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If you frequently use your earbuds while you're listening to music, watching YouTube videos or catching up on podcasts, you've probably noticed how dirty they can get after a while. Earwax, oil from your skin and other unsightly things can build up on earbuds, making you reluctant ,or unwilling, to stick them back in your ears. Fortunately, most types of earbuds are easy to clean. With only a couple minutes and a few basic materials, you'll be left with earbuds that are as good as new and ready for many more hours of use!
Method 1Method 1 of 3:Toothbrush Download Article
- 1Unplug the earbuds from your listening device. A toothbrush can be used to quickly brush away light debris and dried-on residue. Before you get started, disconnect your earbuds from your phone, tablet or mp3 player. This will prevent your device from coming into contact with water, soap or any other substances during the cleaning process that could potentially ruin it. Set the device aside and take the earbuds to an area where they can be cleaned safely.
- 2Find an unused toothbrush you can use to clean your earbuds. Dig up an old, unused toothbrush, or buy a new one cheaply. You'll be using the toothbrush to scrub your dirty earbuds, so make sure it's clean and dry. The stiffer the bristles on the toothbrush, the better.
- Toothbrushes with nylon bristles are best. Since nylon breaks up static electricity, you won't have to worry about damaging the internal workings of the earbuds.XResearch source
- The bristles of the toothbrush will be long and narrow enough to penetrate into the mesh covering the ear openings, making it one of the safest ways to clean and maintain them.
- 3Gently scrub the earbuds. Go over the outer surface of the earbuds with the toothbrush using light, circular sweeping motions. Brush away as much dried-on earwax, dirt, pocket lint and other debris that you can. This method works best for headphones that are only used every once in awhile and haven't accumulated lots of mess. Once you're done, the earbuds should be gunk-free and ready for use.
- While cleaning around the ear openings, be careful not to brush too hard. You might end up pushing the earwax and debris further into the openings, making it hard, or even impossible, to clean.
- You might also scrub your earbuds with a toothbrush to prepare them for being cleaned with other products.
- 4Wash the toothbrush or throw it away. Chuck the toothbrush in the garbage if you don't intend to use it again. If you do, you can put it through the dishwasher or boil it for a few minutes to sanitize it. Your ears contain a lot of germs, both naturally-occurring and picked up from other objects and surfaces, so it's always best to either clean or dispose of the toothbrush after you've used it to clean things. earbuds.XResearch source
- Boiling or washing a toothbrush can cause the bristles to soften, but the heat will eliminate any bacteria on it and make it useable again.
Method 2Method 2 of 3:Soap and Water Download Article
- 1Mix up a mild soap solution. If your ear buds have a lot of grime caked on them, they'll likely need a deep cleaning. Fill a sink or basin with clean, lukewarm freshwater. Add a few drops of mild liquid detergent or hand soap. Don't overdo it—you'll only need a very small amount of soap. Stir the soap and water together until it forms a solution.
- The soap solution should only contain enough detergent to allow you to effectively clean your earbuds. In addition to the obvious risks to the electronic components of the earbuds, using too much soap can leave behind a slick residue.
- 2Wet a washcloth with the soapy water. Take a clean washcloth and use it to soak up a little bit of the soap solution. Wring as much excess solution out of the washcloth as you can until it is just slightly damp. Cleaning electronic gadgets with with water can be tricky, and you don't want to ruin your earbuds by getting them too wet.XResearch source
- Make sure your hands are also mostly dry and clean before you start cleaning to prevent any accidental accidents.
- 3Wipe down the outside of the earbuds. Use one corner of the washcloth to wipe down the earbuds. Pay particular attention to the contours on either side of the ear openings, where the buds rest in your ear canals. Stay away from the ear openings themselves as much as possible, as getting water into them can irreparably damage the earbuds.XResearch source
- It may help to keep the input jack and cords covered with a towel while you work on the earbuds.
- Hold the earbuds with the openings facing downward to prevent water and dislodged debris from running into them.
