Suddenly you aren't catching every lyric, beat, or podcast word. It could be a wax problem in your ears or wax in your earbuds.
The wax in our ears is there to protect the skin in the ear canal, provide lubrication, assist in cleaning, and provide some protection from water, bacteria, and curious insects. What it is not good for is an earbud. When you use earbuds, heat is trapped in your ear canal and melts the earwax causing it to settle on or in the earbuds. This causes distortion, looks gross and attracts dirt, grime, and bacteria to the sticky surface.
It's time to clean your earbuds.
How Often to Clean Earbuds?
If you use your earbuds daily, at the very least you should use an alcohol wipe to clean them once a week when you clean your laptop. This will help remove wax, dust, and grime that accumulates.
A thorough cleaning should be done monthly or more often if you use them during hot weather or a gym workout that makes ears exceptionally sweaty.
What You'll Need
- Dishwashing liquid
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Cotton swabs
- Microfiber Cloth or alcohol wipes
Before You Begin
Whether you have earbuds with cords or wireless ones, the cleaning steps are very similar. Two things to remember: NEVER submerge the buds in water or hold them under a faucet, even for just a second. You'll damage the wiring. And, never clean the earbuds while they are connected to your phone, laptop or another device.
You can also use the same method to clean headphones. Just wipe down the larger surfaces as well as the inner mesh screen.
Clean the Earbud Tips
If you have silicone or foam tips or covers on the earbuds, pop them off. Mix a solution of one part dishwashing liquid and five parts lukewarm water in a small bowl. Add the tips and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes. After soaking, use a cotton swab dipped in the soap mixture to give them a better cleaning.
Rinse and Dry the Tips
Rinse the tips well and allow them air dry for several hours or overnight. Do not put them back on the earbuds until they are completely dry.
Clean the Earbuds Mesh Cover
Use a clean, dry toothbrush, new or old, to gently brush away any visible wax out of the earbud mesh screen. Hold the earbud with the mesh facing downward so any particles fall out instead of deeper into the earbud.
Disinfect the Mesh Cover
Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and wipe the bud mesh to disinfect and remove any residue that remains. Don't saturate the cotton swab with too much alcohol. You don't want any moisture to drip down into the inner mechanisms of the earbud. The alcohol should dry quickly.
Disinfect the Outside of the Earbud and Cords
Finally, dip the microfiber cloth in isopropyl alcohol and wipe the outer surfaces of the earbud. This will both clean and disinfect the surface. Microfiber is lint-free and will not leave fibers in the mesh. You can also use a prepackaged alcohol wipe.
If you have corded earbuds, use the alcohol-dipped microfiber cloth or alcohol wipe to clean the cords.
Allow the Earbuds to Dry
Allow the earbuds to air dry away from direct heat for at least 15 minutes before using them or storing them in a case. Don't use a fan or hairdryer because they can blow lint back into the mesh screen.
Tips to Keep Earbuds in Good Working Condition
Cleaning earbuds regularly will give you the best sound quality but there are other tips you should follow whether you have top-of-the-line earbuds or some from the dollar store.
- Put earbuds in a case when you're not using them. Every time you shove the earbuds into your pocket, backpack or purse they pick up a bit of lint and debris. Use a case!
- Clean your case once in a while. When you clean the earbuds, clean the case by wiping down the inside with a microfiber cloth dipped in a bit of rubbing alcohol. This is particularly important for wireless charging cases. Dust and debris can disrupt charging.
- Even if your earbuds are water-resistant, they shouldn't be kept wet for long periods of time because moisture can slip into the inner workings. If they do become quite wet, allow them to air dry away from direct heat.
- Don't keep your earbuds in the pocket of your gym shorts or tucked in your sports bra where they are exposed to sweat. If you must tuck them away during a workout, use a sealable plastic bag or waterproof case.
- Don't kink the cables or wrap them tightly around an object. Gently loop them around your fingers making a circle following the natural curve of the wires before you tuck them in a case.
- Never remove earbuds from a device by pulling the cable. It will weaken the cable and connections over time.