A Proper Guide on How to Clean Headphones

Headphones and earbuds have become an integral part of our lives, and it is for good reasons. These useful audio gadgets provide a convenient way to immerse yourself in your favorite music while allowing you to isolate yourself from noise from the world around you. But, when was the last time you cleaned your pair of headphones or earbuds?

Many people tend to overlook their headphones and earbuds when it comes to cleanliness. Ideally, this can affect their sound quality and pose health risks to the user. Just like other audio equipment, headsets accumulate dirt and sweat gradually, and failing to clean them only makes the situation worse.

Some of the potential health risks that can result from not cleaning your headphones include excessive earwax buildup, tinnitus, ear pain as well as a range of yeast and fungal infections. However, practicing a little care and maintenance for your headset will go a long way in averting some of these problems.

Cleaning your earpieces regularly will not only help to maintain your ear hygiene but also ensure you get the best value for your money. That said, keep reading for tips on the best way to clean headphones to keep them looking and sounding great.

How to clean headphones

i. Turn off your headphones/devices

Before you clean your headphones, turn them off and unplug them from any device they may be connected to. This will help ensure that you don’t damage your headsets or the equipment you’re using. Similarly, if you’re using a Bluetooth headset, ensure to turn off the Bluetooth before you start cleaning. If you are using battery-powered headphones, you may also want to take out the batteries to avoid damaging them.

ii. Remove the ear pads

While you can still clean the headphones with the ear pads on, removing them will make it easy to do a thorough cleaning. You can remove the ear pads by pulling the edges gently to loosen them from their attachment, thereby exposing the drivers underneath. Ensure to follow the user manual on specific instructions on how to remove the ear pads as well as how to clean headphone pads.

iii. Wiping the components

Using warm water, wet a clean cloth and use it to wipe your headphones’ components. Ensure to wring out excess water from the cloth to avoid damaging drivers and other electrical components inside the headsets. Use the cloth to gently wipe the ear pads while ensuring to remove any stuck dirt and grime. You can use the same cloth to wipe the headphones’ surface, the headband as well as the wire.

iv. Cleaning stubborn dirt

If you’re dealing with stubborn dirt or if you realize that the grime is deeply ingrained, you can put a few drops of mild detergent in the cleaning water. Alternatively, you can rub the soap on the spots that appear to have extra dirty to loosen them. Ensure to remove any soap residue with a damp clean to avoid leaving marks on your headphones.

Note: Avoid sprinkling the soap water on your headset to avoid damaging internal components.

v. Cleaning tight spots

To clean the small nooks and tight spaces, you can use a cotton swab dipped in the cleaning solution. Ensure to squeeze out excess water before you proceed to clean out all the small holes, vents, and other tight spots that may be hard to reach with the cleaning cloth. Replace the cotton swab as needed to avoid spreading dirt to other places.

vi. Disinfect the headphones

Earwax helps to protect our ears from damage, but once clogged inside the ear pads, it can help germs and bacteria to grow. As such, health experts recommend disinfecting headphones to help kill potentially harmful bacteria.

To disinfect your headset, dip a clean cloth in 70% alcohol solution and use it to gently wipe the headphones’ surface, the ear pads, the headband, and the wire. This will help destroy any existing bacteria or germs on your headsets. The best part yet, the alcohol solution will evaporate as soon as it comes into contact with the surfaces, so you don’t need to wipe it off.

vii. Dry the headphones

Leave your headset in an open space for a few minutes to allow them to dry off completely before using them again. You can use a clean dry towel to wipe off any residual marks that may be accidentally left on the surface.

How to clean earbuds

Earbuds are by far easy to clean than their headphones counterparts since they come with few components that require cleaning. That said here are simple steps for cleaning and maintaining your earbuds;

  • Disconnect the ear tips by pulling them gently. Most earbuds come with detachable ear tips, so removing them should not be much of a hassle.

Note: If your earbuds are fitted with foam ear tips, excessive wax and dirt can make them difficult to clean. As such, you may want to consider replacing them with compatible silicon-based ear tips, which are much easier to clean.

  • Wet a clean cloth and use it to rub the ear tips until there are free from any dirt and grime. You can also add a few drops of mild cleaning detergent in the water to help remove stuck grime
  • Next, wipe the tips with a clean towel to dry them.
  • Soak your cleaning cloth in the water solution and wring it off excess water. Use the cloth to wipe the earbuds’ surface to remove dirt and any remaining wax.
  • If you notice that there is wax stuck on the mesh covering your earbuds speakers, you can use a dry toothbrush to try and remove the wax or any loose dirt from the mesh.
  • Alternatively, you can get a toothpick and try to remove any wax buildup on and around the speaker mesh, as well as other hard-to-reach grooves. However, you may want to be extra careful while using the toothpick to avoid poking through the mesh.
  • Use a natural disinfectant, such as cleaning vinegar or rubbing alcohol to disinfect the ear tips and other surfaces. Finally, leave your earbuds in an open space to dry out completely before using them again.
  • If you still have your earbuds case, it can get dirty too. So ensure to clean and disinfect the inside and outside of the case, as well.

Bonus Tips

Brown Silk Fabric
  • Ensure to clean your earpieces regularly, e.g. once a week, to make them easy to clean the next time.
  • Ensure to wipe off your headphones after strenuous activity or after a workout to remove excessive sweat. Failure to do so will only increase dirt build-up and make your work even harder.
  • Never submerge your headsets in water when cleaning them to avoid damaging the electrical components.
  • Never store your headphones in moist or very hot environments. To be on the safe side always have a silica gel pack inside your headphones storage bag for extra protection.
  • Keep your headphones in a clean, dry place, preferably a clean bag or case, whenever you are not using them.

Frequently asked questions

Q: How often should I clean headphones?

There is no blanket rule as to how often you should clean your headsets or earbuds. However, the cleaning schedule is determined by several factors, including how often you wear your headset, the activities you’re involved in while wearing them, and the environment around you. That said, it is always a good idea to give your headset a thorough cleaning every week or so. In addition, always ensure to inspect your headset, and if you notice any signs of dirt or grime, clean it immediately.

Can you clean earbuds with hydrogen peroxide?

Yes. It is safe to use a solution of hydrogen peroxide of not more than 3% to clean earbuds. However, you may want to be careful to avoid the solution from coming into contact with your drivers, thereby damaging them. Although most people clean earbuds with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide is also a great alternative that will help kill bacteria viruses that may be on the surface of your earbuds.

The Parting Shot!

Headphones play a critical role in our daily lives, whether you’re using them for work or leisure purposes. However, it can get pretty annoying when your music becomes muffled, or you develop hearing problems from using them. Most of these audio problems and health concerns are as a result of using a dirty headset. However, cleaning your headsets regularly will not only allow you to enjoy better sound quality, but also prevent hearing damage and frequent ear infections.

Avatar for Jamie K. Martin

Jamie K. Martin holds a degree in Audio engineering from Husson University, Bangor. Martin spends most of his time testing and trying the technology he writes about to ensure that he provides first-hand information to our customers from all walks of life.

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