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How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Learn how to clean your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and EarPods.

Is it OK to use a disinfectant on my AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or EarPods?
Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or EarPods. Don’t use on the speaker mesh of your AirPods, AirPods Pro, and EarPods. Don’t use on the knit mesh canopy and ear cushions of your AirPods Max. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or EarPods in any cleaning agents.

Clean your AirPods Max

  • Don’t run your AirPods Max under water.
  • Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
  • If your AirPods Max are exposed to anything that might cause stains or other damage—for example, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye:
    • Wipe them clean with a cloth slightly dampened with fresh water and dry with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
    • Do not attempt to use them until they’re completely dry.
  • Make sure not to get any liquid in the openings.
  • Don’t use sharp objects or abrasive materials to clean your AirPods Max.

Clean the cushions and headband of your AirPods Max

  1. In a clean container, mix 1 tsp. (5 mL) of liquid laundry detergent into 1 cup (250 mL) of water.
  2. Remove the cushions from the ear cups.
  3. When you clean the headband, hold your AirPods Max upside down to prevent liquid from flowing into the headband attachment point.
  4. Dip a lint-free cloth into the soapy water solution, wring it out slightly, and rub the cloth on the cushions and headband gently for 1 minute each.
  5. Wipe the cushions and headband clean with a separate cloth that’s slightly dampened with fresh water.
  6. Dry the cushions and headband with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth, making sure to remove any excess moisture.
  7. Lay your AirPods Max flat to dry for at least a day before you reattach the cushions and use them again.

Clean the case of your AirPods Max

Clean the Smart Case with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. If necessary, you can slightly dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the Smart Case to dry. Don’t use abrasive materials to clean the Smart Case.

Clean your AirPods and AirPods Pro

  • Don’t run AirPods or AirPods Pro under water.
  • Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
  • If your AirPods or AirPods Pro are exposed to anything that might cause stains or other damage—for example, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye:
    • Wipe them clean with a cloth slightly dampened with fresh water and dry with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
    • Allow them to completely dry before placing in the charging case.
    • Do not attempt to use them until they’re completely dry.
  • Make sure not to get any liquid in the openings.
  • Clean the microphone and speaker meshes with a dry cotton swab.
  • Don’t use sharp objects or abrasive materials to clean your AirPods or AirPods Pro.

Clean the case of your AirPods and AirPods Pro

Clean the charging case with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. If necessary, you can slightly dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the charging case to dry. Make sure not to get any liquid in the charging ports. Here are a few more guidelines:

  • Remove any debris from the Lightning connector with a clean, dry, soft-bristled brush.
  • Don’t use abrasive materials to clean the charging case.
  • To avoid damaging the metal contacts, don’t put anything in the charging ports.

Clean the ear tips of your AirPods Pro

  1. If any water has accumulated in the ear tip, tap the AirPod on a soft, dry, lint-free cloth with the ear tip opening facing downward to remove.
  2. Pull off the ear tips from each AirPod and rinse the ear tips with water. Don’t use soap or other household cleaners.
  3. Wipe the ear tips with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. Make sure that the ear tips are completely dry before reattaching to each AirPod.
  4. Click the ear tips back on each AirPod. The ear tips are oval shaped, so make sure that you align them before you click them back on.

Learn about AirPods and water resistance

Your AirPods Pro are water resistant, but not waterproof. The Wireless Charging Case for AirPods Pro is not waterproof or water resistant, so be careful not to get moisture in any openings. If your case comes in contact with liquid, dry it by placing it upside down with the lid open.

Your AirPods (1st and 2nd generation), charging case, AirPods Max, and Smart Case aren’t waterproof or water resistant, so be careful not to get moisture in any openings. If your AirPods come in contact with liquid, including sweat from a workout, wipe them down with a dry microfiber cloth. To dry the case, place it upside down with the lid open.

If your AirPods become damaged after they get wet, you can chat or talk with us to order a replacement.

Clean your EarPods

  • Don’t run EarPods under water.
  • Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
  • Make sure not to get any liquid in the openings.
  • Clean the microphone and speaker meshes gently with a dry cotton swab. Remove any debris from the meshes with a clean, dry, soft-bristled brush.
  • Don’t use sharp objects or abrasive materials to clean your EarPods.

Tips to avoid skin irritation

Here’s how to avoid skin irritation, especially if you have allergies or skin sensitivities:

  • Wear your AirPods Pro with the right fit—see Choose your AirPods Pro ear tips and use the Ear Tip Fit Test.
  • After workouts with AirPods Pro, or after your device is exposed to liquids such as sweat, soap, shampoo, makeup, sunscreen, and lotions that can potentially cause skin irritations, clean and dry your device. Keeping your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Earpods—as well as your skin—clean and dry will maximize comfort and prevent long-term damage to your device.
  • If you have known allergies or sensitivities to certain substances, check the materials in AirPods and EarPods.

Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Contact the vendor for additional information.

