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cleaning earbuds

How to Clean Earbuds or Earphones in a Few Simple Steps

Earbuds or earphones are everywhere, and many of us use them every day – for example, while exercising, working out, and commuting. Naturally, when they see so much use, they also tend to get dirty quickly, so knowing how to clean earbuds is crucial if you want to make your pair last and protect your ears.

Besides picking up dead skin cells and naturally produced ear wax which is sticky, earbuds also pick up lint and dust from a variety of places like pockets, tables, backpacks, and so on. Not only is this unhygienic, but it can also muffle the sound your earphones produce over time thus making you think you need to buy new ones.

Luckily, it’s not hard to clear wax out of earbuds and give them a new lease on life. All it takes is a few household items and some patience on your part from time to time. All you need to know is in this article. So, let’s get started, shall we?

What You’ll Need for the Job

In case you need to stop by the store to pick up some items, here’s a list of the things you will need:

  • Paper towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Toothbrush with nylon bristles

If you have foam ear-tips, you will also need:

  • Warm water
  • A small dish
  • 2-3 drops of liquid dish soap or a mild cleaning agent

Why nylon bristles? They won’t produce any static and possibly damage sensitive electronics. Moreover, you can also use an old toothbrush. just clean it beforehand, so there’s no leftover toothpaste or other residues on it. Children’s toothbrushes work even better since they have softer bristles, or you can also get yourself a hearing aid cleaning set for less than ten bucks.

When it comes to alcohol, we use rubbing or isopropyl alcohol to clean earbuds because it evaporates quickly, leaving almost nothing behind. It is also widely accepted and used as a cleaning fluid for various electronics and delicate things like eyeglasses. A concentration of around 60-70% is typical and will be perfect for this job, but you can use a stronger solution as well If that’s all you have.

Cleaning Instructions

Step 1: Unplug your earphones

To avoid the chance of short-circuiting your earbuds or possibly your phone, unplug them first because they usually draw power from the device’s battery. Besides that, you don’t want to zap yourself. Even if the probability of that happening is minimal, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Step 2: Inspect Them

The approach you use to clean your headphones may vary depending on how much grime and gunk they’ve picked up, as well as how they’re built. Moreover, it’s also important where that dirt is located. In most cases, everything except the grill or mesh that protects the speakers can be cleaned without too much worry. When it comes to removable ear tips, those made out of silicon can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol, while we like to wash foam ones. Take special care when cleaning wireless earbuds that have different ports and buttons.

Step 3: Remove and Clean the Ear Tips or Replace Them

If you have ear tips, remove them and use the adequate cleaning method. For silicone ear tips, dip a cotton swab or paper towel into the rubbing alcohol and wipe them down thoroughly. For foam ear tips, combine a quart of warm water and a few drops of dish liquid or mild cleaning agent and wash them gently in the solution before taking them out and letting them air-dry. Another option is to use new ear tips because even cheaper earbud sets come with replacements.

Step 4: Brush the Grill or Mesh

Take one earbud at a time and point the grill or mesh down before using your toothbrush or hearing aid cleaning brush to work the surface gently. Don’t apply too much pressure to avoid pushing the dirt further into the grill. What you remove should end up on your brush or the work surface you’re using. You can also tap the earbud with your finger to help dislodge additional dirt.

Step 5: Clean the Grill or Mesh with a Swab and Alcohol

Take one side of a cotton swab and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Then, just like in the last step, point the earbud down to avoid the cleaning solution seeping in behind the mesh and gently clean it as best as you can. Lastly, use the dry side of the cotton swab to wipe any dissolved wax or dirt. Remember use as little alcohol as necessary and never submerge your earbuds into any kind of cleaning liquid.

Step 6: Clean the Cables and the Rest of the Earbuds

The speaker grill or mesh and the ear tips are usually the dirtiest parts on any pair of earbuds. However, while you’re at it, you should also go over the cables, earphone jack, and the earbud body. Fortunately, these are less sensitive and easier to clean. Just take another paper towel, dip it into rubbing alcohol and wipe everything down. If you notice that there’s some funky buildup that you couldn’t remove, combine the rubbing alcohol with your brush and use another paper towel.


After the final step, you earphones should look like new and probably sound better if you haven’t cleaned them in a long while. You can use this earbud cleaning guide every month or whenever you notice that there’s a build-up of wax or dirt.