How to Clean Headphones: The Ultimate Guide

How often do you clean your headphones? If I had a dime for every time someone said they didn’t know how or were too lazy to clean them, I’d be rich.

Seriously though, earwax buildup and other gunk can cause significant damage to the speakers in your headphones, so it’s essential to take care of them!

In this article, we’ll help you understand what kind of materials you need and show you some easy steps on how to get those pesky stains out.

Why Should You Clean Your Headphones?

You should clean your headphones regularly because it’s not just about looking good; clean headphones are also more comfortable, sound better, and have a longer life span.

In the same way that you shower and keep your teeth clean, it’s crucial to clean your headphones every once in a while.

Even when they’re not in your ears (where they would accumulate wax over time) and you keep them in your bag or on a surface, they will gather dust and other particles that can cause damage to the speakers.

Now that we are on the same page about why you need to clean your headphones let’s look at the materials you’ll need.

Materials You Need to Clean Your Headphones

  • Cleaning solution (one that won’t damage plastic, leather, or metal)
  • Baking soda
  • A toothbrush (ideally one for scrubbing and another for rinsing)
  • A small cloth
  • Soap, water, and a clean towel
  • Q-tip

Now that you have all of your materials together, it’s time for the fun part!

How To Clean Headphones: Step by Step Guide

Step One: Remove the pads

Take off your headphone’s earpads; you may need to apply some force if they’re stuck.

Step Two: Mix the cleaning solution

Mix a bit of water with your cleaning solution to create a small amount of liquid.

Now, fill up half a cup and pour it into another bowl or clean sink basin.

Important note: avoid using too much liquid as you don’t want them to drip into the earpads!

Step Three: Add baking soda

Add a small amount of baking soda to the cleaning solution.

Baking soda is great at cutting through grease and removing stains, so it’s perfect for this step.

Step Four: Clean the earpads

Take your toothbrush and brush gently around the area of each cup.

This will remove all of the dirt, dust, and other particles accumulated over time on your headphone’s cups.

Now pour some liquid onto a clean cloth or towel and clean the remaining area.

You can also dip your toothbrush into the liquid to get deeper in between all of the crevices.

Step Five: Rinse off the excess cleaning solution

Rinse off any excess cleaning solution that may still be left on each earpad with some warm water.

Use a toothbrush to scrub off any tough stains.

Step Six: Dry them out

This step is super important!

Take a clean towel and dry the cups well.

Please do not use a blow dryer as this could damage your headphones and make them look worse than they did.

Step Seven: Reassemble your headphones and they’re good as new!

Plug in your headphones, sit back, relax, and enjoy your clean headphones.

How to Clean In-Ear Headphones or Earbuds

Dirty in-ear headphones are even less hygienic because they are in-ear.

That means they come into contact with your earwax and skin cells, which is even grosser than regular headphones.

If you don’t clean them, they will start to smell very quickly and can even cause ear infections in the long term.

Follow the same steps as cleaning regular headphones but focus primarily on getting into all nooks and crannies.

You can use a cotton swab to get into the deeper parts and make sure your in-ear headphones look clean.

How to Clean Apple Airpods

We all know Airpods are pretty expensive, and if you have one, you should be willing to do anything to keep them in the best shape possible.

Cleaning your Airpods is pretty simple, and there’s nothing to worry about.

It’s the same process as cleaning regular headphones, but you’ll need to be extra careful with Airpods because they are so small and fragile.

It’s best to use a cotton swab and gently clean around all of the crevices.

If you drop them, they could break even easily, which would be a complete disaster.

You should also not immerse them in any liquid as this could damage the charging port and even impact the sound quality.

Once you’ve finished cleaning, reassemble your Airpods and enjoy them once more!

As recommended by Apple, take note of the following:

  • Use a soft dry cloth
  • Don’t run your Airpods underwater
  • Keep liquids away from the openings
  • Don’t use them until they’re completely dry

Cleaning Your Earbuds Charging Case

The earbuds charging case mustn’t be left out of the cleaning process. These things get dirty quickly and can become a hotbed of germs, bacteria, and other gross things.

Clean the charging case every two weeks to make sure it stays in the best shape possible.

To clean your charging case, use a toothbrush with soft bristles to scrub away any dirt or dust particles.

If you can’t reach the areas inside the case, use a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol to disinfect and clean out the inside.

Don’t use water on your charging case, as this can cause damage to the internal components and electronics.


And that’s it! Now you know how to clean your headphones and earbuds. It is best practice to clean your headphones and earbuds weekly. This will help them to last longer, look nicer, and sound better.

It really won’t take your time at all, the process described above is quick and easy, so there’s no reason not to do it.

If you don’t have a headphone and you need one asap, see our top recommendations for the best headphones for movies.

Jude is a music and headphone lover. He has tested and reviewed several audio listening devices and enjoys writing helpful tips and information for readers like you.