How to Clean Earbuds

Aside from your phone charger, your earbuds are probably your most utilized phone accessory. You rely on them during your workouts to deliver energizing music to your ears, and you may even use them on your daily subway commute to and from work. What you probably don’t think about, however, is how much bacteria and skin cells can build up on those tiny earbuds over time.

When was the last time you actually cleaned and sanitized your earbuds? Maybe you’ve never even thought to clean your earbuds. No worries! It’s easier than you may think, and you may actually be surprised to see just how dirty your earbuds have gotten over time.

Why You Need to Clean Your Earbuds

The very design of earbuds requires them to be inserted into your outer ear, where they are then held into place by your ear opening. Some earbuds even come with removable pieces that can help you customize your fit to better suit your unique ear size and shape. Either way, each time you wear your earbuds, you’re exposing them to the bacteria inside your ear, as well as dead skin cells that you may shed as you wear them.

If you work out while you wear your earbuds, they may be even more prone to bacteria exposure from sweat. All of this shedding of skin cells, earwax, and other “gunk” can create a buildup along the surface of your earbuds (and in those tiny crevices as well). Over time, this can increase the risk of developing an ear infection from wearing your earbuds.

All of this buildup can also reduce the lifespan of your earbuds, meaning you may need to replace them sooner than you would if you simply took the time to clean them regularly.

How Often Should You Clean Your Earbuds?

There is really no universal answer to the question of how often your earbuds need to be cleaned. Generally, you should probably aim to clean them about once a month. However, if you work out while wearing your earbuds or if you wear them on a daily basis, you may want to set aside time to clean them more often.

Everybody differs with respect to how much earwax they generate and how they shed skin cells, too, so knowing your body may also help you better determine how often you need to clean your earbuds.

The Best Way to Clean Your Earbuds

If you have the care/instruction manual that came with your earbuds, your best bet is to refer to that before moving forward with any in-depth cleaning. Different brands and types of earbuds may require special care, and you could void the warranty on your earbuds by using certain cleaning methods. This is the same caution that should be exercised when cleaning other electronics in your home, such as flat-screen TVs and laptops.

Step 1

Generally, you should clean your earbuds using as little moisture as possible—especially if you don’t have earbuds that are designed to stand up against water. Some “sport” or “performance” earbuds are designed to be worn during workouts, so they should hold up better against sweat and water.

The best way to clean earbuds without water is to “dry scrub” them, which can be done using a clean toothbrush. Begin by unplugging your earbuds from your listening device (or shutting them off if they’re of the Bluetooth® variety). From there, grab a clean toothbrush that you don’t plan on using again. A toothbrush with stiff nylon bristles will typically be best for dry scrubbing.

Step 2

Next, gently scrub the surface of your earbuds in small, circular motions. This will help to remove built-up gunk not just from the exterior surface, but from smaller crevices as well. Just be careful not to use too much pressure as you brush, as doing so could actually push debris and gunk even further into crevices and make them more difficult to remove.

If there are any areas that still need attention, you can carefully use the sharp end of a toothpick to scrape away and remove stubborn debris.

Another option to consider for cleaning your earbuds is to use rubbing alcohol; this is generally better than using soap and water because rubbing alcohol will naturally dry faster and thus reduce the risk of damaging your earbuds from moisture exposure. Still, it’s important to exercise caution when applying any liquid to your earbuds.

Step 3

The best way to clean earbuds with rubbing alcohol is to apply a small amount to a Q-tip. From there, clean the outer surface of the earbuds before wiping dry with a clean towel or tissue. Keep in mind that if your earbuds have removable parts, such as customizable ear fittings, these can be removed and washed with soap and water. Just be sure that they’re completely dry before you put them back into place.

Keeping Your Earbuds Clean

Now that your earbuds are clean and sanitized, what measures can you take to keep them that way? In general, dry scrubbing once a week is the best way to keep your earbuds free of gunk and debris buildup, especially if you wear your earbuds on a daily basis.

If you like to wear earbuds while you exercise, consider investing in a separate pair for working out that is moisture resistant. This will cut down on wear and tear on your “every day” earbuds. Plus, sport earbuds tend to be easier to clean because you can use rubbing alcohol or even small amounts of soap and water on them. Sport earbuds also tend to grip better to the ears, so you may have an easier time getting them to stay in place regardless of how rigorous your workout may be.

When your earbuds aren’t in use, put them in a case or another enclosed container so that they don’t accumulate dust or other debris. This can also help to extend time in between cleanings while also protecting your earbuds from potential damage.

Need More Cleaning Help?

Cleaning your earbuds shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes of your time—and when you consider the fact that clean earbuds are safer for you to wear and can help prolong the life of your earbuds, that time is well worth it!

Of course, when you have dozens of other cleaning responsibilities to worry about, setting aside 15 minutes to sanitize your earbuds may seem like a hassle. If this resonates with you, it may be time to look into hiring a professional cleaning service. At Maid Sailors, we can handle your day-to-day cleaning tasks and chores so you have more free time. Contact us today at (212) 299-5170 to explore our home service options or to book your first appointment!

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