Learn how to clean your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and EarPods.
Is it OK to use a disinfectant on my AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or EarPods?
Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or EarPods. Don’t use on the speaker mesh of your AirPods, AirPods Pro, and EarPods. Don’t use on the knit mesh canopy and ear cushions of your AirPods Max. Don’t use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or EarPods in any cleaning agents.
Clean your AirPods Max
- Don’t run your AirPods Max under water.
- Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
- If your AirPods Max are exposed to anything that might cause stains or other damage—for example, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye:
- Wipe them clean with a cloth slightly dampened with fresh water and dry with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
- Don’t attempt to use them until they’re completely dry.
Clean the cushions and headband of your AirPods Max
- In a clean container, mix 1 tsp. (5 mL) of liquid laundry detergent into 1 cup (250 mL) of water.
- Remove the cushions from the ear cups.
- When you clean the headband, hold your AirPods Max upside down to prevent liquid from flowing into the headband attachment point.
- Dip a lint-free cloth into the soapy water solution, wring it out slightly, and rub the cloth on the cushions and headband gently for 1 minute each.
- Wipe the cushions and headband clean with a separate cloth that’s slightly dampened with fresh water.
- Dry the cushions and headband with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth, making sure to remove any excess moisture.
- Lay your AirPods Max flat to dry for at least a day before you reattach the cushions and use them again.
Clean the case of your AirPods Max
Clean the Smart Case with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. If necessary, you can slightly dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the Smart Case to dry. Don’t use abrasive materials to clean the Smart Case.
Clean your AirPods and AirPods Pro
- Don’t run AirPods or AirPods Pro under water.
- Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
- If your AirPods or AirPods Pro are exposed to anything that might cause stains or other damage—for example, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye:
- Wipe them clean with a cloth slightly dampened with fresh water and dry with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
- Allow them to completely dry before placing in the charging case.
- Don’t attempt to use them until they’re completely dry.
Clean the case of your AirPods or AirPods Pro
Clean the charging case with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. If necessary, you can slightly dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the charging case to dry. Make sure not to get any liquid in the charging ports. Here are a few more guidelines:
- Remove any debris from the Lightning connector with a clean, dry, soft-bristled brush.
- Don’t use abrasive materials to clean the charging case.
- To avoid damaging the metal contacts, don’t put anything in the charging ports.
Clean the ear tips of your AirPods Pro
- If any water has accumulated in the ear tip, tap the AirPod on a soft, dry, lint-free cloth with the ear tip opening facing downward to remove.
- Pull off the ear tips from each AirPod and rinse the ear tips with water. Don’t use soap or other household cleaners.
- Wipe the ear tips with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. Make sure that the ear tips are completely dry before reattaching to each AirPod.
- Click the ear tips back on each AirPod. The ear tips are oval shaped, so make sure that you align them before you click them back on.
Learn about AirPods sweat and water resistance
Your AirPods Pro, AirPods (3rd generation), and MagSafe Charging Case for AirPods (3rd generation) are sweat and water resistant, but not sweatproof or waterproof. The MagSafe Charging Case for AirPods Pro and the Wireless Charging Case for AirPods Pro are not waterproof or water resistant, so be careful not to get moisture in any openings. If your case comes in contact with liquid, dry it by placing it upside down with the lid open.
Your AirPods (1st and 2nd generation), charging case, AirPods Max, and Smart Case aren’t waterproof or water resistant, so be careful not to get moisture in any openings. If your AirPods come in contact with liquid, including sweat from a workout, wipe them down with a dry microfiber cloth. To dry the case, place it upside down with the lid open.
If your AirPods become damaged after they get wet, you can order a replacement. If your issue isn’t covered by the Apple Limited Warranty, AppleCare+, or consumer law, you may be able to replace your AirPods for an out-of-warranty fee.
Clean your EarPods
- Don’t run EarPods under water.
- Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth.
- Make sure not to get any liquid in the openings.
- Clean the microphone and speaker meshes gently with a dry cotton swab. Remove any debris from the meshes with a clean, dry, soft-bristled brush.
- Don’t use sharp objects or abrasive materials to clean your EarPods.
Tips to avoid skin irritation
Here’s how to avoid skin irritation, especially if you have allergies or skin sensitivities:
- After workouts with AirPods Pro or AirPods (3rd generation), or after your device is exposed to liquids such as sweat, soap, shampoo, makeup, sunscreen, and lotions that can potentially cause skin irritations, clean and dry your device. Keeping your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and EarPods—as well as your skin—clean and dry will maximize comfort and prevent long-term damage to your device.
- If you have known allergies or sensitivities to certain substances, check the materials in AirPods and EarPods.
