How to Clean Headphones and In-Ear Earbuds – A Complete Guide

You do understand dirty headphones look and sometimes sound bad. It is important to clean it up occasionally when needed. Even CDC recommends cleaning your electronic gadgets as a precaution to avoid speeding germs. If you use your headphones for a prolonged period, you may find greasy stains, hair, grime build-up, and a bad smell on it. And that’s obvious because you use it almost all day. Now you are wondering how to clean your headphones without damaging it; keep reading this step-by-step headphone cleaning guide.

In this guide, we’ve included all the necessary steps and tools required to clean up your all kind of headphones, including true wireless earbuds.

Keep Reading: The best wireless Earbuds under $50

Tools & Items We Will Require to Clean Headphones

First things, first! Before we go any further with the cleaning guide, here are a few essential items that you need to buy to clean headphones properly.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

A microfiber cleaning cloth or towel is composed of nylon and polyester. The diameter of each strand is thinner than the human hair, which ensures that they can clear debris, dirt, and organisms even in the smallest cavities of your product.

Magic Fiber Cleaning Cloth

Rubbing Alcohol

Commonly used as a topical antiseptic, the rubbing alcohol is cleaning liquids used to disinfect and clean various household products and surfaces. There are two types of rubbing alcohol in the market, namely isopropanol and ethanol rubbing alcohol products.

Swan Isopropyl Alcohol

Cotton Swab

Normally, cotton swabs are used to clear ear canals, but anything that can be easily fit in-ear canals can also be cleaned using the same cotton swabs. In our case, it will be the earpiece of earphones or the curvatures of the ear cups in a headphone. They are also called Q-tips in some markets.

Amazon Solimo Cotton Swabs

Silica Gel Packets

These packets are used to absorb moisture and to keep things dry. Many people add silica gels where there’s a chance of moisture build-up. The headphones have foam pads and plastic, which can quickly deposit moisture. Silica gels can ensure that your product remains free of moisture.

Silica Gel Packets by Dry & Dry

Why is Cleaning Headphones Important?

One of the main reasons to keep your headphones clean is to experience the best audio performance. Usually, debris and other impurities block the pathway for the sound to travel. This can eventually lead to a faded audio quality or a complete sound. You must clear up the debris every once in a while, with a Q-tips.

What Happens When You Don’t Clean Your Headphones?

When you don’t clean your headphones, they are going to get dirty. Impurities will deposit on the inner earpiece of the headphone, which will impair sound quality. If you don’t wipe the outer surface or the body, they will start getting sticky with substance. And the worst part is, they will begin to give a bad odor which will deposit on your hand. You will notice a bad smell on your hands when you subconsciously reach out to rub your nose.

What is the Easiest Way to Clean Headphones or Earphones?

The easiest way to clean your headphone is,

  • Take a Q-Tip from your set of cotton swabs.
  • Then take each tip and insert it in your earpiece.
  • Now revolve clockwise and counter-clockwise until all the debris is deposited on the Q-tip.
  • Once done, remove the Q-tip and discard it.

How to Clean Over-Ear or On-Ear Headphones?

Over the ear or on-ear headphones have a protective covering and big listening ear cups. You can’t clean them with a cotton swab; hence you might have to take a different approach.

  • Remove the ear pads and use a soft brush to clear the big debris off it.
  • Stretch the headband and use rubbing alcohol to clean the stains.
  • Take a clean microfiber cloth piece and apply some rubbing alcohol on it.
  • Now, gently rub the surfaces of the headphone to clean sticky stains off

What is the Best Way to Clean Wireless Earbuds?

The Bluetooth Earbuds require extra cleaning, and for that, you might have to do a bit of work.

  • Firstly, remove the eartips.
  • Now hold each earbud with the opening face down.
  • And use any soft brush or toothbrush to clear the large particles out.
  • If there are tougher build-ups like wax, you will need a cotton bud.
  • Dip it in hydrogen peroxide and just barely touch the wax.
  • It will start dissolving the wax, make sure not to insert the whole thing in it.
  • It will take hardly a minute until the wax build dissolves, then remove it.
  • You can remove the wax by gently tapping the earpiece or using the brush.

How to Clean the True Wireless Earbuds?

The process of cleaning true wireless earbuds is similar to that of cleaning the standard one above. The only difference is true wireless headphones come with a separate charging case, which also needs cleaning. You can use the same Q-Tip to clear off the debris and sticky materials from the case, but don’t make haste to place your wireless earbuds inside the case. Let the moisture within the case dry up before you go ahead and charge your wireless earbuds.

How to Clean Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro?

