How To Clean Earphones in Unusual yet Effective Ways

Which of these apply to you?

  • You use earphones at least one hour daily.
  • You use earphones when jogging/exercising.
  • You use earphones when it’s hot.
  • You use earphones without cleaning your ears first.
  • You use earphones. Period.

If any of the above applies to you, you have to know how to clean earphones. Yes, they actually need some polishing, disinfecting, occasional light scrubbing.



Earwax. Sweat. Dirt. All the yucky things you can think of that are in your ears, gets in your earphones as well. When you insert the earbuds, it blocks the natural ventilation of ears, trapping heat inside.

And when heat is trapped, the wax melts, making it easier to attach to your earphones. Sweat and dirt, well, we know how they cling to the phones.

It is then imperative, a matter of life and death, to clean your earphones. Well, not life and death literally but I hope you get how crucial it is to have clean earphones hygiene-wise and sound quality-wise.

What You Need​

​1./ Nylon Bristled Toothbrush

There is no alternative for this. You need the brush with nylon bristles because they’re anti-static and they won’t fall off. Also, make sure they are soft, not medium or hard.

2./ Rubbing Alcohol​

To disinfect your earphones, you have to use something that evaporates quickly. 70% is ideal as it’s tougher on germs, but 40% will do for minor dirt (if there is such a thing).

rubbing alcohol

3./ Cotton Swab​

The swab or cotton buds for others also don’t have alternatives. You need the stick’s toughness and the cotton’s gentleness to clean the phones.

4./ Cotton​

This needs no explaining why it’s needed, but if you don’t have one around (my goodness, please buy!), use any clean cotton cloth.

5./ Lemon​

No, we are not baking or cooking or doing anything related to eating. We need this lemon for cleaning. No alternatives. Lemon has been known to get rid of stains and bad odor, and it is very environmentally friendly.

6./ Reusable Adhesive Tack​

Blu-tack, one of the most common brands, is an example of this. No, we are not mounting the earphones on the wall or anywhere. Just wait and see.

7./ Liquid Detergent and Water​

Our cleaning kit won’t be complete without these two. I know you’re thinking they can harm the earphones, but wait till you read what they’re for.​

The Steps

1./ Brush Your Earphone​

With the earphone’s mesh facing downward, lightly and slowly brush the dirt and gunk off the earphones.

If your earphones have a silicone tip like the in ear or in ear canal headphones, remove them first. Set them aside as they will have a different cleaning session.

2./ Clean with Cotton Swab​

Dip the swab in the alcohol, tap off any excess, and slowly clean the dirt residue in the earphones.

Some wax or dirt buildup may be difficult to remove as they may have hardened over time, let the alcohol on the swab soften them. Then slowly detach them from the earphones.

Before you judge me for using liquid on earphones, please remember that although alcohol is a type of liquid, it evaporates quickly up into the thin air before it even has time to get into the liquid-sensitive parts of your headphones. So don’t worry, they’re safe and hygienic for your earbuds.​

3./ Tack Them Away​

Some gunk may just be more stubborn than you, and it just won’t let go of your earphones. This is when you need the help of the adhesive putty aka Blu-Tack.

Yep, they’re not just for affixing your report on the wall, they can also be used for cleaning.

The adhesive property of this Tack attracts the stubborn dirt off your earphones. The detachable slash reusable property means it won’t permanently get attached to the phones.

Playdough or clay may also attract the dirt, but I doubt if you’ll be able to remove all the dough off the earphones. They have a tendency to be permanently part of some surfaces.​

4./ Clean the Back Part​

The rear part of your earphones, albeit it doesn’t come in contact with your inner ears, has to be cleaned as well. It may not have earwax (Thank goodness!), but it’s exposed to dirt and your sweat.

To clean it, get a small piece of cotton, pour enough amount of alcohol, and slowly rub it around the earphones. For extra clingy dirt, spend more time rubbing that area and adding more alcohol as needed.​

5./ Clean the Wire​

For light colored earphones such as white, yellow, light blue, basically anything except black, the cable or wire gets dirty too.

Touching them with sweaty hands then putting them in our pockets make them dirt magnet. And without us noticing, they turn from white to brown or gray or black. Yikes!

To bring it back to its original color, you need the lemon power.

Slice the lemon into two, squeeze the juice out of the first half (make sure there’s a bowl catching the juice!), and dip the cotton in the juice.

Using the lemon-dipped cotton, firmly rub it on the earphone wire. You may work your way up or down, depending on your preference.

Watch as your earphone cable dirt collection transfers from the wire to the cotton. When the latter looks dirtier than the wire, replace it with a new one. Continue cleaning until you get your desired result.

6./ Don’t Forget the Silicone Tip​

With a few drops of the liquid detergent mixed with a cup of water, soak the tip for a few minutes until you see the dirt and debris come off. Rinse it with water and let it dry.

Once it is dry, wipe it with “alcoholed” cotton to disinfect. Let it dry again and replace it on your earphones.

​Protecting the Earphones

Aside from knowing how to clean earphones, you also have to learn how to store them properly to prolong their life. It starts with wrapping the wires.

There are several methods to do that; just choose the most convenient for you. Proper wrapping ensures the internal wires don’t break and you don’t lose your mind trying to untangle them before each use.

Another is to get a protective case where you can store it. Tossing it in your bag after each use exposes it to the danger of being buried underneath everything that’s in your bag.

The result? Well, it gets crashed.

Also, you’ll have a hard time finding it later when you need it. If you have the protective case, you will not only protect your earphones but also make it easier for you to find them. Unused eyeglass case is a good option.

Last, reinforce frayed cables. There are parts of our earphones that are prone to too much bending and stress resulting in frayed inner wires. Using heat shrink tubing to reinforce and protect them helps a lot. Moldable silicone may also be an easier option.

When All is Said and Done…​

Now that you know how to clean earphones, I’d bet you wouldn’t want to use any with cleaning them first. Well that’s good because aside from it being a practice of hygiene, you are actually improving the sound of your in ear monitors.

The wax and dirt buildup in your earphones blocks the sound that should be coming out naturally. Also as time goes by, this buildup may damage the inner mechanisms giving you a rumbling sound or a totally dead earphone.​

So there you have it. Regularly clean and disinfect your earphones and maintain the cleanliness of your ears as well. Also, it would be a good idea if you don’t share earphones with others, especially the in ear and in ear canal types.

Make it also a habit not to use earphones at home as prolonged use of such can damage our ears. When in your private space, try using loudspeakers such as soundbars or surround sound system instead.​

Like this article? Comment and share!​

Erin Taylor

Chief editor of YouthTune, a music adventurer. I love learning about music and audio devices, which I eventually share with others so that they too can go on exploring the melodious world of music.

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