- Wipe the earbuds lightly. Using too much force could force water out of the washcloth.
- 4Dry the earbuds thoroughly. Press the now clean earbuds into a clean, dry hand towel to absorb any moisture remaining on the outside. Then, take the earbuds to a drafty, well-ventilated space (somewhere near a fan or air conditioning unit usually works well) and leave them for at least an hour. Once the earbuds are completely dry, they'll be ready for use.
- Just to be safe, consider letting the earbuds dry overnight.
- Never attempt to dry your earbuds or any other electronics using a heat source such as a hair dryer. Headphones are made up of plastic, thin metal wires and other materials that can easily be melted or destroyed by direct application of heat.
Method 3Method 3 of 3:Rubbing Alcohol Download Article
- 1Buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Take a quick trip down to your local supermarket or pharmacy and pick up a bottle of rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol. Only buy alcohol that is pure and unscented; you never know how foreign chemicals will react with the materials your earbuds are made from. Rubbing alcohol is a cheap, effective way to gently clean and disinfect without making a mess or damaging your belongings.XResearch source
- You can purchase a bottle of rubbing alcohol for just a couple dollars or pounds and it will last you for many, many cleanings (of your earbuds or other objects).
- Isopropyl alcohol has antibacterial properties, making it ideal for sanitizing objects that have been inserted into the ears or other orifices where germs may congregate.XResearch source
- 2Dip a cotton swab into the alcohol. Place one end of a cotton swab into the alcohol and let it absorb. Tap or press the cotton swab against the side of the bottle to remove any extra alcohol saturating the tip. You only need a light coating of alcohol to clean something as small and delicate as a pair of earbuds. The tip of the cotton swab should be almost dry.XResearch source
- Wet the cotton swab with more alcohol as needed, but don't use too much. It's not a good idea to directly expose your electronics to moisture of any kind.
- You might also think about using an alcohol swab if you happen to have one on hand, although even these can be oversaturated and may need to be wrung out beforehand. It's preferable to use a cotton swab because you can control exactly how much liquid goes on it.
- 3Clean around the earbuds. Wipe the outer plastic area of the earbuds with the alcohol-dipped cotton swab. The isopropyl alcohol will break down grime that has dried and stuck on, as well as clear away traces of oil and perspiration left behind by your skin. Once again, clean the ear openings very carefully, or avoid them altogether if there is no visible debris built up inside.XResearch source
- Use one end of the cotton swab for each earbud to ensure that you're cleaning with a fresh surface.
- 4Pat the earbuds with a clean towel. Give the earbuds a pat down with a clean, dry towel. The rest of the alcohol should quickly evaporate and dry on its own. Your earbuds should now be sparkling clean and rid of bacteria and inner ear gunk. Best of all, wiping your earbuds down with alcohol is safe and easy enough to be repeated as often as needed. Happy listening!
- This is the method that most professional technicians recommend for cleaning heavily-used earbuds.XResearch source
- Consult the owner's manual that came with your earbuds to review proper care and cleaning instructions. Some manufacturers may recommend specific cleaning products and techniques that can help avoid damaging that particular brand and model. These recommendations should always be followed first.
- If your earbuds have removable silicon covers, take them off and wash them separately by rinsing them with warm, soapy water and letting them air dry.
- Clean your earbuds every couple of weeks to get rid of bodily secretions, dirt, and debris, along with bacteria that they might have picked up from other places.
- Store your earbuds in a dry, enclosed space when you're not using them.
- Never submerge your earbuds in water, or attempt to clean the earbuds under a stream of running water. This is sure to destroy the wiring inside the headphones.
- There is a small risk of electric shock if you plug in and use your earbuds before they've had a chance to dry completely, especially if any water has unwittingly found its way inside.
- As with any DIY cleaning method, there is a chance that cleaning your earbuds yourself at home could result in damage that may void the product's warranty.
Things You'll Need
- Clean, unused toothbrush
- Warm water
- Mild liquid detergent or hand soap
- Clean washcloth
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cotton swabs
- Dry towel