Make them sound better and last longer

Like anything else that you wear on your body, headphones can get dirty. They seem to be magnets for everything from earwax to lint to dust—and the grime is more than just gross. It can affect the function of your headphones or even lead to their early demise.

Debris can muffle the sound coming from a headphone’s driver (the part with a diaphragm that produces sound) and lead to lasting damage as well. Oil from your skin can also cause plastic and rubber components to become discoloured and even disintegrate after long periods of exposure.

“To a certain degree, headphones are consumables,” says John Chen, director of sales for Grado Labs, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of headphones and audio products. “Eventually, they’ll break down from regular use.” But with simple maintenance, he says, you can extend the life of the product. Chen recommends you clean your headphones once a month.

Make sure to unplug headphones before cleaning them, and turn off a battery-powered pair. Then follow the instructions below.

What You’ll Need

You’ll want a paper clip and cotton swabs for cleaning earphones (models that fit in your ears). The same tools will help get at the nooks and crannies of larger home/studio style headphones that fit on or over your ears. A soft, clean toothbrush will also come in handy.

Chen recommends using unscented baby wipes, but make sure they’re alcohol-free. Or you can use a towel with warm water and a drop or two of soap or mild detergent. In some cases you may want to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide—read on for specific instructions.

You’ll also need a second towel for drying things off when you’re done. Use a cloth that won’t leave behind any stray fibers or dust.

Tips for All Models

Except for a handful of models marketed specifically for swimming, headphones should never be submerged in water, and even “water-resistant” models shouldn’t get more than slightly damp. (Electronics and water don’t mix well.)

Don’t apply any liquid directly to the headphones, and when you do wipe them down, be sure to keep any moisture on the surface. Don’t let any interior parts get damp.

According to Chen, you usually don’t need anything stronger than soap and water.

“You can also use a little alcohol, but on certain things you shouldn’t because the material itself will dissolve,” he says.

Alcohol may destroy any part made of foam, but it’s fine for plastic, rubber, or silicone. You’ll only want to use it occasionally though, and dry any alcohol off carefully. Letting it air-dry can lead to damage.

The Bose company website recommends hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax. Look for a solution of no more than 3 percent. Apply it with a cotton swab, and merely dampen the surface. Wipe the solution off quickly and carefully when you’re done. Even at that low concentration, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes cause bleaching and discoloration.

No matter what you use on the headphones, towel them off, making sure they are completely dry before using them.

Earbuds and In-Ear Earphones

For earphones with removable tips or ear supports, manufacturers recommend taking them off and cleaning them separately. The first step is to clear out any earwax that’s lodged inside them. A paper clip should to the trick—just be careful not to scratch or puncture the earpieces.

Once you’ve removed excess wax, wipe down ear tips and ear supports with baby wipes or soap and water. You can turn some ear tips inside out without damaging them for a cleaning as well, and cotton swabs can help with the detail work.

Again, alcohol is an option for rubber and silicone, but it will destroy foam. No matter what, use alcohol sparingly and wipe it off right away.

Next, take a look at the body of your earphones. There’s usually a mesh screen made of cloth, plastic, or metal to protect the drivers. Those screens can be a hot spot for wax.

Chen says he often gets questions about earphones that are quieter on one side, and a simple clog is usually the culprit. He recommends taking care of this problem sooner than later, because earwax can become impacted and hard to remove.

Use a clean toothbrush to gently wipe away anything that’s stuck, but be careful not to push debris deeper into the screen. A dab of hydrogen peroxide will help to get things moving, if necessary, but apply it carefully and don’t let it drip inside.

Some in-ear style earphones don’t have a screen, and there’s just an opening at the front of the cylinder that extends into your ear. You can use a paper clip to remove any visible contaminants. Handle the job delicately, and make sure not to make contact with the inner workings of the earphones, which can be easy to damage.

Over-Ear and On-Ear Headphones

Home/studio style headphones tend not to get as dirty as in-ear models, but they still benefit from regular clearing.

Soap and water or those trusty baby wipes will be all you need to clean the casing. Spend a little extra time wiping off oils from areas that come in contact with your hair or skin. If you have a wired model, give the cable the same treatment but stick with a dry cloth for the jack.

Some headphones that fit on or over the ears have removable ear pads, which you’ll want to take off and clean separately if possible. You can also find inexpensive replacements online for some models.

To clean your earpads, first wipe them down gently with a dry towel or a brush to remove superficial dust and dirt. Then clean with baby wipes or a towel dampened with soap and water. Use cotton swabs to get at hard-to-reach areas in any folds or stitching. When you’re done, dry the earpads by hand.

Bang & Olufsen, one of the few companies that sells headphones with earpads made of real leather, recommends leather cleaner applied with a soft cloth.

Just like earphones, most over-ear and on-ear headphones have screens covering the drivers. If the screens are dirty, turn them face-down and use a soft brush to gently clean them off. Be careful not to press the screen or the brush into the drivers.

