How to Clean Headphones and Earbuds

by Emma Baker, Senior Editor | Published February 15th, 2024 | Reviewed by Ted Wilson, Systems Engineer

In a world where earbuds have become an integral part of our daily lives, maintaining their hygiene and sound quality is paramount. Whether you own earbuds or headphones, they all share one common woe: the gradual buildup of earwax, bacteria, and dirt, leading to a noticeable decline in sound quality. To ensure your listening experience remains crystal clear and safe, we’ve combined insights to provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to clean and care for your earbuds and headphones effectively.

How to Clean your Earbuds

How Often to Clean Your Earbuds:

Regular maintenance is key to preserving the performance of your earbuds. If you use earbuds daily, it’s advisable to perform a quick cleaning at least once a week to remove wax, dust, and grime. For a more thorough cleaning, consider doing it monthly or even more frequently in hot weather or after sweaty gym sessions. Neglecting regular cleaning can result in a buildup of dirt and bacteria, potentially impacting your hearing.

Tools and Materials You'll Need:

For Cleaning Earbuds:

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Cotton swab
  • Microfiber cloth


For Disinfecting Earbuds and Case:

  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Cotton swabs

How to Clean Your Earbuds:

Step 1: Mix a Cleaning Solution
Start by preparing a cleaning solution in a small bowl. Mix ¼ teaspoon of dishwashing liquid with ½ cup of warm water. Opt for dishwashing liquid over hand soap to avoid any residue from moisturizers or colors.

Step 2: Remove and Soak the Tips
 Carefully detach the foam or silicone tips from your earbuds and immerse them in the cleaning solution. Allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Step 3: Clean and Dry the Tips
After soaking, remove the tips and use a cotton swab to wipe away any loose dirt or wax. Rinse them thoroughly with warm water and place them on a lint-free cloth to air-dry completely before reattaching them to your earbuds.

Step 4: Clean the Mesh Cover
Hold the earbuds with the mesh cover facing downward to prevent debris from falling deeper into the housing. Use a soft, dry toothbrush to gently brush away any visible wax.

How to Disinfect Your Earbuds:

Step 1: Wipe the Tips With Alcohol
For silicone tips, disinfect them by wiping them down with an alcohol wipe or a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Ensure they air-dry completely. Note that foam tips cannot be disinfected due to their porous nature, but cleaning them in the detergent and water solution will help.

Step 2: Swab the Mesh Screen With Alcohol
Use a slightly damp cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol to clean the mesh screen. Avoid excessive moisture to prevent damage and allow the screen to air-dry for an hour.

Step 3: Wipe or Swab the Housing and Cord With Alcohol
Use an alcohol wipe or a cotton swab to disinfect the outer housing of the earbuds and the cords if they have any. This will effectively clean and disinfect the surfaces.

Step 4: Allow to Dry
Ensure all components are fully air-dried before using them again. Avoid using hot air, like a hairdryer, as it can damage the earbuds. To speed up drying, consider placing them in a small container with a moisture absorber packet.

How to Clean Your Earbud Case:

Step 1: Wipe With Cloth and/or Cotton Swab
Remove the earbuds and wipe both the exterior and interior of the case with a dry, clean microfiber cloth. Use a cotton swab to clean any crevices, including the charging port.

Step 2: Wipe With Alcohol
 For a deeper clean, dampen a cloth or cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and thoroughly wipe down the interior and exterior of the case. Ensure moisture does not come into contact with electronic components if the case is used for charging.

Step 3: Allow to Dry
Let the case air-dry for about an hour before reinserting the earbuds. Ensure they are not too wet before returning them to the case.

Tips for Prolonged Cleanliness:

  • Always use a protective case to shield your earbuds from dust, lint, and bacteria when not in use.
  • If your earbuds get wet, allow them to air-dry away from direct heat, even if they are water-resistant.
  • While at the gym, avoid tucking your earbuds into sweaty clothing, and instead, store them in a case or sealable plastic bag when not in use.
  • Close the charging case while the earbuds are charging to prevent dust settling on them or inside the case.

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your earbuds and headphones is essential to maintain their performance and hygiene. By following these thorough cleaning methods and preventive measures, you can ensure that your earbuds continue to deliver a pristine audio experience while keeping germs at bay.


Can I use alcohol wipes on my earbuds? Yes, you can use alcohol wipes to clean the exterior surfaces of your earbuds, including the outer housing and cords. Ensure that the wipes are only slightly damp, not soaking wet, to prevent moisture from entering the earbuds. Do not use alcohol wipes on foam earbud tips, as they can damage the material. Instead, follow our guide for cleaning and disinfecting earbuds.

How do you clean the inside of earbuds without damaging them? Cleaning the inside of earbuds requires caution to avoid damage. To clean the inside without harming them, use a soft, dry toothbrush to gently remove any visible debris or wax from the speaker grills. You can also blow compressed air into the speaker grills to dislodge loose particles. Never use liquids or moisture inside the earbuds, as this can lead to irreversible damage.

How to clean Beats headphones? Cleaning Beats headphones is similar to cleaning other headphones. Begin by wiping the exterior surfaces with a clean, damp microfiber cloth to remove dirt and smudges. For deeper cleaning, use a soft toothbrush to clean crevices and speaker grills. To clean the ear cushions, detach them if possible and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Avoid using excessive moisture, and always allow your Beats headphones to air-dry completely before use.

How to clean headphone pads? Cleaning headphone pads is crucial to maintain comfort and hygiene. Here’s a simple method:

  1. Remove the pads if they are detachable. If not, be cautious not to wet the headphones.
  2. Fill a bowl with warm water and add a small amount of mild dishwashing liquid.
  3. Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the soapy water and gently clean the headphone pads, avoiding excessive moisture.
  4. Rinse the cloth or sponge thoroughly and wipe away any soap residue.
  5. Allow the headphone pads to air-dry completely before reattaching them to your headphones.
  6. If the pads are heavily soiled, consider using a specialized headphone pad cleaner or replacement pads for a fresh feel.*

Remember to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and maintenance specific to your headphones or earbuds, as different models may have unique considerations.