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Headphones and earbuds can get gross. Skin cells, sebum, ear wax, and facial products cling to the parts that touch your body. Increasingly sticky headphones in turn pick up more dirt from the world around you every time you put them down. And despite what the internet says, no, sucking on your AirPods is not a safe way to clean them. Doing so could damage the driver, protective mesh, and electronics (also, it’s just plain nasty). But there are easy ways to properly clean your personal audio devices (for your own well-being and before lending or borrowing a pair).
Bonus motivation: When your headphones are clean, they will not only last longer but also sound better (in the case of earwax- or lint-clogged earbuds). With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to appropriately clean and care for your headphones.
What you need
: It’s best to use dish soap (we like Seventh Generation Dish Liquid) because it wipes cleaner than many hand soaps (which may have moisturizers and added colors).
- A soft cloth: A microfiber cloth made for polishing glass or glasses won’t scratch your device. : Literally designed to get the gunk out of earbuds, this tool is your best asset for unblocking sound tubes. : For gym bags or humid climates, this will keep your headphones dry and fresh. : Used sparingly and with caution, this will make the silicone eartips and hard plastic parts of your device germ-free.
How often should you clean your headphones?
There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how frequently you need to clean your earbuds or headphones. The frequency can change based on how often you wear your ear gear, what you’re doing while wearing it, and the climate you live in.
For example, headphones you use daily and keep on your desk should be wiped down every week or so. Gym earbuds may need to be wiped down after every use, particularly if you sweat a lot.
The best advice is to keep an eye on your stuff. When you notice some earwax, dust, sticky fingerprints, oil, or sweat on headphones, clean them right away. Putting this off will only lead to more gunk and make your job harder.
How to clean AirPods, earbuds, and headphones
Regularly wipe down your headphones or earbuds. Ideally, you should wipe down your headphone earpads or earbud tips with a lightly damp cloth at least once a week. Make sure the headphones are powered off and disconnected from your device. Immediately dry them fully with a soft cloth. Don’t use alcohol because it can remove color or break down leather or fabric faster. Soap and water will clean off any nasties.
Clean the inside of earbuds with a small, soft brush to remove debris.
Wax buildup can muffle the sound of your earbuds. Get an inexpensive cleaning tool designed for clearing out wax (some high-end in-ear models even come with one).
First, pull the eartips off the earbuds. Then use the tool’s metal-loop side to gently scoop out any ear wax.
Do not jam the loop into the tip while it’s still on the earbud or you may push wax into the earbud and damage the driver.
Next use the small, soft brush end of the tool to gently clean off anything stuck to the earbuds. Be sure to aim the earbud opening toward the ground to allow gravity to assist you and also to ensure small bits of loosened wax aren’t falling into the earbuds themselves. Wipe the eartips with a soapy, wet cloth and dry thoroughly before reattaching to the earbuds.
Clean the charging case and battery connections.
For true wireless earbuds, like AirPods, that are stored in a charging case, it’s important to regularly clean the case and the connectors.
Most wireless earbuds charge via small pins and metal pads that can get gunked up with earwax and dust. When this happens, you may find that your earbuds won’t charge properly.
To clean the inside of the case, Apple recommends wiping both the AirPods case and earbuds with a dry cloth. We like to use a cotton swab that’s dampened (not dripping!) with isopropyl alcohol to wipe clean the pins on the inside of the case and the earbud connectors. You can also use this method on the charging ports for your over-ear headphones, if they don’t seem to be charging consistently. The brush side of the tool we mentioned above will work wonders for little USB-C and Micro-USB ports, which can get clogged with pocket lint.
After every workout, wipe down your headphones, and allow them to dry fully before charging.
Even if your headphones are water- and sweat-resistant, don’t let them remain wet for long periods because water can slowly seep into battery compartments or the earbuds themselves and short them out or damage the drivers. Dry off true wireless earbuds before placing them into their charging case. (Even swim headphones should be allowed to dry fully before you put them away.) Do not allow moisture into the earcups of over-ear headphones or into the nozzles of in-ear headphones.
If you need to take your headphones out mid-run, or you can’t wait for them to dry completely before leaving the gym, gently shake out any excess moisture, turn off the power, and store them inside the included case or a little zip-close snack baggie. Don’t keep your earbuds in your gym-shorts pocket or sports bra without a water-resistant case. Both of these places collect sweat and won’t allow the earbuds to dry as fully as they need to. Then when you arrive home, wipe the earbuds, and allow them to dry as stated above.
Plus, find out how often you should be wiping down these essentials.
Cleaning "high-touch surfaces" most often means wiping doorknobs, kitchen appliances, and even cell phones on a regular basis. But these aren't the only essentials that deserve regular attention. Headphones and earbuds, like AirPods (from $159, apple.com). These frequently-used accessories, which we turn to for hands-free calls or a much-needed guided meditation, should be wiped-down often. As for cleaning frequency? "There isn't really a firm rule as to how often you should clean your headphones," Rod Villegas, a Geek Squad agent, notes. "Timing depends on how often you use them, what kinds of activities you are doing while wearing them, and the climate you live in."
