How To Clean Your Headphones? Properly!

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Sneakers and earphones on wooden table, closeup

We all love our headphones, but most of us tend to take them for granted. Let's take a look at caring for your headphones to make them last longer and perform better. You can learn how to clean your headphones and earphones and why it is essential to keep them clean.

Although headphones have been used for many years in a few industries, it wasn't until the invention of the Walkman that wearing headphones became the norm for the majority of the population.

For many of us growing up with modern technology, headphones and earbuds have become an integral part of our daily lives, from wearing headphones to play drums, listen to the radio playing on our phones on our way to work, or used as a motivational tool to help with our fitness training, running sessions and gym workouts.

Creating The Soundtrack To Our Lives

Many of us plug in and tune out and use our headphones to allow us to block out the outside world while listening to our personally created soundtrack on Spotify. 

We are living our lives to the beat of our own drum (or to our own personal soundtrack) and are willing to fork out a lot of money for the best quality headphones from the likes of Bose, Beats, Audio Technica and Sennheiser.

However, within a relatively short period of time (and heavy headphone use) we discover that the audio quality of our headphones seems to deteriorate, or you realise that the music you are listening to isn't coming through as crisp and sharp as it once did.

Even if you are practically tone-deaf, you notice that there is a significant quality difference, especially when you have to crank up the volume to enable you to get a better music experience. 

Related: Why Are My AirPods So Quiet? 6 Reasons & The Corresponding Solutions

How To Clean your Headphones

Give Up Or Get Cleaning!

It is very sad to say that we are now living in a time that has a very throwaway culture, which means as soon as any of our electrical devices start to underperform or are still okay, but we lust for the latest model, we tend to throw them away without a second thought.

While it may be tempting to get a new set of headphones or pair of earbuds once the sound from them starts to deteriorate, it may not be that our devices are not built to last these days, but instead, our headphones are suffering from a bit of common neglect.

Believe it or not, but there may be an incredibly simple solution to your problem. It may be that your headphones are simply dirty and need a bit of TLC in the form of needing a good clean!

Why Do We Need To Clean Our Headphones?

When was the last time you actually looked carefully at your headphones? Have you ever bothered to pull back the padding and examine the inside of the ear pads? Have you checked wire mesh of your earbuds? 

We have a terrible habit of taking our headphones and earbuds for granted and merely picking them up from the last place we left them and using them again without giving any thought to their care. 

Our poor care habits have lead our headphones to build up potentially months worth of oil or sebum excreted from the pores of our skin, clogging earwax and dirt from our fingers and dust from the atmosphere.

All this dirt and debris become trapped in all the tiny crevices and materials of our headphones. It does seem odd that we make a habit of showering or bathing regularly to keep on top of our personal hygiene, yet we completely ignore the cleanliness of our headphones!

Imagine the sweat and moisture build-up on your skin, in your hair and in your headphones after a long and sweaty run. We shower and change our clothes, but do nothing with our headphones??? Are you feeling grossed out yet?

girl with headphones on

Bacteria Build-up And Ear Infections

If reading this has compelled you to take a close look at your headphones, you may be shocked at your discovery, but it is not so much about what dirt and build-up you can see but the hidden bacteria this residue contains. 

If you continue to neglect the hygiene of your headphones, then you are significantly increasing your chances of getting an ear infection, and possibly even a trip to the doctors for treatment that you could have avoided by simply keeping your headphones clean.

We wouldn't unnecessarily expose ourselves to germs and sickness bugs, so why do we forget about the risks coming from neglecting our headphones? A little TLC can go a long way, so let's take a look at how to quickly and easily keep on top of keeping our headphones clean and bacteria-free.

What You Need To Clean Your Headphones

Don't worry. You don't need to spend a lot of money on specialist headphone cleaning kit or special antibacterial liquids. Most of what you need may already be in your home.

  • Things you will need:
  • A small, soft, clean cloth
  • Q-tips or cotton wool balls
  • Paper towel
  • Rubbing alcohol/hydrogen peroxide or hand sanitiser 
  • Soap
  • Warm water

Cleaning Headphones: Over-ear / On-ear headphones

headphone hygiene
  • Get a bowl of warm water mixed with a bit of soap. Dip in the cleaning cloth and wring out the excess water. 
  • Remove the ear pads from your headphones and use the cloth to wipe over all the outside surface area removing any dirt build-up you can see. 
  • Wipe your headphones dry using some paper towels and leave them to air dry.
  • Wash out the cleaning cloth, squeeze dry and then dampen it with either rubbing alcohol or hand sanitiser. Use this cloth to gently wipe over your ear pads to remove as much visible dirt as you can easily see.
  • Soak a Q-tip or cotton wool ball in either rubbing alcohol or hand sanitiser and work it into all the nooks and crevices of the ear pads to clean out trapped dirt.
  • Use more cotton wool balls dampened with either rubbing alcohol or hand sanitiser and dab gently over the foam mesh to remove dust and kill any bacteria hiding in the ear pads. 
  • Leave everything to dry out completely before reattaching your ear pads to your headphones.


There you have it! A simple yet very effective way to keep your headphones clean and to perform at their best. Not only will regular cleaning of your headphones keep the risk of developing an ear infection to a minimum, but it will keep your headphones looking and working as good as new!

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