How to Clean Earbuds the Right Way {You May Be Doing It Wrong}

Some factors that have contributed to making earbuds a must have accessory for many phone users are quality audio, portability and good noise isolation. If you use earbuds everyday but rarely clean them, they may start to sound muffled or have uneven volume.

Just like any appliance, it is important to keep earbuds clean because they accumulate earwax, particles, and dust. This can even harm your ears in the long run as viruses and bacteria grown on unclean earbuds. Research carried out by R. Mazlan and L. Saim suggests that earbuds are a leading cause of infection in the ear canal.

Our ears produce cerumen (earwax) which has the purpose of protecting our inner ears against particles and germs. Over time, oil and wax from our ears accumulate on eartips and the nozzle of the earbuds.

This reduces the sound quality and in rare cases spreads bacteria which can cause infections when the earbuds are shared. So how do you effectively clean your earbuds? In this post I will show you some popular and inventive ways to clean any types of earbuds or headphones.


Nozzle catches dust and particles
Nozzle filter catches dust, particles

Method: Using Hydrogen Peroxide or rubbing alcohol

(Works but don’t use too much liquid that will get inside the buds, better to use moist towelette, Q-tip or lint-free makeup pad (cotton pad).  

Earbud parts can be cleaned separately and it is advisable to start with the nozzle, ear tips, and the sleeves. These parts are always in contact with the wax, thus they attract dirt faster and accumulate wax with time. You will need a small piece of cloth, hydrogen peroxide or antiseptic, alcohol, and a toothbrush. Bose suggests using these solutions with a maximum concentration of 3%.

Hydrogen Peroxide can effectively remove the earwax

First, remove the sleeves (earbud tips) then use the toothbrush to brush off wax from the ear tips and nozzle. Do this facing the nozzle downwards so that wax does not fall back into the earbud housings, causing further damage to diaphragm of drivers.

After that wet a cloth with hydrogen peroxide and wipe off all the remaining wax with the cloth, then dry clean it again with antiseptic. The sleeves can be washed with mild soap or using antiseptic and then dried with a blow dryer.

Remove eartips

Next, you should clean the cable, jack, and the inline controls. When cleaning the inline controls, be careful to keep water away because it will damage the wiring.

The best way to clean the inline control is by wiping it gently using a wet piece of cloth and antiseptic. The cables can also be wiped clean with the cloth.

The jack accumulates more dust so you should use a toothbrush to wipe off the dust particles then clean it using the cloth. Finally, you can use soap or antiseptic to clean the housing and leave the earbuds to completely dry off in a clean place. After that re-attach the sleeves.

When you are done cleaning all the parts of your earbuds, you can use alcohol wipes to disinfect them further. Alcohol will help to kill germs and leave a clean surface since it dries super fast and doesn’t attract particles. You should remember to never immerse your earbuds in water and always detach them from your iPod or device when cleaning.



Method: Use glue pads (Blue-Tack) RECOMMENDED

Because of its unique gummy texture and that it picks up dirt, lint and crumbs, “Blue-Tack” adhesive putty is another good option for cleaning your earbuds. While it was originally designed to hang things to the wall, it’s semi-adhesive texture (tacky but not gummy or sticky), it picks up surface dirt without leaving any residue behind.

Earwax, dirt and lint will stick to the outside layer, simply apply a small amount of pressure to make the white tacky substance adhere to the surface of the buds (mesh, crevices, etc) and when you peel it back you’ll see it has picked it all up. Use another side or just knead it together to “freshen” it up and use again. It can be used multiple times before being noticeable dirty. A grease free, safe & easy way to clean your earphones. 


Method: Play music loud, submerse your earbuds in a glass of stain remover  NOT RECOMMENDED

Some people recommend this, even the video above shows it as n option, but submerging any earbuds in water or other liquid (except for totally waterproof earbuds, you’ll most likely end up with a ruined pair of earbuds.

It is very important to clean earbuds periodically as the accumulation of dust and wax on the nozzles will eventually reduce the sound quality or you may hear the volume level lower than usual. The jack should be cleaned to make sure it does not introduce foreign particles to our multimedia devices. These particles may also cause the inline controls to malfunction.

Cleaning will also help us to avoid rare infections and keep us healthy. Just like we clean our ears, we should also clean the earbuds to maintain healthy personal hygiene.

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