If you use them every day while simply sitting inside, wiping them down on a weekly basis could be enough, he adds. But if you're wearing them during vigorous exercise, that would likely warrant cleaning them after each session. "Overall, it's best to make sure you keep it top of mind and clean them as frequently as needed," Villegas adds. Here, he shares how to clean these essentials.
If you notice that your headphones are dirty, you're in luck—all they require is a quick, easy clean, and they will be as good as new in no time. Start by mixing a small amount of dish soap or other soft detergent with warm water. Next, make sure to power off your headphones (if they have smart technology); also remove the ear pads if possible. Dip a soft cloth into the soapy solution and wipe the removable pads. Don't soak any part of your headphones directly in this mixture. Repeat this step, only this time with a cotton swab so you can thoroughly clean the pads' interior. Make sure to have another soft cloth on hand, so you can dry off any wet surfaces.
Next, tackle the bulk of the product. "Dampen a soft cloth with the water and soap mixture (it should not be dripping wet) and wipe down the mesh over the speaker and the rest of the exterior of the headphones," adds Villegas. "Dampen a cotton swab and use it to clean out some of the small, hard-to-reach places." Wrap up by drying off the headphones with a soft cloth and then let all of the pieces air-dry for 30 minutes, so even minimal moisture can evaporate. Once everything is completely set, put the removable pads back on.
Like anything else that you wear on your body, headphones can get dirty. They seem to be magnets for everything from earwax to lint to dust—and the grime is more than just gross. It can affect the function of your headphones or even lead to their early demise.
Debris can muffle the sound coming from a headphone’s driver (the part with a diaphragm that produces sound) and lead to lasting damage as well. Oil from your skin can also cause plastic and rubber components to become discoloured and even disintegrate after long periods of exposure.
“To a certain degree, headphones are consumables,” says John Chen, director of sales for Grado Labs, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of headphones and audio products. “Eventually, they’ll break down from regular use.” But with simple maintenance, he says, you can extend the life of the product. Chen recommends you clean your headphones once a month.
Make sure to unplug headphones before cleaning them, and turn off a battery-powered pair. Then follow the instructions below.
What You’ll Need
You’ll want a paper clip and cotton swabs for cleaning earphones (models that fit in your ears). The same tools will help get at the nooks and crannies of larger home/studio style headphones that fit on or over your ears. A soft, clean toothbrush will also come in handy.
Chen recommends using unscented baby wipes, but make sure they’re alcohol-free. Or you can use a towel with warm water and a drop or two of soap or mild detergent. In some cases you may want to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide—read on for specific instructions.
You’ll also need a second towel for drying things off when you’re done. Use a cloth that won’t leave behind any stray fibers or dust.
Tips for All Models
Except for a handful of models marketed specifically for swimming, headphones should never be submerged in water, and even "water-resistant" models shouldn’t get more than slightly damp. (Electronics and water don’t mix well.)
Don’t apply any liquid directly to the headphones, and when you do wipe them down, be sure to keep any moisture on the surface. Don’t let any interior parts get damp.
According to Chen, you usually don’t need anything stronger than soap and water.
"You can also use a little alcohol, but on certain things you shouldn’t because the material itself will dissolve," he says.
Alcohol may destroy any part made of foam, but it’s fine for plastic, rubber, or silicone. You’ll only want to use it occasionally though, and dry any alcohol off carefully. Letting it air-dry can lead to damage.
The Bose company website recommends hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax. Look for a solution of no more than 3 percent. Apply it with a cotton swab, and merely dampen the surface. Wipe the solution off quickly and carefully when you’re done. Even at that low concentration, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes cause bleaching and discoloration.
No matter what you use on the headphones, towel them off, making sure they are completely dry before using them.
Earbuds and In-Ear Earphones
For earphones with removable tips or ear supports, manufacturers recommend taking them off and cleaning them separately. The first step is to clear out any earwax that’s lodged inside them. A paper clip should to the trick—just be careful not to scratch or puncture the earpieces.
Once you’ve removed excess wax, wipe down ear tips and ear supports with baby wipes or soap and water. You can turn some ear tips inside out without damaging them for a cleaning as well, and cotton swabs can help with the detail work.
Again, alcohol is an option for rubber and silicone, but it will destroy foam. No matter what, use alcohol sparingly and wipe it off right away.
Next, take a look at the body of your earphones. There’s usually a mesh screen made of cloth, plastic, or metal to protect the drivers. Those screens can be a hot spot for wax.
Chen says he often gets questions about earphones that are quieter on one side, and a simple clog is usually the culprit. He recommends taking care of this problem sooner than later, because earwax can become impacted and hard to remove.