Cleaning AirPods and AirPods Pro is similar to other products. There is a complete guide on CNN and a kits you need to perform the process. Make sure to watch this video by Geek Detour.

How to Remove Ear Wax from Earbuds?

If you see ear wax build up inside the earpiece of your earphones, remove the ear tips & clean them first. Now, you can either use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to soften up the hardened wax.

You can even wash the earbud tips if you want and use cotton buds to remove the moisture. Once all the moisture is removed from your earbuds, you can put the ear tips back.

Drivers are delicate components. So, if once the moisture reaches in, they will get fused. It is better to keep your earphones with a Silica Gel in a small bag for a few hours after cleaning it up.

What’s the Easiest Way to Keep Your Headphones Clean?

If you want to keep your headphones clean, you need to keep your ears and hands clean. Believe it or not, but you’re the source of all the problems, so you need to make sure that your hygiene is well maintained.

If you have ear wax, then it will get deposited and stored in the earpiece. If your hands are sticky, they will create stains on the headphones. Also, it won’t be a great idea to leave them hanging around your table. Your headphone can accumulate a large amount of dust from the air. So it’s best if you make sure to keep them in a well-protected case.

Lastly, don’t use your headphones after consuming food or at least wash your hands before you touch it.

Follow the above practices to make sure that your headphones remain clean & clear.

How to Clean a Headphone Jack?

The headphone jacks can also accumulate debris inside the socket. Now unlike headphones, you can’t use a Q-tip or pour alcohol in it to clear the grime because it can damage your device. Therefore, the only way to clean your headphone jack is by blowing in compressed air.

You can find plenty of air dusters on the market. Just purchase a good one and use them.

They release a blast of compressed air that will ensure all the debris gets removed from the socket.

How to Clean Velour Ear Pads of Gaming Headphones?

Many over-the-head and on-ear headphones come with velour pads. These are specific pads made up of a special kind of fabric material. And you can only find it on gaming headphones. If you have one, here’s what it takes to keep them clean.

Usually, ear pads can collect dust on the surface, unlike earpieces that accumulate debris.

So alcohol won’t work here. Since Ear Pads uses fabric material, you can use the regular detergent to clean it.

  • Take any laundry detergent and mix it in warm water.
  • Now dip your velour earpads into the warm water and let it soak.
  • Gently scrub the velour pads together & see which areas need more scrubbing.
  • Now rinse them with clean water and leave them to dry properly.

Will the Sound Quality gets affected because of Dirty Headphones?

It depends on where the dirt is accumulated on your headphones. If your headphones have earpieces with grime and debris blocking the sound ways, then yes, it will impair the quality of the sound.

Use any of the above methods we discussed to clean all types of headphones & enjoy comfortable listening.

Things You Need to Know Before Cleaning Headphones

Different headphones are made up of different materials, and hence, they will require different products to clean. Here are some of the common elements from which many of these headphones are made.

Plastic, Silicone and Foam

A significant number of headphones are made up of these three materials, especially the over-the-head ones. The plastic makes the exterior body, and silicone is used on wires, ear tips & headband cushions. Whereas foams are used for the ear pads.

So if you want to clean them, the best way of doing so is by using an isopropyl alcohol solution.

If the ear pads are made up of foam, then don’t apply alcohol but instead use a microfiber cloth to wipe it.

Metal & Wood

If you’re going for an expensive option, then surely you’re opting in for something that is made of a better build quality such as materials like metal and wood, including metals like aluminum, steel, titanium, etc.

As long as you are cleaning the surface, isopropyl alcohol can work best for your headphones.

But just in case, if you’re cleaning a wood-based headphone, then alcohol can ruin its surface finishes. Instead, use warm water with detergent to clean it up.


If the headphones you’ve purchased have a pleather fabric (such as protein leather, faux leather, and synthetic leather), then you can use the regular isopropyl alcohol to clean them. However, if you have velour ear pads and they are removable, then you can remove them and rinse them in a detergent filled water as discussed above.

What if they are non-removable, then you can simply use a toothbrush first to clear the debris and then use a small piece of microfiber cloth, you can smudge the stain areas with clean detergent water and then use the same towel to clean them with fresh water.

Cleaning Ear Buds and Microphone Openings

To clean earbuds, you can employ any of the above-discussed methods, and as for the microphone openings, you can remove the cover and then rinse it the same way as you would with the earpiece fabric.

If they are non-removable, then simply use a small microfiber cloth to smudge the areas with rinsed water.

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Richard V. Landman

Richard is a 27-year-old Tech enthusiast working as a Editor-in-Chief for LookGadgets. He is passionate about new Technology and a die-hard fan of Microsoft Surface.

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