How to Clean in-Ear Headphones

How to Clean in-Ear Headphones

Your earbuds spend a lot of their time inside your ear, which can be a pretty nasty place most of the time. With your device being constantly exposed to ear wax, dirt, and sweat, it is easy for them to get a heavy buildup of gunk which can affect the quality of your earbuds quite significantly. Cleaning your earbuds regularly is an essential form of maintenance that will keep your device in the best shape possible. This brings us to the question of how to clean in-ear headphones.

Why You Should Clean Your Earbuds

How to Clean in-Ear Headphones.

When your earbuds pick up a lot of nasty substances over time, not only is it a health concern for you, it can also heavily impact the audio quality of your device. Unlike over-the-ear headphones, earbuds sit directly in your ear canal and some even form a seal making your device a breeding ground for infection. When you go to clean your ears, make sure you’re cleaning your earbuds too as dirty buds can lead to painful ear infections. Muffled sounds and shortened lifespan of your device are two more consequences of not cleaning your earbuds. With expensive devices such as Airpods, you don’t want to have to be replacing them often which is why it’s important to have a regular cleaning schedule for your earbuds. 

How Often You Should Clean Your Earbuds

How to Clean in-Ear Headphones. Woman runs with in-ear headphones

Depending on how much you use your earbuds, the frequency of your cleaning schedule may fluctuate. If you’re using your earbuds every day or close to that, you should clean them at least once a week. If you wear them when exercising, you should wipe them down after every use and make sure they are dry to prevent any damage, even if your headphones are sweat-resistant. If you don’t use your earbuds frequently, just keep an eye on them for any buildups of earwax, oil, or dirt, and clean immediately if you notice any buildup. 

How to Clean in-Ear Headphones

How to Clean in Ear Headphones. Small child listens to ear buds

There are many different ways to clean your earbuds depending on the kind of earbuds you have, how much gunk has built upon them, and the material of your earbuds. Here are a few of the best ways to get the job done, and always remember to power off your earbuds completely before cleaning.

Basic Wipe Down

After a sweaty workout with your earbuds or a week of light use, be sure to wipe down your earbuds with a damp cloth with a small amount of gentle dish soap. Then wipe dry with a cloth and place them back into their case or other storage space.

Cleaning Wax Buildup

If you have a lot of earwax on the inside of your earbuds, it is recommended that you purchase an earbud cleaning tool that can safely remove all of the gunk without damaging your device, but if you don’t have one of these a toothpick or cotton swab will do. If you have ear tips on your earbuds, be sure to remove them and clean them separately. Gently scoop out any ear wax without pushing in the mesh to avoid damage to the earbuds’ inner hardware. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab, just enough to saturate it without an excess of dripping, and gently clean the outside of your earbud along with the mesh.

To be on the safe side, go with as little alcohol as possible to avoid water damage to the inside of the bud. Wipe dry, reassemble if necessary, and place them in their case or storage space. This method is to be used sparingly as using too much-rubbing alcohol on earbuds too often can wear down your earbuds. 

Cleaning a Charging Case

Devices such as Airpods come with a charging case that can accumulate just as much gunk as the earbuds themselves which can impact their charging capabilities. You can use a cleaning tool to do this or just an alcohol-dampened cotton swab. Be sure to make sure the inside of the case is dry before putting your earbuds back into it. 

General Care Tips for in Ear Headphones

How to Clean in-Ear Headphones. Wired in-ear headphones sit on table

Along with cleaning, it is important to employ other care tips to keep your earbuds in the best shape possible. The first is to always keep your earbuds stored in a case when not in use. Most come with cases, but if yours doesn’t you should look into purchasing one that will keep them dry. If you live in a humid place or frequently use your earbuds to work out, consider putting a silica gel packet in your case with your earbuds to keep them dry and prevent them from getting any serious water damage.

Be sure to always keep your case closed to prevent dirt and dust from getting into your earbuds as well. If you have wired earbuds, make sure to never kink the cable while it is plugged in as it can damage your earbuds and shorten their lifespan. Also, always remove the headphones from the jack by holding the end of the cable instead of the cable itself to avoid damaging the wires inside.


Now you know why you should clean your earbuds and just how much dirty earbuds can impact your listening experience, health, and even your wallet. It is easy to overlook dirty earbuds, but by practicing simple cleaning and care strategies, you can keep your ears and your earbuds healthy and always ready to listen to music.

Written by Sophia Schultz

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