Use a clean toothbrush to gently wipe away anything that’s stuck, but be careful not to push debris deeper into the screen. A dab of hydrogen peroxide will help to get things moving, if necessary, but apply it carefully and don’t let it drip inside.
Some in-ear style earphones don’t have a screen, and there’s just an opening at the front of the cylinder that extends into your ear. You can use a paper clip to remove any visible contaminants. Handle the job delicately, and make sure not to make contact with the inner workings of the earphones, which can be easy to damage.
Over-Ear and On-Ear Headphones
Home/studio style headphones tend not to get as dirty as in-ear models, but they still benefit from regular clearing.
Soap and water or those trusty baby wipes will be all you need to clean the casing. Spend a little extra time wiping off oils from areas that come in contact with your hair or skin. If you have a wired model, give the cable the same treatment but stick with a dry cloth for the jack.
Some headphones that fit on or over the ears have removable ear pads, which you’ll want to take off and clean separately if possible. You can also find inexpensive replacements online for some models.
To clean your earpads, first wipe them down gently with a dry towel or a brush to remove superficial dust and dirt. Then clean with baby wipes or a towel dampened with soap and water. Use cotton swabs to get at hard-to-reach areas in any folds or stitching. When you’re done, dry the earpads by hand.
Bang & Olufsen, one of the few companies that sells headphones with earpads made of real leather, recommends leather cleaner applied with a soft cloth.
Just like earphones, most over-ear and on-ear headphones have screens covering the drivers. If the screens are dirty, turn them face-down and use a soft brush to gently clean them off. Be careful not to press the screen or the brush into the drivers.
If the screens are removable, clean them separately. But don’t attempt to clean the drivers if there’s any visible dirt, says Rich Fisco, program manager of electronics testing for Consumer Reports. "That’s a delicate job you should leave to a professional, assuming your headphones are worth spending the money on," Fisco says.
Raise your hand if you're reading this article while wearing earbuds? Headphones-and more specifically earbuds, like Apple AirPods and EarPods, that fit snugly in the ear canal-have pretty much become a part of our daily lives. Odds are, you've popped in those little white pods at least a few times in the last week while walking to work, running errands, working out, or sitting at your desk all day. And that's OK-so long as you clean them regularly. Because if you never clean your headphones, it's not only pretty gross, but a habit that could potentially make you sick, too.
Why You Need to Clean Your Earbuds ASAP
Ready to be grossed out? Your headphones are home to 2,708 times more bacteria than the average cutting board, six times more bacteria than a kitchen sink, and 330 times more bacteria than a kitchen counter. According to Whittier Hospital Center, dirty headphones can cause a host of issues including allergic reactions, rashes, or even infections.
"Since earbuds are so compact, it's easy to leave them lying around. 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."
"Aside from carrying dirt and bacteria, earbuds can also increase ear wax build-up," the medical experts say. "Since our ears are designed to clean themselves, wearing earbuds can trap the ear wax that is supposed to be carried out. Excessive wax build-up leads to impacted ear wax that can affect your hearing."
Long story short, clean your earbuds quickly about once a week-and don't share them!
The Best Way to Clean Earbuds Regularly
Luckily for everyone who enjoys listening to music or podcasts at a healthy decibel level, Apple does have some tips on cleaning your headphones that will keep them looking brand new and help stave off infections.
According to Apple, all you need is a "soft, dry, lint-free cloth," a cotton swab, and just a touch of fresh, filtered water. That's really all you need for regular, run-of-the-mill earbud maintenance.
Using the cloth, wipe away any debris on the surface of the earbud. Then, gently get into the nooks to clear out what you can. Clean the microphone and speaker mesh with a dry cotton swab instead of the wet cloth. Allow them to dry completely before use or returning them to their case.
To Deep Clean and Disinfect Your Earbuds:
According to Apple, if your headphones have touched "soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergents, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye," you're going to want to wipe them down with a slightly dampened cloth-and only use fresh water. Make sure not to get any liquid in the openings. (Many earbuds are water-resistant, but not waterproof. If you're cleaning an AirPods case, be extra careful: The charging ports are neither water-resistant or waterproof.)
If you’re a music buff like me, you probably have your favorite headphones or earbuds on for the most part of every day.
The strange thing is that we hardly realize that our headphones, like everything else we wear on our bodies from hoodies to socks, eventually need cleaning.
Worse still is the COVID-19 season, which has come with heightened awareness over our hygiene routines. Not only that, but we’re having to take practical steps to make sure we, our stuff, and our surroundings are clean and sanitized.
Headphones, earphones, earbuds or whatever you prefer to call them get filth and sweat from the environment and our bodies. Technically, they pick up dirt wherever we go with them, or where we place them.
To keep your music gear hygienically safe for your use now and going forward, here’s a guide on how to clean and sanitize headphones.
