ear wax removal system. I've accidentally gone too far into my ear canal a few times, and those were painful experiences. My doctor recommended some ear drops that melted ear wax on contact, and came with a rubber syringe that squirted water into the ear canal and suctioned it out again. I think my ears stay clearer when I use that ear wax cleaner, too.