If the screens are removable, clean them separately. But don’t attempt to clean the drivers if there’s any visible dirt, says Rich Fisco, program manager of electronics testing for Consumer Reports. “That’s a delicate job you should leave to a professional, assuming your headphones are worth spending the money on,” Fisco says.

Seriously, do this right now.

Raise your hand if you’re reading this article while wearing earbuds? Headphones—and more specifically earbuds, like Apple AirPods and EarPods, that fit snugly in the ear canal—have pretty much become a part of our daily lives. Odds are, you’ve popped in those little white pods at least a few times in the last week while walking to work, running errands, working out, or sitting at your desk all day. And that’s OK—so long as you clean them regularly. Because if you never clean your headphones, it’s not only pretty gross, but a habit that could potentially make you sick, too.

Why You Need to Clean Your Earbuds ASAP

Ready to be grossed out? Your headphones are home to 2,708 times more bacteria than the average cutting board, six times more bacteria than a kitchen sink, and 330 times more bacteria than a kitchen counter. According to Whittier Hospital Center, dirty headphones can cause a host of issues including allergic reactions, rashes, or even infections.

“Since earbuds are so compact, it’s easy to leave them lying around. Unless you sanitize them [regularly], your earbuds have probably accumulated a great deal of dirt and bacteria,” Whittier Hospital Center explains in a blog post. “So the moment you put them in, your earbuds can introduce dirt and bacteria into your ears.”

“Aside from carrying dirt and bacteria, earbuds can also increase ear wax build-up,” the medical experts say. “Since our ears are designed to clean themselves, wearing earbuds can trap the ear wax that is supposed to be carried out. Excessive wax build-up leads to impacted ear wax that can affect your hearing.”

Long story short, clean your earbuds quickly about once a week—and don’t share them!

The Best Way to Clean Earbuds Regularly

Luckily for everyone who enjoys listening to music or podcasts at a healthy decibel level, Apple does have some tips on cleaning your headphones that will keep them looking brand new and help stave off infections.

According to Apple, all you need is a “soft, dry, lint-free cloth,” a cotton swab, and just a touch of fresh, filtered water. That’s really all you need for regular, run-of-the-mill earbud maintenance.

Using the cloth, wipe away any debris on the surface of the earbud. Then, gently get into the nooks to clear out what you can. Clean the microphone and speaker mesh with a dry cotton swab instead of the wet cloth. Allow them to dry completely before use or returning them to their case.

To Deep Clean and Disinfect Your Earbuds:

According to Apple, if your headphones have touched “soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergents, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye,” you’re going to want to wipe them down with a slightly dampened cloth—and only use fresh water. Make sure not to get any liquid in the openings. (Many earbuds are water-resistant, but not waterproof. If you’re cleaning an AirPods case, be extra careful: The charging ports are neither water-resistant or waterproof.)

To ensure your headphones are extra cleaned and disinfected, you may want to get some alcohol wipes from your local pharmacy or online ($5; amazon.com). These wipes are just moist enough to cleanse the headphones without running the risk of drowning them—but always use them carefully to avoid damaging your earbuds.

Some people swear by using a bit of water, soap, and an old (clean!) toothbrush—but again, do so carefully and take this method with a grain of salt. Simply stir a few drops of soap into about a half cup of fresh water, dip in the toothbrush, blot excess moisture on a napkin, and then very gently use the bristles to swipe gunk from your earbuds. Note: It’s key to hold the earbud over the toothbrush so that, rather than pushing debris it further inside, gravity helps take it out.

There’s a quick fix to a really gross piece of tech.

If you’re the type of person who refuses to borrow earbuds, here’s your vindication. A recent study found that earbuds can harbor 119,186 colony-forming units.

That’s a lot of bacteria. In fact, that’s more than 2,700 times the bacteria that can be found on a kitchen cutting board. These buggers can lead to ear infections or other illness.

Thankfully, you can clean earbuds quickly to get rid of any unwanted passengers.

11 places in your house that are filthy, and how to clean them

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

A wipe will do it

To sanitize your earbuds, wipe them down after each use with a rubbing alcohol wipe. You can find them in the first aid section of the grocery store in single use packs.

Don’t forget the details

Be sure to pay attention to the holes in each bud, too. If you see any earwax in the holes, use a toothpick to wedge it out. Then, cover the end of a toothpick with an alcohol wipe and carefully swab out each hole.

Make sure to let the earbuds dry completely before you store them or wear them. Since alcohol dries quickly, you shouldn’t need to wait more than 60 seconds.

Published May 29, 2018

  • How to clean your headphones and earbuds

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Everything we wear on our bodies, from hats to socks, eventually needs cleaning. Just as your clothes get filthy (from the environment) and sweaty (from you), your headphones pick up dirt from all around you and react to your own secretions—and they need cleaning too. And just like your clothes stay looking good longer if you fold them neatly before putting them away, taking a little care when storing your headphones will keep them working like new. We’ve got some tips for both.