Why You Should Clean And Sanitize Headphones
There are many reasons for cleaning and sanitizing your headphones. For one, you want your headphones to look good longer just as you would with your clothes. Storing your headphones in a clean and dry place (if you don’t have a dedicated pod) ensures they’ll keep working like new.
As you wear your headphones, several things stick to the earpads and other parts that touch your ears and your face. Such things include ear wax, sebum, skin cells, and even the facial products that you use, if any.
Headphones pick even more dirt from our environment, whether you’re working from home or a coffee shop, walking, running, hiking, or anywhere else you go. Sometimes you may even lend someone your headphones to use, and they too add to the dirt that accumulates on your precious pair over time.
Cleaning and sanitizing your headphones will not only make them clean and comfortable to use, but it’ll also ensure they last longer and sometimes even sound a lot better.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you properly clean and sanitize your personal electronics as and when necessary.
Headphones may not specifically be included in CDC guidelines, but the fact that you touch and use the headphones warrants proper disinfection for your own safety and wellbeing.
The Easy Way To Clean And Sanitize Headphones
We don’t know whether or not the coronavirus can be transmissible through our ears. However, even if the risk isn’t major, it’s imperative that personal items like headphones are kept clean and sanitized just to be safe.
Coronavirus is known to live on hard surfaces such as wood, glass, or plastic for three to five days. If it does get onto your headphones, it’s possible to catch the virus and get infected just by touching them and touching your eyes, face, or nose without washing your hands first.
However, the risk isn’t as high when you’re physically distancing especially in an enclosed space, as compared to an open space where people are packed together for a long time.
What You Need To Clean And Sanitize Headphones
Different methods are needed to clean and sanitize different materials. For example, you can use disinfecting wipes or rubbing alcohol on rigid surfaces like plastic that can withstand such chemicals.
However, to clean and sanitize headphones, you need to find out what the manufacturer of the rubbing alcohol or disinfecting wipes you have recommends for material like fabric.
A disinfecting or alcohol wipe may not damage your headphones as much. There are different materials on different headphones, which is why you should consult the manufacturer first.
If you’re using earbuds, you need to be very careful with how you disinfect them because they’re small and delicate.
How To Clean And Sanitize Earbuds
1. If you have wired earbuds, unplug them. For wireless Bluetooth-enabled earbuds, power them off before you start cleaning
2. Clean the earbud tips if any. For removable ear tips, remove them before clearing the gunk or waxy buildup
3. Next, remove the wax using a toothpick or paper clip and then clean with mild soap and water.
4. Gently dry the earbud tips with a soft cloth
5. For the plastic casing, use a cotton swab or soft cloth to clean with 70 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol. You can also clean the plastic part using Clorox wipes or alcohol
6. Next, clean the mesh speaker grill. This is the most delicate part so you need to make sure it’s cleaned well without damaging the speaker. Don’t let any liquid penetrate through the mesh grill
7. Use a cotton swab or tooth brush with some light amount of rubbing alcohol to get the residue off the grill
How To Clean And Sanitize Headphones (On-Ear And Over-Ear)
On-ear headphones rest on your ear and have smaller ear cups. Over-ear headphones, on the other hand, have bigger ear cups that surround your ears, and are larger in size.
These types of headphones are easier to clean compared to earbuds, which collect more gunk and wax over time, and are more delicate.
1. To clean and sanitize headphones, use a damp cloth with soap to clean exterior surfaces like the headband and ear cup exteriors. You can also use rubbing alcohol, but make sure the softer areas of the headphones are kept dry.
2. Clear the ear cushions of oil using a dry cloth.
3. If the ear cups are removable, take them off and clean separately. Remember not to allow any liquid to get into the delicate parts.
4. Remove any gunk that you can see on your headphones, and make sure to store them in a cool, dry place or in the relevant pouch if available.
Give Your Headphones a Swipe Down
Whether you use them to listen to your favorite tunes while working at the coffee shop or working out at your local gym, headphones are good to have. If you don’t clean and sanitize headphones properly though, they can become a disgusting mess. These helpful cleaning tips will make it quick and easy to keep your headphones in great shape.
Even if we weren’t in a global pandemic, we would still tell you to keep your headphones clean. There are plenty of reasons to give your hygiene a boost, and cleaning your headphones is an easy way to do so. If you use the same headphones or earbuds every day, there’s a good chance they’ve picked up some germs along the way. Here is everything you need to know on how to clean earbuds and headphones.
Why should you clean your earbuds?
We’re not here to tell you that it’s a good idea to disassemble your earbuds or headphones for fun. After all, there better be a good reason to go through all of this effort — and there is.
Back in 2008, a study showed that dirty earbuds might not directly cause infections, but they can play a crucial role in transferring them. So essentially, if you share your headphones with somebody with an ear infection, you increase your chances of contracting it. The same is true if you have an ear infection yourself — you can easily pass it to a friend by accident.
