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How to Clean Earbuds Properly

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Music has never sounded better.

You probably use your earbuds for everything. Listening to music, enjoying podcasts, flying through audiobooks on the way to work. But do you ever take your earbuds out and notice they’re looking a little gross?

It’s so important to keep your earbuds clean. For hygiene reasons; you want to make sure they’re not harboring bacteria. Also it can gross people out if they catch a glimpse of your dirty earbuds. Lastly, dirty earbuds can minimize sound quality.

We’ll show you how to clean earbuds so they’re looking as good as new.

How to Deep Clean Earbuds

  1. Unplug the earbuds.
  2. Soak the silicone covers in warm soapy water for 30 minutes. Air dry overnight.
  3. Brush off excess dirt with an unused toothbrush.
  4. Clean the speakers with a cotton swab dampened with rubbing alcohol.
  5. Clean the earbuds and wires with a microfiber cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol.
  6. Let the earbuds air dry fully.


Why Do Earbuds Get Dirty?

We all have wax in our ears. It’s healthy; it’s there to protect your ears (1). The wax and hairs in your ears trap dust and other particles that could potentially damage your eardrum.

Because you technically shouldn’t use cotton buds or anything else to clean out earwax (ears are self-cleaning and regulating), earbuds can easily get covered in wax.

Earbuds can also get dirty from sitting around in your pockets or the bottom of your backpack.

How Often Should You Clean Your Earbuds?

It’s a good idea to give your earbuds a quick clean every week, depending on how often you use them. Aim to give them a deep clean once a month.

How to Clean Earbuds Regularly

For quick cleaning, once a week, or after each use, you can use an alcohol wipe. Just give them a quick wipe down and let them air dry thoroughly.

If your earbuds have any leather on them, such as over the straps, alcohol can break this down. Instead, mix together warm soapy water and dampen a cloth with it. Gently wipe it over the headphones.

Bonus Tip

You should do this to all your electronic items. This includes your phone, laptop, keyboard, camera and watch.

How to Deep Clean Earbuds

What about deep cleaning? A deep clean can get rid of extra dirt, bacteria, germs and earwax. Before you get started, never soak the earbuds or submerge them in water. This will damage the wiring.

  1. Unplug the earbuds from an electrical outlet.
  2. If your earbuds have silicone covers, remove them and put them in a bowl of warm soapy water. Let them soak for 30 minutes. Then use a cotton swab to remove any dirt or stains. Let them dry thoroughly overnight.
  3. Use a dry soft-bristled brush (like an unused toothbrush) to brush off excess dirt and bacteria. Especially focus on the speakers as that’s where lots of gunk can become trapped. Don’t push too hard or you could cram the dirt into the speakers.
  4. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol. Gently wipe the entire earphone, including the speaker, to disinfect and clean the earbuds. Just make sure the cotton swab isn’t soaking wet or dripping water as this can get into the earbuds and cause damage.
  5. Dip a microfiber cloth into rubber alcohol, and squeeze out the excess moisture. Use this to disinfect and clean the outside of the earbuds and the wires. You can use an alcohol wipe instead for this step.
  6. Let the earbuds fully air dry before adding on the silicone covers and using them again.

Take Note

Make sure the toothbrush has nylon bristles. Otherwise, the bristles could rip off and get stuck in the speakers.

How to Care for Your Earbuds

Earbuds can be expensive products. If you’ve invested a lot of money in yours, it’s extra important to keep them in good condition. Here are our top tips for caring for your earbuds.

  1. Keep them in a case when they’re not in use. Leaving them in your pocket or bag can attract dirt.
  2. Don’t keep them in too hot or too cold environments. This can cause damage like freezing or moisture buildup.
  3. Don’t bend the cable at weird angles. This can damage the wiring. When storing your earbuds, if they aren’t wireless, make sure to store the wires at their natural angle.
  4. Clean your case regularly. Remember, dirt can build up here as well!
  5. Even if your earbuds say they’re water-resistant, you should dry them out as soon as possible if they do get wet. Shake them out to remove excess moisture. Then let them fully air dry away from direct heat for 24 hours.
  6. Always remove the earbuds from your device by pulling from the very tip of the cable, not the wires. Otherwise, you could damage or rip the wires.
  7. Don’t share your earbuds with other people, no matter how romantic the movies make this seem. This is an easy way to spread germs.

High-Quality Speakers

Besides unclean earbuds leading to dirt, bacteria and visibly disgusting earbuds, it can also ruin the sound quality.

If you’re a keen listener of audiobooks, music and podcasts, then this is definitely the last thing you want. So buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some alcohol wipes and keep them nearby for your weekly and monthly clean!

Headshot of Beth McCallum

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!