As we wear headphones, our skin cells, sebum, ear wax, and facial products stick to the parts that touch our ears and face, and the ever stickier headphones then pick up more dirt from the world around us every time we take them off, put them down, or put them in a bag. The takeaway? Clean your dang headphones, people. And definitely give them a wipe down before borrowing or lending a pair.

Not only will making sure your headphones are clean and comfortable help them to last longer, but can, in the case of earbuds, even keep them sounding better. Here are a few tips on how to clean and care for your headphones.

Regularly wipe down headphones’ earpads and tips with a mixture of soap and warm water on a lightly damp cloth.

Ideally, you should do this once a week. Make sure the headphones are off, if powered, and disconnected from your device. Dry fully with a soft cloth immediately. Don’t use alcohol, as it can remove color or break down leather or fabric faster. As long as you use soap and water, it will clean off any nasties.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Clean the inside of earbuds with a small soft brush to remove debris.

Wax buildup can muffle the sound of your earbuds. Get an inexpensive cleaning tool designed for clearing out wax (some high-end in-ear models even come with one). First, pull the eartips off of the earbuds. Use the tool’s metal loop side to gently scoop out any ear wax. Do not jam the loop into the tip while it’s still on the earbud or you may push wax into the earbuds and damage the driver. Then use a small soft brush to gently clean off anything stuck to the earbuds. Wipe the eartips with a soapy wet cloth and dry thoroughly before reattaching to the earbuds.

After every workout, wipe gym headphones down, and allow to dry fully before charging.

Even if they’re water- and sweat-resistant, don’t keep your headphones wet for long periods because water can slowly seep into battery compartments or the earbuds themselves and short them out or damage drivers. (And even swim headphones should be allowed to dry fully before being put away.) Do not allow moisture into the earcup of over-ear headphones or into the nozzle of in-ear headphones.

If you need to take your headphones out mid-run or can’t wait for them to dry completely before leaving the gym, gently shake out any excess moisture, turn the power off, and store them inside a little zip-close snack baggie. Don’t keep your earbuds in your gym-shorts pocket or sports bra without a water-resistant case. Both of these places collect sweat and won’t allow the earbuds to dry as frequently as they need to. Then when you arrive home, wipe the earbuds and allow them to dry as stated above.

Store your headphones and earbuds in a bag or case when not in use.

This will protect them from dirt, scratches, and impacts. Use the case you got when you bought them, or you can buy one later. Just be sure the case you choose will fit the headphones you have.

Don’t use or store your headphones in very hot or cold environments.

Saunas and car trunks aren’t good for headphones, especially if your pair has a battery. Also, don’t store them long-term while wet or in a humid environment, even if they are water-resistant. Or, for extra protection, keep something like Westone Monitor Saver or a silica gel pack in the bag (just be sure to keep the gel packs away from kids and pets).

If your headphones are powered, don’t leave the charge port or battery compartment open when storing them.

Even if your headphones won’t get wet, leaving the port open can let in dirt and dust. If they don’t have a door and they have just a Micro-USB port for charging, regularly dust out the port and check for water inside before plugging in.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Don’t kink/bunch the cable or wrap it around your device while still plugged in.

Wrapping your headphones around your phone while they’re still plugged in bends the cable where it meets the plug end at a sharp angle and can eventually pull it out of the housing. To wrap the cord properly, gently loop it around your fingers, making a circle with the cable, following the wire’s natural curve. To prevent tangling, use a twist tie from bread or buy a little Velcro cable tie.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Always unplug your headphones by holding the plug or cable end, not the cable itself.

Don’t unplug or remove headphones from your device by pulling the cable. It can weaken the cable over time. And definitely don’t remove earbuds from your ears by pulling on the cable, especially if they’re sealed. The vacuum created can cause damage to your ears. Instead, grasp the earbud and twist slightly while pulling outward.

Follow these guidelines and your headphones will stay cleaner and in better shape, and last you a lot longer. Happy listening!

Further reading

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

by Lauren Dragan

The Jabra Elite 75t Bluetooth earbuds sound great, feel comfortable in the ears, and offer the convenience of being completely cable-free.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Headphones Under $100

by Lauren Dragan

If you’re looking for backup headphones or just don’t want to spend a lot, we reviewed all the best cheap headphones for you.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Workout Headphones

by Lauren Dragan

Cord-free, comfortable, and sweat resistant, the Jabra Elite Active 75t is the best pair of headphones for your next trip to the gym.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

by Brent Butterworth and Lauren Dragan

Whether you prefer over-ear or in-ear noise-cancelling headphones, we have recommendations to help bring peace to your next trip.

Earbuds are, by far, the best headphones for those who lead an active life! They stay in your ears much more easily than regular headphones, they’re more portable and less bulky than studio-style headphones, and the quality of sound and noise canceling is as good as it gets.

On the flip side, however, there is a higher risk of damage to your ears. It’s a downside few people consider when buying earbuds.

You see, when you insert the earbuds into your ears, you are essentially introducing dirt and germs from outside: your desk, your pocket, your shelf, your nightstand, your car, your backpack, your fingertips, etc. The earbuds come in contact with all sorts of pathogens, which you then put into your ears.