Furthermore, increased use of earbuds and headphones can increase the level of humidity in your ears, making them more bacteria-friendly.
This may be obvious, but you should clean your earbuds or headphones if they fall on the floor. Unfortunately, the five-second rule doesn’t really exist, no matter what you were told as a child. The second your precious ‘buds fall to the floor, it’s safe to assume they’ve picked up some germs. Because of this, it’s not a great idea to pop them back in your ears right away before cleaning them.
What do you need to clean your headphones?
Different headphones require different cleaning techniques, but the core cleaning tools remain the same. While you may not use every tool on our list, it’s better to have them than to find out you need them later. Cleaning your headphones doesn’t pose a health risk, but we’ve added a few of these items to be extra safe:
- Paper towels
- Q-Tips / Cotton swabs
- Rubbing alcohol (more potent than 63%) or Diluted bleach or Hydrogen peroxide
- Hand soap
- Safety goggles or Glasses
You’ll need the correct type of equipment to ensure that you’re properly cleaning and killing whatever bacteria or viruses call your earbuds or headphones home while also keeping yourself safe. It’s easy enough to clean rubbing alcohol or bleach off your hands, but if it comes in contact with your eyes, it can cause some serious pain — hence the glasses.
Now that we’ve got the what and the why out of the way let’s get on to the how.
How to clean on-ear and over-ear headphones
Depending on your headphones of choice, you may have to do a little bit of disassembling before you get to cleaning. You’ll want to remove the ear pads if possible and extend the headband as long as you can so you can clean every last inch of your headphones. After all, your cans won’t truly be clean unless you cover both the inside and outside.
Cleaning large dirt and debris
Once you have the earpads off, it’s time for your toothbrush to shine. Go to town on as much of the large dirt as you possibly can, but be careful when you get to your headphone drivers. The last thing you want to do is push dirt or debris further where it doesn’t belong.
After you’re content with your toothbrush, it’s time to track down the smaller bits of dust or individual hairs. You’ll want to grab your tweezers for this part, as they offer far more precision than your fingers. Once all of the dirt and debris is gone, it’s time to get into disinfecting.
Disinfecting your headphones
Start by placing your headphones on the towel or paper towels and fetch your cleaning liquid. Hydrogen peroxide works best, but you can go for diluted bleach or alcohol that’s 62% or higher. If you choose to use rubbing alcohol, make sure you proceed with caution — alcohol doesn’t play nicely with plastic or leather. Use a cotton ball or Q-Tip and dab it in your liquid as needed.
Since you’ve already removed the earpads, we recommend cleaning them first. Then, follow up with the headband, which should be the most accessible section to clean. The large, smooth space should give you a feel for the pressure you’ll need to clean off dirt and spots without damaging your headphones.
It’s pretty apparent that most headphones don’t exactly love liquids, so it’s vital to keep your cleaning liquid away from the drivers. Try holding your headphones open so that the drivers are facing the floor. That should allow you to swab them gently while gravity pulls the cleaner away from the precious internals. Once you’ve cleaned your headphones to your heart’s content, pat them down gently with a towel or paper towel to dry them off.
How to clean and disinfect earbuds
You could probably guess this, but earbuds are a bit different to clean than large over-ear headphones. Their smaller size demands a gentle, steady hand. The first thing you’ll have to do is remove the rubber ear tips, much as you did with your headphones. In this case, they’re tiny and easy to lose, so it may help to have a small bag to store them in.
Before you store them away, take a Q-Tip and clean them thoroughly. This should help to remove both earwax and dirt that may have built up on your earbuds. Once you finish cleaning the ear tips, dry them carefully and store them for later. If you decide that your ear tips are too far gone, don’t be afraid to bid them farewell and just grab yourself a new pair.
Some earbuds come with a cleaning tool nowadays, and it plays a vital role in the process. Use it to remove any built-up earwax from your earbuds, taking care not to push it through the tiny grate. You can also grab a Q-Tip and wet it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to do the same thing, but be careful not to jam any cotton fibers into the grate.
How to clean and disinfect true wireless earbuds
Cleaning true wireless earbuds, like the AirPods Pro, is almost identical to cleaning regular earbuds. However, you’ll also probably have to give your charging case a good scrubbing.
Once you follow the steps above for your earbuds, you can put them to the side and allow them time to dry. Repeat a similar process with the charging case, using Q-Tips dipped in your preferred cleaning liquid to scrub the case both inside and out. Just don’t replace the earbuds in the case right away — let them sit out while the moisture dries from your charging case.
That’s all there is to it! You should now have some squeaky clean headphones, earbuds, and charging cases.
Your earbuds and headphones are gross. Here’s how to clean your AirPods for a better listen.
