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Your complete guide on how to clean headphones and earphones

Our ears are self-cleaning by nature. However, the wax and oil they produce together with dead cells can eventually build-up and stick to your earphones. Read on to find out how to clean your headphones, AirPods, overhead headphones and in-ear earbuds.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

red headphone

Key steps

  • Never soak your earphones and headphones in water.

  • Before cleaning, always make sure that your headphones are disconnected from any connecting device.

  • Before dismantling your headphones, always double-check the brand’s guide on cleaning and maintaining the device.

Always make sure that both your ears and the earbuds are thoroughly dry before placing the earphone tips back into your ears.

How to clean earphones

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to knowing how to clean your earphones, don’t worry. Cleaning your earbuds has never been easier. We’ve compiled the best ways to clean your earphones safely without the need to dismantle them:

  1. Unplug your earphones from its connecting device.

  2. With a toothbrush, dry-brush any residue stuck on your earphone tip.

  3. Always have the earphone tips facing down.

  4. Don’t brush too hard, otherwise the earwax will be pushed further into your earphone.

If you want to know how to clean the earbuds’ outside surface, simply use a cloth and dampen it slightly using lukewarm water mixed with a little bit of soap. Squeeze-out any excess soapy water and with the cloth gently wipe the outside of the earbuds. With a dry cloth, dry your earbuds.

Another method for how to clean earbuds is to use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Again, only partially dampen the cotton swab. Make sure to dry the earbuds properly with a cloth or towel afterwards. Cleaning your earbuds with isopropyl alcohol will also make sure that they’re germ-free and properly sanitized.

How to clean headphones

Take extra care if your headphones are made out of leather or foam earpads as these can be costly to replace. For how to clean your headphones follow our step-by-step cleaning headphone guide below:

  1. Remove your earpads and wipe the exterior of the headphones with a soft cloth dampened with soapy water. Set aside to dry.

  2. Dip a cloth in a small amount of soapy water and carefully wipe the earpads, giving crevices special attention.

  3. Clean the mesh surface using a soft cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

  4. Allow everything to dry completely before reassembling.

  5. Cleaning your headphone with a hearing aid vacuum will also help extract any built-in and difficult to remove wax from your headphone.

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How to clean AirPods

With a dry cotton swab, you can clean the meshes of the speaker and the microphone. For stubborn debris, use a soft-bristled brush.

How to clean the charging case:

  1. Brush the debris from the Lightning connector with a dry and soft-bristled brush.

  2. Do not put anything in the charging points.

  3. Using a cloth slightly dampened with the isopropyl alcohol, gently wipe the dirt away.

Remember that AirPods are not water proof, so do not use soapy water. The alternative cleaning solution for an AirPods case is 70% isopropyl alcohol. Use a lint-free cloth that is soft and dry.

For further specified information on how to clean AirPods, consult Apple support.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on cleaning headphones and earphones

How do you get water out of earphones?

If your earphones got submerged in water, the key is to act quickly. First, remove any silicon or rubber parts that cover the speaker. Then slightly shake your earphones to physically remove any excess water and wipe them dry with a clean piece of cloth or a paper towel. You can also blow dry the speaker mesh with your mouth or using soft pressurised air. Avoid hitting your earphones on surfaces or drying them using heat since this is likely to cause further damage.

How do you maintain leather headphones?

Leather is a luxurious material that requires special care and attention. Stick to quality products made specifically for leather items: cleaner and polish should be sufficient. For daily cleaning, using a plain tap water and a cloth should do the trick.

How do you remove ink from headphones?

Rubbing alcohol is your best bet for getting ink stains off your headphones. Use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to gently wipe away the stain. Be aware that using any chemical solution on electronic devices can be risky so it's advisable to conduct a small patch-test first.

How do you remove odor from headphones?

The safest solution for eliminating odors from headphones is leaving them out in the sun for 60 minutes. This should get rid of any unwanted smells. You can also remove any sponge or cloth coverings that are likely to absorb the most odors and clean them separately using water and antibacterial soap.

Originally published