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How to Clean Earbuds

If you are a polite human being, then you’ve probably got a well-used pair of earbuds. First of all, thank you for not subjecting those around you to your music and cat videos. Secondly, you probably should give those earbuds a clean.

Like any piece of modern technology, you need to be careful about how you clean them to ensure you don’t do any damage. Anything from moisture to static electricity can degrade or even break them, so you need to take the right steps to make sure they still work after the cleaning.

Why Do They Get So Gross?

If you’ve ever shared your earbuds with a friend or loved one, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve been a bit embarrassed by the state they’re in. This is mostly caused by the accumulation of ear wax on the surface of the part that goes inside your ear. Ear wax is constantly produced inside your ears to help protect them from dirt, bugs, bacteria, fungus, and even water.


The problem is that by plugging up your ears with earbuds, you’re trapping heat in there. This melts the wax, which then settles on the surface of the earbud. This quickly builds up over a few uses, and leaves them looking rather unsavory. It can also worsen the sound quality of your earbuds, especially if it ends up collecting inside on the speaker.

Cleaning Stage One – Clean Them with a Toothbrush

There are a few things that you’ll need to clean your earbuds as thoroughly as possible. First, you’ll need a tooth brush with nylon bristles. Cheap is fine, especially if you don’t plan on reusing it.

The nylon part is important, as it has anti-static properties that will help to ensure that static electricity doesn’t build up and damage the earbuds as you scrub them clean. A new one also helps because the bristles are likely to be stiffer, and long enough to reach inside the earbuds to clean as much dirt as possible.

Hold the earbuds so that the mesh of the speakers is facing towards the ground. This will help to avoid anything falling inside the earbuds rather than out and off of them. Gently brush the surface of the earbuds using circular sweeping motions to scrub away the built-up muck. Don’t go too hard, especially when cleaning the inside, as you might end up pushing wax and dirt inside the speakers.

If there is still wax that hasn’t come off, then you’ll need to move on to stage two of the cleaning process. If you’re planning on keeping the brush to use again for future cleaning, make sure to either boil it for a few minutes or put it in a dishwasher, to kill off any of the germs that a lingering on it. Otherwise, throw it away.


Cleaning Stage Two – Clean Them with Alcohol

No, you can’t just dip your earbuds in vodka. We’re talking about cleaning alcohol, both in the form of rubbing alcohol and alcohol wipes. You’ll need both, as well as some cotton swabs.

Take a cotton swab, and dip it in the alcohol. Tap it against the side of the bottle to remove any excess, as you don’t want it to be too moist. Getting any liquid in contact with delicate electronics is a bad idea, after all. Wipe the swab over the surface of the earbuds, being extra careful if you go inside them. If there’s no visible buildup of wax in there, it’s best to leave the inside be. Use a different end of the swab for each earbud to avoid just smearing the wax from one onto another.

Finally, take an alcohol wipe, and gently wipe the buds down with it. If the wipe feels a bit wet, you might want to wring it out before using it, as it might introduce moisture into the earbuds. When you’re done, pat them dry with a fresh dry towel or lint-free cloth. They should now be clean and ready to use.

cotton swab

Ear We Go Again

No-one wants to be embarrassed by the shocking condition of their earbuds, and cleaning yours every few weeks will help to keep them working better for longer. If you have another tried and tested method for cleaning your earbuds that you swear by, feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.