By Natasha Roy | Updated Aug 3, 2021 1:07 AM
Your friends might be too nice to tell you, so I’m going to say it for them: your earbuds are gross. They can obviously accumulate earwax over time, but sweat and dirt can also build up in the silicone tips. This means your case is grimy, too—between housing your earbuds and being tossed around in the bottom of your bag, they can collect a ton of crud. Read on for how to clean AirPods and other headphones.
Keeping your tech clean is an afterthought for many people, but because you’re using these items on an everyday basis, they can accumulate microbes and bacteria that can be harmful to your health. Even if you’re not worried about getting sick, that dirt can harm the quality and durability of your gadgets. Luckily, cleaning earbuds and headphones is relatively simple, and if you keep up with it on a weekly basis, you’ll never again feel the need to quickly snap your case shut out of embarrassment. All you need are a few common household items.
Why you should clean your earbuds or headphones
I know what you’re thinking—a little earwax never hurt anyone, right? Unfortunately, no. When you let grime build up in your Airpods, you risk ear pain, fungal infections, excess earwax, and more. This is because even though earwax helps protect your ears in general, it can help foster bacterial growth when it gets stuck in your earbuds. Plus, if you use your AirPods or other wireless earbuds when you work out, moisture from your sweat can also potentially cause health issues in addition to general grossness.
Keeping your earbuds or headphones clean is important for the actual audio quality they provide, too. Obviously, a buildup of anything is going to muffle the sound. It can also affect the microphone, making phone calls and voice memos more difficult. Sweat can also negatively affect your headphones, as it’s acidic and can damage the internal tech.
How to clean AirPods or other earbuds
Simple tips on how to keep your AirPods and other audio gear clean. Natasha Roy
When cleaning your AirPods Pro or other earbuds and the case, Apple recommends using cotton swabs and a soft, lint-free cloth. I just used the lens cloth that came with my glasses. You should absolutely avoid using sharp objects, as they can potentially permanently damage the delicate components. You’ll also want to avoid completely submerging them in water, as they’re water-resistant but not waterproof. If your AirPods case is really nasty you can dab a little isopropyl alcohol onto the soft cloth to wipe away germs.
First, remove the silicone earbud tips and use a Q-tip to gently swab the inside and outside. Use the soft cloth to wipe down the earbud, and then snap the earbud tips back onto the stem. You can also rinse them with water if need be—just make sure to not use any cleaners, wipe them dry after, and only snap them back on once they’re moisture-free.
If you’ve got stains on your earbuds, Apple says you can slightly dampen a cloth with water, wipe them down, and then dry them with a soft cloth. Again, wait for them to dry before using.
When cleaning the case, first take a Q-tip and gently dislodge any gunk from the crevices. Then, dab a bit of isopropyl alcohol onto a clean cloth and wipe the outside of the case. When cleaning the inside, be sure to not insert anything into the charging ports. If you’ve got anything in the Lightning connector, Apple recommends removing it with a clean, dry, soft-bristled brush. Once you’re done cleaning the case, wait until it’s completely dry before placing your AirPods back in.
How to clean over-ear headphones
Cleaning over-ear headphones isn’t an entirely different beast, but you will want to be more delicate with the various parts. Start by removing the cushions from the earcups. Dampen a cloth with a mixture of water and soap (laundry detergent will do just fine), and gently rub the cushions and headband. Wipe each with a new cloth dampened with fresh water, and then dry them with a soft cloth.
You can also use a cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol to wipe the exterior of the cushions, allowing them to dry completely before reattaching to the headphones. To get into the small crevices, use a Q-tip to dislodge any debris, and then dampen a new one with isopropyl alcohol to clean the areas. Allow all the parts to dry completely (preferably overnight) before reattaching.
Final thoughts on how to clean AirPods and other audio gear
There’s no getting around it—if you want your earbuds or headphones to last, you need to clean them regularly. Some experts recommend cleaning them after every use, while others recommend doing so about once a week. Regardless of frequency, it’s crucial that you keep your audio gear clean for your own hygiene and for the audio quality. After all, grabbing a pair of headphones you’ve been eyeing for months is useless if you’ll have to eventually toss them out because you didn’t take care of them.
Natasha Roy is an editorial assistant for PopSci’s commerce team. Contact the author here.
There are few things more infuriating in life than our favorite technology failing us! Sadly, we live in a world where we consider most broken items irreparable, despite the fact that sometimes we can fix things ourselves quite easily – using tools most of us have lying around at home. But can you fix a headphone and earbuds jack without soldering? In this article, we’ll find out exactly how to do so, as well as how to repair a 3.5mm jack replacement with no solder.
How To Fix Headphone Jack Without Soldering
The thought of fixing broken headphones or earbuds without special tools might seem intimidating, but, surprisingly, it is a relatively simple procedure and can instantly breathe new life into something that you previously thought would end up in the trash.
