How To Clean In-Ear Headphones

In-ear headphones create an amazing and high-quality sound that can be much better than over-the-head headphones. The sound is incredible thanks to the seal that in-ear headphones create when they’re positioned inside your ear.

These headphones can be noise-canceling, have wireless Bluetooth capabilities or be positioned on headsets for more comfort.

Tips on How to Clean In-Ear Headphones

Your ear openings are uniquely shaped. The outside of your ear acts as a funnel, gathering and moving sound waves towards your inner ear. It’s a wonderful natural design that gives humans a great system for capturing sound waves.

However, the design of your ear openings means large amounts of air enter your ear along with lots of dust particles that get caught within your ear. It’s similar to what happens inside your nose. Your ears receive all kinds of small particles, including water particles that can damage the delicate inner ear.

To protect your ear canal, your body produces earwax. This waxy substance covers the skin of your ear canal to protect it. It helps with cleaning and lubricating as well. Of course, it provides an effective barrier against small particles such as bacteria, dust, pollen, spores and even insects.

Now, when you place in-ear headphones inside this area, it’s going to create a well designed seal. The headphones generate heat, and that heat melts the earwax that’s trying to protect the ear canal. The earwax then turns softer similar to melting candle wax and adapts to the shape of the headphone.

When you take in-ear headphones out, you’ll notice this waxy melted substance stuck to the plastic and mesh. It’s not dangerous or harmful for your headphones to become coated with wax, but it’s not appealing from a cleanliness standpoint, and over time it interferes with the sound quality.

Cleaning Your In Ear Headphones

Now that you know exactly what you’re cleaning, how do you clean in-ear headphones?

As with most electronics, you want to be careful with the small mechanical parts and not accidentally rip or damage the connecting wires. Make sure the headphones are unplugged, that you handle them with clean hands and that you have all of the items you’ll need already assembled.

You will need:

  • Mild dish soap or dish detergent
  • Several double-sided Q-tips
  • An old nylon toothbrush for cleaning
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Clean, soft alcohol wipes
  • Clean cloth

First, fill up a small container with warm water that has some dish detergent in it. If your in-ear headphones feature any type of foam or silicone caps, take those off and wash them thoroughly in this container.

They should soak for at least half an hour to remove debris. Then, take them out and use a Q-tip to remove the remainder of any debris. Rinse off the soap and leave them to dry on a clean cloth, preferably overnight.

For the actual headphone, take an old dry toothbrush and gently brush the earbud part. Don’t get the toothbrush or the earbud wet. Brush the earwax off the earbud into a sink or container. Repeat with the other earbud.

This should take care of most of the earwax, but if you still need to clean it more thoroughly, proceed to the next step.

Pour a bit of rubbing alcohol into its cap. Dip a Q-tip in it, tap it to remove any extra drips and then gently clean the earbud. Use an alcohol wipe to remove any excess rubbing alcohol. This will clean and disinfect the equipment as well. You can use alcohol wipes as well, similar to the kind that come with eyeglass cleaning kits.

Do not immerse any part of the actual earbud or its mechanical parts into water. You don’t want to damage the equipment. You also don’t want to push too hard on the mesh speaker section of the earbud, because it can get jammed against the internal parts.

It’s recommended that you clean your in-ear headphones at least once a month or as often as you see fit to successfully remove all of the earwax and other debris. By using the toothbrush and the dry brushing method as well as rubbing alcohol you should be able to enjoy awesome sound from your earbuds for longer. This is especially important if you wear headphones throughout the day or sleep while wearing headphones.