Simple Guide on Cleaning Your Earbuds

Over time, earbuds can get dirty. You may be using them at the gym, putting them in a dirty pocket or touching them with grubby hands. Maybe you are one of those people who loves to share their earbuds (something you should never do with your headphones). You know, your favourite song is being played and you just need your friend to listen to the tunes you’re nodding to. Seems like an innocent act, right? 

Well these actions eventually make your once clean earbuds not so clean and even a health hazard.

Earbuds Can Get Unhygienic

Earbuds can get very unhygienic. You could be unknowingly transferring all kinds of bacteria and fungus to an unsuspecting host – including yourself. Business insider actually did a study on this and found that out of 22 pairs of earbuds they pretty much all carried bacteria (duh) but two actually carried yeast. This can lead to an ear infection.

Senior living did another study which showed that in-ear headphones had on average 119,186 CFU’s (colony forming units). A CFU is basically a unit of measure to estimate the volume of microorganisms (mainly bacteria) that exist on a surface. It turns out, that’s more than 2708 times more bacteria than on an average cutting board! Yikes!

Still, while the chances of an ear infection from sharing earbuds are slim, it pays to be a little extra vigilant before freely sharing your earbuds or putting them in your ear when they start to look dirty.

Besides bacteria and fungus, no one really wants to use earbuds that looks like they have been dipped in wax. As you know, ears produce earwax and the heat from earbuds actually melts the wax a little and can make it easier for it to get stuck on and inside your earbuds, including the meshy parts. This can also affect the quality of sound.

As you can see, there are several reasons as to why you should perform some sort of cleaning to your earbuds. Luckily, it’s a pretty easy process and we are going to list three methods.

Method 1 – Using alcohol wipes with a cotton bud

  1. If there is some debris or ear wax lodged in harder to reach places, you can use a toothpick or cotton bud to lodge them out. Ensure that the mesh part of the earbud is facing downwards so the wax and dirt fall (let gravity help you!)
  2. Next, dip a cotton bud in some rubbing alcohol. Ensure to blot out excess alcohol so the cotton bud isn’t drenched. You only need a light coating. 
  3. Apply the bud to the areas that need to be cleaned. When it comes to the meshy parts, don’t press hard. A gentle brush is sufficient. 
  4. Use an alcohol wipe to clean the rest of the earbud. Just give it a once over. You can also easily clean the cables as well.
  5. If there is any remaining wet areas, be sure to pat them down with a clean cloth, though the alcohol should dry up within a minute or so, so there may be no need.

Note: If your earbuds use silicone tips (the ones that really push into your ear) then make sure to remove these first before cleaning the rest of the earbud. To do this, pop them off and put them in warm soapy water. Clean them in the water with a cotton swab or small sponge, then rinse them with water and let them dry before using. 

Method 2 – Using a cloth with water and cotton bud

  1. Using a lint-free cloth, wipe away any debris, especially on the mesh part of the earbud. 
  2. Then, using a cotton bud, get into the nooks and tight spaces to lodge out any more dirt.
  3. Then slightly dampen the cloth with water and wipe down the rest of the earbud (not the meshy parts!)
  4. If you do decide to clean the meshy part, ensure the cloth is slightly damp only and do not apply too much pressure as you don’t want any moisture to get into the electronics.

This method is handy if you don’t want to use alcohol. In truth, it won’t provide the most complete clean but if you perform this method regularly it should be enough to keep your earbuds looking new and performing at their best.

Method 3 – Using a toothbrush for a Wet or Dry Scrub

  1. Another way of cleaning your earbuds is to use a toothbrush. Simply make some warm, soapy water and dip the toothbrush in. Make sure to only use a smidge of hand soap or detergent. We only want the water to be slightly soapy! Blot the toothbrush on a cloth to ensure any extra moisture is taken out. Next, lightly brush the earbuds.

If you don’t want to use any soapy water, dry brushing will work as well. Make sure to use a clean brush and don’t press too hard. Just like the other methods above, it’s best holding the earbuds so that the mesh is facing the floor.

Toothbrushes are handy because of the long thin thistles they have which makes it easier to get into hard to reach places.

If you want to use the toothbrush again, be sure to boil it or put it in the dishwasher. After all, it will have a lot of dirt from your ears and you don’t want to clean your earbuds again with an unhygienic brush.

Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when cleaning your earbuds.

  1. Don’t Mix Liquid and Electricity…

Keep in mind that using these methods uses damp materials. As you know anything wet does not mix well with anything electrical. Hence, when applying alcohol, water or soapy water, you need to ensure that a minimal amount is used especially over the sensitive mesh areas. This ensures that you are not oversaturating the earbuds!

  1. Air is Your Friend!

If you’ve used some sort of liquid to clean your earbuds, make sure to air them out if need be. Dry them with a towel or cloth and then let them sit in a ventilated space. Putting them in front of a fan is a great way of drying them quickly, especially when it comes to the internal components.

  1. Regular Cleaning is Key

Performing a regular clean of your earbuds is a great way of keeping them looking nice and performing as if they were new. By doing a clean every couple of weeks you can avoid having to do more extensive cleans.

  1. Read the Manual

Most earbuds come with some sort of manual that has care instructions. It’s a good idea to read this to know how to properly clean them.Opening a new pair of earbuds can be a great experience. You fall in love with them, and you want them to stay fresh and new looking for as long as possible. Perform these tips and methods we’ve mentioned to give the care and love your earbuds deser

Chris Wilson

Chris is one of the guys behind He is an Electronics Engineer by profession and he enjoys expressing his real-life experiences with technology and sharing it with others.