You can fix broken headphone wires without soldering, simply by splicing the 3.5mm jack, and remarkably you should be able to do it from the comfort of your own home with just a few items most of us have lying around.
The other advantage of this is that it is a great money-saving tip! It is inexpensive to fix broken headphones without tools, the only thing you may need to buy is an AUX cable, which can set you back as little as a dollar.
So dig out those old headphones or earbuds, find a knife, a lighter, some scotch tape and an unused AUX cable and read on to see exactly how you can fix broken headphone wires without soldering!
Before you begin, collect the items you will need for this task. Firstly, a Stanley knife (also known as a box cutter, X-Acto knife or retractable/folding utility knife). You will also need a lighter, some Scotch tape and an AUX cable. You can either take the cable from something that you no longer use, or buy a new cable for about one dollar.
1. Cut the AUX cable
First, cut the AUX cable at a distance of 7 centimeters or more from the connector. You do not want to cut it too short. There is no way to rectify it if you make a mistake during the next steps as it will be too short to correct, so cut carefully!
2. Remove the rubber sheath
It is important to be careful in this step as you do not want to cut through the wires beneath. The best way to do this is to create a small incision on the outer rubber sheath. Next, bend the sheath gently, which will diverge the incision cut. Then, repeat the same process on the other side as well. You can now easily remove the sheath by pulling it away from the exposed wires beneath.
3. Clean the varnish
AUX cable wires are strengthened by the manufacturer by intertwining the copper wires with a nylon thread known as Kapron. You will have to remove the Kapron to connect the copper wire to your headphones.
To do this, light the end of the wire using your lighter for a split second. Once it has burned about 1cm of the wire, blow it out quickly! You have now removed the Kapron and varnish from the wires and you can scrape away any remaining residue using your fingernail.
Be careful not to let your wires burn for too long when you light them, as this can ultimately burn through the wires and destroy them.
4. Cut the headphone cable
You now need to repeat the steps above but this time with your headphone/earbud cable. Cut about 3cm above the connector; typically, most headphones break right at the exit of the connector. Do the same process to remove the varnish as you did with the AUX cable.
5. Twist the wires
Looking at your headphone cable, you may find three to five wires. Normally, two wires are connected to the microphone and three wires are responsible for your headphones audio output. The microphone wires will often be multicoloured or a mix of the other wire colours.
Your AUX cable will have three wires.
Usually, headphone audio wires come in three colours – gold(yellow), blue and red. Start with the gold(yellow) wire, as this is always the “ground” wire. Your first step is to twist the gold(yellow) wires from the headphones with the gold(yellow) wires from the AUX cable to make a secure connection.
Next, you need to twist the next two corresponding wires together. Typically, Right is Red and Left is Blue/Green.
If your headphones cable has a red wire and a blue wire, and similarly so does your AUX cable, then your luck is in! Twist the red with red and the blue with blue.
You may find that you need to twist a blue wire with a green wire instead of a blue, but generally, most headphones manufacturers will follow a similar colour code.
6. Isolate the wires
For the final step you need to isolate the wires. Since you have already removed the varnish and they no longer have any insulation, you will now need to wrap tape around each twist of the two wires, resulting in three isolated twists. Lastly, you can tape these three twists all together using a wide Scotch tape or electrical tape. The wires now have no issue touching as they have been isolated!
How To Splice Headphone Wires Without Soldering
You should now be aware that splicing headphone wires with an AUX cable is a surprisingly straightforward task that requires little to no special knowledge. The most important aspect is connecting the correct wire with its corresponding counterpart.
As mentioned above, always start with the ‘ground’ wire which is gold or yellow. Then focus on which wire is for the left earbud/headphone, and which is for the right – typically, Right is Red and Left is Blue/Green. There may be exceptions to this rule, but it is rare and you can always rewire if needs be or there is no sound when you test it.
As long as you complete the steps above carefully and with attention to detail (cut carefully, don’t burn the wires for too long etc), then the finished result should headphones or earbuds working perfectly again, without any need for a soldering iron.
Final Words About How To Repair 3.5 mm Jack Earbuds Without Soldering
Using this guide to solderless headphone or earbud repair, you can apply exactly the same process to repair a 3.5mm jack replacement. Your final result should be working headphones or earbuds that you have repaired at home without soldering or requiring any special tools!
Fixing headphones or repairing a 3.5mm jack might sound like a difficult task, but actually, once you understand what you are doing it is relatively simple and you’ll be wondering why you haven’t always been fixing your headphones yourself.
No need for a soldering iron or any complicated machinery, just a spare 15 minutes and a few household items.
So do you think you can now fix your headphones or earbuds jack or repair a 3.5mm jack replacement without soldering? Give it a go today!