Of course, there’s always the problem of ear wax. Placing the headphones in your ears will trap ear wax in the canal, preventing your ears from cleaning themselves. The ear is designed to clean itself and it naturally carries wax outward like a conveyor belt, where the wax ultimately falls out from the ear canal on its own.

During the long periods of time that you are wearing earbuds, you are preventing the wax from falling out naturally due to the earbuds acting as a “stopper” . This can lead to a buildup of ear wax and even reduce your hearing. Not only that, but the ear wax can get into your headphones, reducing the audio quality. For people who use headphones for hours every day, ear wax can be a serious issue!

Thankfully, there is a simple way to prevent the problem: cleaning earbuds!

Cleaning your earbuds is the best way to not only remove ear wax from earphones but preventing bacteria from building up in your ear. On this page, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to clean earphones the easy way – as well as WHY you need to clean them!

We’ll teach you the best way to clean earbuds, how to keep earbuds clean, and even how to get ear wax out of earphones. By the end of this page, you’ll know how to keep your ears clean and your earbuds in tip-top shape!

How to Clean Earbuds

Want to know how to clean ear wax out of earbuds? The good news is that it’s a simple process, and it can be done with items you have in your home. All you’ll need is:

  • A toothbrush
  • A soft cloth
  • A basin

To begin, fill the basin with a bit of warm water and a few drops of dish soap. (Too much dish soap can leave a residue, so you only need a little bit.)

Unplug your headphones from your iPod/iPhone/computer/MP3 player, and remove the silicone tips. Drop the tips into the soapy water to soak. This will help to kill off any bacteria on the earbud tips and will make cleaning your earphones much easier.

Now, it’s time to break out the toothbrush (dry, of course). Give the metal screen of the earbuds/headphones a very gentle brushing. This will help to dislodge any trapped ear wax particles, dirt, and grime. DO NOT allow any water near the metal screen. Water could leak into the headphones and damage the electronic components.

Once the metal screen is clean, dip a corner of the soft cloth into the soapy water and use it to CAREFULLY clean the plastic shell of the earbuds. This will help to eliminate any ear wax particles trapped on the exterior of the earbuds, as well as get rid of any trace skin oils (from your fingertips) and bacteria.

Set the earphones aside to work on the silicone tips. This is the most important part of the process, as this is the part that comes in contact with your ears. Use the soft cloth to clean the silicone thoroughly, then turn it inside out to repeat the process.

Any earwax, dirt, and grime should come off easily, thanks to the fact that you left the silicone tips soaking in the water. Set them on a clean cloth. Once dry, replace them on the earbuds and store.

See, cleaning earbuds is VERY easy, and it can help to eliminate germs and remove ear wax from earphones in a few minutes. It doesn’t take long to keep your earbuds clean, but it will help to improve your ear health.

Do this regularly, and it will keep your earbuds nice and clean – thereby keeping your ears in great shape.

How to Clean Earbuds: Why It Matters

Why should you learn how to keep earbuds clean or invest the time in cleaning earbuds? For two simple reasons:

1. It’s hygienic

Keeping your earbuds clean will reduce the risk of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens being introduced into your ears. This will prevent excess ear wax buildup, ear infections, and impacted ear wax.

It’s in your best interest to keep your ears as clean as possible, so why not take extra precautions with the headphones that spend hours every day sitting in your ears?

2. It’s good for your enjoyment

If your ear wax accumulates out of control, it can affect your hearing. You may begin to notice minor hearing loss as a result of impacted ear wax or ear infections. By keeping your headphones clean, you reduce the risk of impaired hearing.

As a bonus, cleaning your earbuds will prevent ear wax and dirt particles from reducing the sound quality of the headphones.

Want to make sure your ears are getting the care and attention they need? Consider the Oto-Tip , Clear Ear’s at-home ear cleaning device! The Oto-Tip has a safety guard to ensure that you don’t insert it too far into your ear.

The spinning tip automatically cleans the outer part of your ear canal, keeping your ear canals free and unblocked. If you spend a lot of time listening to music or using headphones, the Oto-Tip can help to combat the resulting wax buildup.

As you can see, it’s a good idea to learn how to clean earphones. Even if you purchase cheap earphones or earbuds, you’re going to use them for a few months at least. For those few months, they’ll affect your ear health.

By knowing how to clean earbuds, you can keep your ears healthy and clean!

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Make them sound better and last longer

Like anything else that you wear on your body, headphones can get dirty. They seem to be magnets for everything from earwax to lint to dust—and the grime is more than just gross. It can affect the function of your headphones or even lead to their early demise.

Debris can muffle the sound coming from a headphone’s driver (the part with a diaphragm that produces sound) and lead to lasting damage as well. Oil from your skin can also cause plastic and rubber components to become discoloured and even disintegrate after long periods of exposure.

