How to Clean Earphones: Four Rules You Should Always Follow

Whether you wear your earphones while jogging, at the gym, or on your daily commute, one thing is certain—eventually, those things are going to get ooky. Lose the carrying case that came with your earphones and they’re going to get ookier even quicker.

That’s a problem for a handful of reasons. For one thing, who really wants to stick a dirty pair of plastic or metal cases into their ears? For another, that build-up of yuck can seriously degrade the audio performance of your earphones and potentially even shorten their lifespan.

Unfortunately, earphones aren’t like your gym clothes. You can’t just throw them in the washing machine at the end of a hard workout. But with a little regular maintenance and not a lot of effort, you can keep your personal listening devices clean and in tip-top operating condition.

Here are four things to keep in mind when cleaning your earphones regularly.

  1. Easy does it

One thing you want to check before you start cleaning your earphones is their IPX rating. This rating, which ranges anywhere from 0 (no protection against water) to 8 (protection against immersion in water deeper than one meter), gives you a good idea of how careful you need to be during the cleaning process. Many of Phiaton’s earphones—including the BT 700BT 120 NC and Bonobuds —are IPX4 rated, meaning they’re designed to withstand splashing water from any direction. That also makes them wonderfully sweat resistant.

That doesn’t mean you should dunk your earphones under a faucet, though, even if they’re designed to withstand a bit of H20. Your best bet for cleaning your earphones is to mix a bit of water with either isopropyl alcohol or a tiny bit of mild dish detergent and apply that solution gently with either a clean cloth, a cotton swab or even a soft toothbrush.

  1. Pull those puppies apart

We’re not advocating disassembling your earphones here, but to clean your earphones effectively, you should remove any removable bits—like ear tips—and spruce them up separately. If you’re using the silicone tips that came with your earphones, it’s not a bad idea to soak them in a solution of isopropyl alcohol and a little bit of water, then give them a good scrubbing inside and out with a cotton swab dipped in the same solution. It isn’t advisable to use anything stronger than alcohol, though. Just soak a little longer or scrub a little harder.

If you’ve replaced your silicone ear tips with third-party memory foam tips, ignore all the above. With these, you want to gently wipe them with a cloth dampened with water and nothing else. If they require much more cleaning than that, your best bet is simply to replace them.

  1. Let gravity do its thing

This one probably goes without saying, but in a world where detergent manufacturers are forced to issue disclaimers about edibility, it’s better safe than sorry: when cleaning the metal mesh that protects the innards of your earphones from the outside world, make sure it’s pointed down. This mesh traps a lot of wax and dead skin and oil, and the last thing you want is to dislodge all of that and have it fall back into the inner workings of your sensitive electronic devices.

Speaking of dislodging stuff, this is a step in which you might find it necessary to bring in a toothbrush or a little hearing aid cleaning brush. And if your mesh filter is particularly caked, you might also want to add a slight amount of hydrogen peroxide to a cotton swab to loosen up and dissolve the gunk. Just remember: a little goes a long way.

  1. Dry earphones are happy earphones

One last crucial step to keep in mind: once you’re done cleaning your earphones, don’t forget to dry them off before using them again. That’s true if you’re simply cleaning the case with a damp cloth, but it’s especially true if you decide to soak your silicone ear tips and clean them thoroughly, inside and out. If you can, leave your ear tips on a towel overnight to absorb all the residual moisture before reassembling your earphones and using them again.

By Dennis Burger

March 5, 2018

Recommended Reads:

Wireless vs. Wired Headphones: How to Pick the Right Pair for You

Reasons You Need Water Resistant Earbuds

Finding Comfortable Earphones: 3 Pairs You’ll Love to Wear


1 comment

  • Jennifer E Kuroski

    Thank you, this was very effective! I recommend the advice to anyone needing to clean out their bud’s!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published