How to Clean Earbuds (Because They're Swimming With Germs)

Seriously, do this right now.

Whether they are corded or uncorded, the latest trendy brand, basic black, white, or neon, earbuds are practically a requirement for most phones and computers. Odds are, you've popped in those little pods at least a few times in the last week while walking to work, running errands, working out, or sitting at your desk. If you have noticed that the sound quality isn't quite as good as it once was, it could be because your earbuds are filled with earwax, bacteria, and dirt. Don't skip a beat. Here's how to clean your earbuds the right way, without damaging them.

How Often to Clean Your Earbuds

"Unless you sanitize them [regularly], your earbuds have probably accumulated a great deal of dirt and bacteria," Whittier Hospital Center explains in a blog post. "So the moment you put them in, your earbuds can introduce dirt and bacteria into your ears and also increase ear wax build-up," the medical experts say. "Excessive wax build-up leads to impacted ear wax that can affect your hearing."

If you use earbuds daily, quickly clean them at least weekly to remove wax, dust, and grime. Do a thorough cleaning monthly or more often during hot weather or if you wear them while sweating at the gym.

What You'll Need

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Small bowl
  • Cotton swabs
  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth

How to Clean Earbuds

Before you begin, never hold the earbuds under running water or submerge them in water or another liquid for even a second. Always disconnect them from any device before cleaning.

  1. Mix a cleaning solution for the tips. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid with 1/2 cup warm water.
  2. Remove and soak the tips. Remove foam or silicone tips from the earbuds. Add them to the cleaning solution and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Clean and dry the tips. Remove the tips from the cleaning solution. Use a cotton swab to wipe away any loose dirt or wax. Rinse well with warm water and allow them to air-dry on a lint-free cloth. They must be fully dry before placing them back on the earbuds.
  4. Clean the mesh cover. Hold the earbud with the mesh cover facing down so any particles will not fall deeper into the outer housing. Use a soft, dry toothbrush to gently brush away any visible wax.

How to Disinfect Earbuds

  1. Disinfect the tips. If you have silicone tips, disinfect them by wiping them down with an alcohol wipe or a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Allow them to air-dry. Foam tips cannot be disinfected because of their porous nature but cleaning them in the detergent and water solution will help clean them.
  2. Disinfect the mesh screen. Use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to wipe the mesh screen. Be sure the swab is only slightly damp because you do not want moisture to enter the housing. Allow the screen to air-dry.
  3. Disinfect the housing and cord. Use an alcohol wipe or cotton swab to wipe down the outer housing of the earbuds and the cords, if you have them. Allow them to air-dry before using.

How to Clean an Earbud Case

Silicone or Plastic Case

Remove the earbuds and use an alcohol wipe or a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to thoroughly wipe down the interior and exterior of the case. If the case is used for charging, take care not to get moisture on the electronic components. Allow it to air-dry before replacing the earbuds.

Fabric Earbud Pouch

Mix a solution of warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Open the pouch as much as possible and submerge it in the soapy solution. Allow it to soak for at least 10 minutes and then gently work the solution into the fabric to remove soil. Rinse well in warm water and allow the pouch to air-dry.

How to Keep Your Earbuds Clean for Longer

  • Use a case. When you toss your earbuds in a backpack, purse, or pocket, they are picking up dust, lint, and bacteria.
  • Allow the earbuds to air-dry away from direct heat if they get wet, even if they are water-resistant.
  • At the gym, don't tuck your earbuds into sweaty gym shorts or sports bras, where they'll be exposed to too much moisture and bacteria. Store them in a case or a sealable plastic bag when you're not using them.
  • Close the charging case while the earbuds are powering up. No need to allow dust to settle on them or the interior of the case.

READ NEXT: How to Clean a TV Screen So It's Streak-Free

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