“To a certain degree, headphones are consumables,” says John Chen, director of sales for Grado Labs, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of headphones and audio products. “Eventually, they’ll break down from regular use.” But with simple maintenance, he says, you can extend the life of the product. Chen recommends you clean your headphones once a month.

Make sure to unplug headphones before cleaning them, and turn off a battery-powered pair. Then follow the instructions below.

What You’ll Need

You’ll want a paper clip and cotton swabs for cleaning earphones (models that fit in your ears). The same tools will help get at the nooks and crannies of larger home/studio style headphones that fit on or over your ears. A soft, clean toothbrush will also come in handy.

Chen recommends using unscented baby wipes, but make sure they’re alcohol-free. Or you can use a towel with warm water and a drop or two of soap or mild detergent. In some cases you may want to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide—read on for specific instructions.

You’ll also need a second towel for drying things off when you’re done. Use a cloth that won’t leave behind any stray fibers or dust.

Tips for All Models

Except for a handful of models marketed specifically for swimming, headphones should never be submerged in water, and even “water-resistant” models shouldn’t get more than slightly damp. (Electronics and water don’t mix well.)

Don’t apply any liquid directly to the headphones, and when you do wipe them down, be sure to keep any moisture on the surface. Don’t let any interior parts get damp.

According to Chen, you usually don’t need anything stronger than soap and water.

“You can also use a little alcohol, but on certain things you shouldn’t because the material itself will dissolve,” he says.

Alcohol may destroy any part made of foam, but it’s fine for plastic, rubber, or silicone. You’ll only want to use it occasionally though, and dry any alcohol off carefully. Letting it air-dry can lead to damage.

The Bose company website recommends hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax. Look for a solution of no more than 3 percent. Apply it with a cotton swab, and merely dampen the surface. Wipe the solution off quickly and carefully when you’re done. Even at that low concentration, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes cause bleaching and discoloration.

No matter what you use on the headphones, towel them off, making sure they are completely dry before using them.

Earbuds and In-Ear Earphones

For earphones with removable tips or ear supports, manufacturers recommend taking them off and cleaning them separately. The first step is to clear out any earwax that’s lodged inside them. A paper clip should to the trick—just be careful not to scratch or puncture the earpieces.

Once you’ve removed excess wax, wipe down ear tips and ear supports with baby wipes or soap and water. You can turn some ear tips inside out without damaging them for a cleaning as well, and cotton swabs can help with the detail work.

Again, alcohol is an option for rubber and silicone, but it will destroy foam. No matter what, use alcohol sparingly and wipe it off right away.

Next, take a look at the body of your earphones. There’s usually a mesh screen made of cloth, plastic, or metal to protect the drivers. Those screens can be a hot spot for wax.

Chen says he often gets questions about earphones that are quieter on one side, and a simple clog is usually the culprit. He recommends taking care of this problem sooner than later, because earwax can become impacted and hard to remove.

Use a clean toothbrush to gently wipe away anything that’s stuck, but be careful not to push debris deeper into the screen. A dab of hydrogen peroxide will help to get things moving, if necessary, but apply it carefully and don’t let it drip inside.

Some in-ear style earphones don’t have a screen, and there’s just an opening at the front of the cylinder that extends into your ear. You can use a paper clip to remove any visible contaminants. Handle the job delicately, and make sure not to make contact with the inner workings of the earphones, which can be easy to damage.

Over-Ear and On-Ear Headphones

Home/studio style headphones tend not to get as dirty as in-ear models, but they still benefit from regular clearing.

Soap and water or those trusty baby wipes will be all you need to clean the casing. Spend a little extra time wiping off oils from areas that come in contact with your hair or skin. If you have a wired model, give the cable the same treatment but stick with a dry cloth for the jack.

Some headphones that fit on or over the ears have removable ear pads, which you’ll want to take off and clean separately if possible. You can also find inexpensive replacements online for some models.

To clean your earpads, first wipe them down gently with a dry towel or a brush to remove superficial dust and dirt. Then clean with baby wipes or a towel dampened with soap and water. Use cotton swabs to get at hard-to-reach areas in any folds or stitching. When you’re done, dry the earpads by hand.

Bang & Olufsen, one of the few companies that sells headphones with earpads made of real leather, recommends leather cleaner applied with a soft cloth.

Just like earphones, most over-ear and on-ear headphones have screens covering the drivers. If the screens are dirty, turn them face-down and use a soft brush to gently clean them off. Be careful not to press the screen or the brush into the drivers.

If the screens are removable, clean them separately. But don’t attempt to clean the drivers if there’s any visible dirt, says Rich Fisco, program manager of electronics testing for Consumer Reports. “That’s a delicate job you should leave to a professional, assuming your headphones are worth spending the money on,” Fisco says.

Published May 29, 2018

  • How to clean your headphones and earbuds

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Everything we wear on our bodies, from hats to socks, eventually needs cleaning. Just as your clothes get filthy (from the environment) and sweaty (from you), your headphones pick up dirt from all around you and react to your own secretions—and they need cleaning too. And just like your clothes stay looking good longer if you fold them neatly before putting them away, taking a little care when storing your headphones will keep them working like new. We’ve got some tips for both.

