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How to Clean Earbuds: Quick Clean and Deep Clean

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.

Key Takeaways

  • Clean earbuds regularly with alcohol wipes or a damp cloth for hygiene and better sound quality.
  • Deep clean earbuds monthly by soaking silicone covers in soapy water, brushing off dirt, and using rubbing alcohol to disinfect.
  • Keep earbuds in a case and avoid sharing them to prevent dirt buildup and germ spread.
  • Unclean earbuds can lead to poor sound quality, so maintain cleanliness for an optimal listening experience.

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.


How Do You Clean Earphones Without Damaging Them?

The best way to clean your earphones without damaging them is to wipe the surface with an alcohol wipe or a damp cloth impregnated with white vinegar.

Can You Get an Ear Infection From Earbuds?

You can get an ear infection from earbuds because they insert into your ears, pushing wax further into your ear canal. It can cause a buildup of wax, increasing the chances of an infection.

Can Earwax Ruin Airpods?

Earwax can ruin your Airpods because the wax is sticky and gets into the speakers to reduce the sound quality of the Airpod. Once it gets in, wax can be tricky to remove.

Can You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean Earbuds?

You can clean your Earbuds with hydrogen peroxide, but ensure you remove all peroxide residue before placing the buds back into your ears.

Can You Use Baby Wipes to Clean Earbuds?

You can use baby wipes to clean your Earbuds. You can also use warm water, a clean cloth, and a few drops of dish soap.

Why is One Earbud Louder Than the Other?

The reason why one Earbud is louder than the other includes audio mixing issues, connectivity problems, one Earbud being blocked with wax or dirt, or device setting issues.

High-Quality Speakers

Besides unclean earbuds leading to a 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!

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 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!