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How To Clean Headphones

The way we listen to our music or any other sound has changed dramatically over the years. The headphone, once the domain of telephone operators, airline pilots, recording engineers, and other sound people, has become a consumer item. Technology has advanced to the extent that they are everywhere.

In Business

Businesses have their own responsibility to ensure their workplace is free from the dangers of unclean objects. Call centers and any similar places that use headphones clean their floors. Do they clean the headphones the workers use? They should. If you work in an environment where there is a great number of headphones, headsets, or whatever, perhaps you should ask.

But that is their responsibility. We are going to be looking at your personal listening devices and discover exactly How To Clean Headphones…

How we listen

As mentioned, devices that allow us to hear audio are everywhere, and there are quite a few options. Headphones, over and on-ear, Earphones, Earbuds, to name a few. Some sit on the ears, while some actually go in the ear canal.

How do we use them?

How do we use them

Some of us use them for listening pleasure at home, plus there are those that use them during physical activity. On a bike, in the gym, running, etc.

Some may be used for creating podcasts or doing interviews for their Youtube Channels or blogs. The reasons that we use them have become almost endless.

Do you ever think about cleaning them?

But let us give you some food for thought. If after a day using headphones for your website or blog, do you shower and change clothes at the end of the day? Of course. Do you wipe the headphones or earbuds that may have got a bit sweaty while you were wearing them?

And let’s go to extremes. What about those who have spent an hour in the gym or running? You finished your workout, and what? Shower, because you need to? If you have been wearing phones or earbuds, what about them? Thrown in the sports bag until you use them again?

What about when your headphones or earbuds are not in use?

And speaking of that. They have been exposed to the sweat and moisture you created. But now they are in a bag full of dust, grit, and heaven only knows what else. Still slightly damp, picking up anything that will stick to them. Stuff we can’t even see ourselves. And then you only get them out when you use them again?

Have you ever considered ear infections? They are a lot more common than most people realize.

Now we’ve put you off your lunch, let’s think about how we can solve this dilemma. There are three main types of listening devices. On-ear, over-ear, and in-ear. On-ear and over-ear are basically headphones. In-ear, we can be categorized in the main as earbuds. They are cleaned in different ways, so we will talk about them separately.

How To Clean Headphones

How To Clean Headphones

These are usually more expensive to buy than earplugs/phones, and they also need a little bit more care when cleaning. The actual padding can be vulnerable and can split or tear if you are not careful, so care will be needed.

Stage 1

Remove the ear pads.

Most headphones have ear cups or pads that are removable, so carefully take them off. You can then wipe clean the remaining parts, including the headband. Warm water will do. You can dry them off and then leave them to dry.

Stage 2

Cleaning the earpads.

This is where a lot of unwelcome visitors may live. Especially if a number of different people use the same set of phones. Wipe the ear pads and cushioned material, preferably with a dedicated cleaner or a hand sanitizer.

If you really want to do it properly, then you can use a cotton bud, again with a sanitizer, to clean any small spaces you may have missed.

Stage 3

Inside the ear pads are the mesh grilles that house the small drivers. The use of sanitizer just dabbed and then smoothed over the surface will remove any bacteria lurking there. It will also remove any other materials that may have accumulated.

The headphones can then be gently dabbed, preferably with paper towels, and left to dry. Once they are dried, you can put it all back together.

If you really want to go a step further, then there are products like the Jodi Consumer Hearing Aid Vacuum Cleaner. This will really get into all the tiny corners you can’t get to.

There is one more area to be cleaned, but we can deal with that at the end as it applies to Earplugs as well.

How To Clean Earphones/Buds

How To Clean Earphones/Buds

These can be a little bit fiddly to clean, mainly because of their size. And what may complicate the procedure is that in the absence of proper tools, you may have to improvise a bit.

Stage 1

You need to remove any material from the mesh side. This could be anything from dirt to earwax. To do this, it is best to use a soft toothbrush. Whatever you use, it needs to be soft, or it could damage the mesh. Just brush the mesh gently, holding the earphone down so that any unwanted material can drop off.

Stage 2

Having been creative with a toothbrush, you really need to get clever now. You need to remove any unwanted materials that have not been dislodged in the last procedure. You really need something that will pick up anything that has remained. Something like sellotape isn’t any good as it will leave a sticky residue on the earbud. That won’t do it or you any good at all.

Something like Blu-Tack placed on something secure like a nail file will do the job. By dabbing it on the mesh, it will pick up the remaining residues.

Stage 3

You can now use some sanitizer on a soft cloth to wipe the mesh carefully. Don’t overdo the liquid; a small amount goes a long way.

Stage 4

Most products come with removable ear tips. These are to ensure you get a good fit. But it also makes them easier to clean. They are made either in silicone or foam. Sometimes you will get an alternative, but these are the usual two materials.

If your tips are foam or any other non-waterproof material, then you can only wipe them with a dry cloth. Getting them wet or even damp will not be a good move.

If they are silicone, you can remove them and leave them to soak in warm soapy water for a few minutes. Then let them dry off thoroughly before replacing them.

A penultimate thought

We mentioned an area to clean that applies to both headphones and earbuds. You will want to clean out any sockets that you use with your devices. The plugs on your phones or earbuds will be made of metal, and therefore, a quick wipe with sanitizer and a cloth will do the trick. But what about the socket it goes into?

You can hardly start digging around with your nail file or any sharp implement to remove grime and dirt. Your device will not thank you for that one. And to show its displeasure, it will probably refuse to work. Might not be a good idea to squirt any liquid in there either.

Trying to remove it with a cloth will only have limited success. If you really want to clean it out, you could try using the Dust-Off Disposable Compressed Gas Duster, 10 oz Cans, 2 Pack.

This will remove the vast majority of anything that may be inside.

Are you looking for a superb new set of Headphones or Earbuds?

If so, check out our reviews of the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones for Cycling, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Headphones for Music, or the Best Headphones under 100 Dollars you can buy in 2021.

Or how about our reviews of the Best Headphones and earbuds for Sleeping, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, or the Best Earbuds under 50 Dollars currently on the market.

Our in-depth reviews of the Best Bone Conduction Headphones may also be worth a read if you want to stay aware of everything that is happening around you.

How To Clean Headphones – Final Thoughts

We touched earlier on what you do with them when they are not in use. Some of the more upmarket manufacturers provide charging cases. They will keep the earbuds safe and away from any nasties in your bag or pocket. If they don’t have them, invest in a small zipper carrying bag. Then when you put them in your bag, you will keep most of the unwanted contaminants away from them.

Headphones are a slightly different story because of their size. Again some will come with carry pouches; if not, just a small bag will suffice. Just something to protect them and you when they are not in use.

Using these simple and basic steps will ensure your headphones and/or earbuds will remain clean and ready to work when you are.

Happy listening.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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