As we wear headphones, our skin cells, sebum, ear wax, and facial products stick to the parts that touch our ears and face, and the ever stickier headphones then pick up more dirt from the world around us every time we take them off, put them down, or put them in a bag. The takeaway? Clean your dang headphones, people. And definitely give them a wipe down before borrowing or lending a pair.

Not only will making sure your headphones are clean and comfortable help them to last longer, but can, in the case of earbuds, even keep them sounding better. Here are a few tips on how to clean and care for your headphones.

Regularly wipe down headphones’ earpads and tips with a mixture of soap and warm water on a lightly damp cloth.

Ideally, you should do this once a week. Make sure the headphones are off, if powered, and disconnected from your device. Dry fully with a soft cloth immediately. Don’t use alcohol, as it can remove color or break down leather or fabric faster. As long as you use soap and water, it will clean off any nasties.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Clean the inside of earbuds with a small soft brush to remove debris.

Wax buildup can muffle the sound of your earbuds. Get an inexpensive cleaning tool designed for clearing out wax (some high-end in-ear models even come with one). First, pull the eartips off of the earbuds. Use the tool’s metal loop side to gently scoop out any ear wax. Do not jam the loop into the tip while it’s still on the earbud or you may push wax into the earbuds and damage the driver. Then use a small soft brush to gently clean off anything stuck to the earbuds. Wipe the eartips with a soapy wet cloth and dry thoroughly before reattaching to the earbuds.

After every workout, wipe gym headphones down, and allow to dry fully before charging.

Even if they’re water- and sweat-resistant, don’t keep your headphones wet for long periods because water can slowly seep into battery compartments or the earbuds themselves and short them out or damage drivers. (And even swim headphones should be allowed to dry fully before being put away.) Do not allow moisture into the earcup of over-ear headphones or into the nozzle of in-ear headphones.

If you need to take your headphones out mid-run or can’t wait for them to dry completely before leaving the gym, gently shake out any excess moisture, turn the power off, and store them inside a little zip-close snack baggie. Don’t keep your earbuds in your gym-shorts pocket or sports bra without a water-resistant case. Both of these places collect sweat and won’t allow the earbuds to dry as frequently as they need to. Then when you arrive home, wipe the earbuds and allow them to dry as stated above.

Store your headphones and earbuds in a bag or case when not in use.

This will protect them from dirt, scratches, and impacts. Use the case you got when you bought them, or you can buy one later. Just be sure the case you choose will fit the headphones you have.

Don’t use or store your headphones in very hot or cold environments.

Saunas and car trunks aren’t good for headphones, especially if your pair has a battery. Also, don’t store them long-term while wet or in a humid environment, even if they are water-resistant. Or, for extra protection, keep something like Westone Monitor Saver or a silica gel pack in the bag (just be sure to keep the gel packs away from kids and pets).

If your headphones are powered, don’t leave the charge port or battery compartment open when storing them.

Even if your headphones won’t get wet, leaving the port open can let in dirt and dust. If they don’t have a door and they have just a Micro-USB port for charging, regularly dust out the port and check for water inside before plugging in.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Don’t kink/bunch the cable or wrap it around your device while still plugged in.

Wrapping your headphones around your phone while they’re still plugged in bends the cable where it meets the plug end at a sharp angle and can eventually pull it out of the housing. To wrap the cord properly, gently loop it around your fingers, making a circle with the cable, following the wire’s natural curve. To prevent tangling, use a twist tie from bread or buy a little Velcro cable tie.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

Always unplug your headphones by holding the plug or cable end, not the cable itself.

Don’t unplug or remove headphones from your device by pulling the cable. It can weaken the cable over time. And definitely don’t remove earbuds from your ears by pulling on the cable, especially if they’re sealed. The vacuum created can cause damage to your ears. Instead, grasp the earbud and twist slightly while pulling outward.

Follow these guidelines and your headphones will stay cleaner and in better shape, and last you a lot longer. Happy listening!

Further reading

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

by Lauren Dragan

The Jabra Elite 75t Bluetooth earbuds sound great, feel comfortable in the ears, and offer the convenience of being completely cable-free.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Headphones Under $100

by Lauren Dragan

If you’re looking for backup headphones or just don’t want to spend a lot, we reviewed all the best cheap headphones for you.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Workout Headphones

by Lauren Dragan

Cord-free, comfortable, and sweat resistant, the Jabra Elite Active 75t is the best pair of headphones for your next trip to the gym.

How to clean your headphones and earbuds

The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

by Brent Butterworth and Lauren Dragan

Whether you prefer over-ear or in-ear noise-cancelling headphones, we have recommendations to help bring peace to your next trip.

Here’s the situation with earbuds – and to better know what we’re cleaning, let’s back up a minute and quickly understand our ears a bit better. According to Wikipedia, ears produce earwax to protect the skin of the human ear canal, assist in cleaning and lubrication, and also provide some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects, and water. Cool…ish? I mean happy to have that self-cleaning function but it does put us in a bit of a pickle when it comes to earbuds.

See, when these are in your ears, heat is being generated. Heat makes them practically a magnet for earwax. Heat melts the earwax and it kinda, well, re-settles on the earbud – or IN the earbud, so even after a couple of uses, you’ll start to see some sort of residue build up. Now, it’s not dangerous, but it can affect the sound quality of your earbuds over time and by the way, #obvious, it looks gross.

Alright, let’s see how easy it is to clean these. And just so you know, I went to an Apple store and got lectured by a genius on the proper ways of cleaning earbuds as they do in their very own facilities. So I got this straight from the Apple-horse’s mouth.

You’ll need

  • dish soap,
  • cotton swabs,
  • a cleaning toothbrush,
  • rubbing alcohol, and
  • alcohol wipes.

Silicone covers

If you have silicone covers, pop them off and soak in warm, soapy water. Use a cotton swab to remove any debris or discolouration after they’ve had time to soak. Rinse well and then leave them to dry overnight. You can’t put them back on until they are 100% dry. These are usually found on in-ear headphones.

Earbuds

  • Start by gently dry brushing the wax out of the earbud.
  • Hold them with the mesh facing down so that any debris can fall down as opposed to back into the earbud. Don’t press too hard, you don’t want to push the gunk in any further.
  • Once that’s done, if you still see a waxy build up, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, tap it off and then wipe the bud to remove anything remaining.
  • Then, take an alcohol wipe and wipe the earbud and surrounding area. This can mildly clean as well as disinfect the earbud. Rubbing alcohol dries lightning fast and won’t seep into the bud.

Soapy water or cleaning products, or perfume, are not suitable cleaning agents for this job, because they’ll seep in and damage the innards of the earbud.

Also, ensure your cleaning toothbrush is nylon bristle only, as anything else could break off and get caught and potentially ruin the earbuds. Plus, nylon is anti-static, which means it won’t fry your earbuds during the cleaning process.

You can clean them with an alcohol wipe as often as you feel necessary, and I would say giving them a clean like this once a month would be a reasonable frequency.

Using your earbuds!

Now, once you’ve cleaned your earbuds – you might as well use them – so, we’ve teamed up once again with the fine folks over at audible.com who are offering all of you a FREE audiobook and 30 day trial – with access to over 150,000 audiobook titles – it’s the perfect way to break in you newly cleaned earbuds!

Currently, I’m listening to The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – as many of you know , I’m a junky for a good business book and THIS is one of my personal favourites. A lot of you ask me about business advice, and I’ve learned so much from this very book. Check it out!

Headphones and earbuds can get pretty nasty. The more you use them, the more they get clogged with bacteria, dust, lint, ear wax, dandruff, dead skin cells, and other nasty things. That said, it’s always good to have decent hygienic practices to keep your headphones and earbuds clear of that build up. However, you do need to be careful with the type of material that you use to keep them clean — this is because headphones and earbuds are made out of all sorts of different materials, and you don’t want to ruin them. For example, a lot of earbuds are made out of hard plastic and can simply be cleaned with a wipe and some isopropyl alcohol. That might not work for headphones made out of fabric, though.

So if you’re wanting to keep your headphones clean and free from all that bacteria, be sure to follow along below. We’ll show you the best ways that you can keep all sorts of headphones and earbuds clean!

Plastic

Plastic, silicone, and foam is actually really easy to clean. All you need is a microfiber cloth or a swap of cotton dipped isoproply alcohol. You can then apply it gently to your headphones or earbuds in a rubbing motion. This will disinfect your earbuds and headphones, keeping them clean. Don’t use bleach, otherwise you might ruin the material.

Premium Headphones

A lot of premium headphones are made out of metal and wood, which need to be cared for differently than your traditional plastic, silicone, and foam types. If you spend a few hundred dollars, you might see earcups made out of a special aluminum material, or you might see exposed metal or wood as the headband. These are really nice materials, but unfortunately, these materials are susceptible to the same bacteria that average materials are! So, how do you clean them?

For headphones made out of metal, you can stick to the normal isoproply alcohol solution. It’s not a problem to pour some on a microfiber towel or cotton ball and clean your headphones this way. If you want, you can even use a jewelry polish to make your headphones really stand out.

Wood has to be cared for much differently, as alcohol will absolutely ruin them. That said, it’s best to find a cleaner specifically designed for wooden products. If that isn’t immediately available, some warm water and detergent will do just fine.

Fabrics

If you’re trying to clean headphones with a fabric or leather, this is fairly simple. If it’s a fake fabric or a faux leather, you’ll be just fine using that isopropyl alcohol solution. If you’re treating real fabric or real leather, you’ll want to use a leather conditioner or leather cleaner. This will keep your headphones clean and shining.

Closing

As you can see, it’s super easy to keep your headphones clean and looking good! With some at-home products or specialty cleaner, you can enhance the life of any pair of headphones.