How To Clean Your Earbuds Without Ruining Them

For the last two decades, earbuds have pretty much become part of our everyday life, so much that we can't imagine our lives without them. Because of the evolution of technology, they now offer preference and come in a variety of many different shapes, sizes, and forms. As they continue to evolve, we use them more each day because this is the world we now live in. They're convenient, they're small enough to comfortably fit in your ear canal, and the sound quality is amazing — as long as you're cleaning them regularly. Not only is not cleaning your earbuds gross, but it can make you sick.

Earbuds pick up more and more dirt and germs around you every time you put them down and pick them up. It's just a given fact that eventually, your headphones will get gross over time the more you use them. How often do you clean your earbuds? Hopefully often, but probably not as often as you should. How often do you clean them safely? Probably never. There's a chance you're reading this while wearing earbuds.

According to Real Simple, your earbuds have more than 2,700 times more bacteria than the average cutting board, six times more bacteria than a kitchen sink, and 330 times more bacteria than a kitchen counter. Here you can find the easiest ways to safely and effectively clean and care for your earbuds.

Clean the outside surfaces

First, it's important to know that you should never submerge your earbuds in water or run them under a faucet, wireless or not. It seems like common sense, but you never know. When it comes to cleaning your earbuds, you want to start with a clean, dry cotton swab, preferably lint-free, though that is not a requirement. Next, use a small amount of soap and water on the cotton swab to give the earbuds a good cleaning. You can also use rubbing alcohol on it or an alcohol wipe. You can also use a clean, dry toothbrush.

According to Real Simple, you shouldn't use any heavy liquids or spray, as they can potentially damage your earbuds. You want to start by gently polishing over the outside of each earbud, looking for any wax marks or dirt you can see on the surface before flipping it over to clean the inside.

Look for wax inside the mesh screen

Make sure your earbuds are completely disconnected from any of your devices. You want to make sure it's turned off before cleaning. The insides of your earbuds are the most important places you should be cleaning. You should be looking for any excess dirt or earwax. According to Whittier Hospital Center, dirty earbuds can cause a variety of issues, including rashes, allergic reactions, or even infections. 

Your ears are meant to clean themselves, so wearing earbuds can stop the earwax that is supposed to come out of your ears. This can eventually affect your hearing because of excessive build-up if you spend too much time wearing your earbuds. Look for earwax in the holes of each earbud. If you see any visible wax, grab an unused toothbrush with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to gently scrape it away and push it out. You could also get the job done with a toothpick, but a toothbrush would probably be more gentle. To avoid any fragments getting stuck in the bud, brush downwards.

Sanitize the mesh screens

One of the most important things you should be doing is sanitizing your earbuds, specifically the mesh screens. Seriously, do this right now if you haven't recently. For this, you can use a dry cotton swab. Lightly dip in isopropyl alcohol and wipe down the mesh screen inside the earbud to disinfect and get rid of any dirt that is lingering. Be careful not to use too much alcohol because you don't want any liquid to get inside the earbud, which can cause bacteria growth and damage them. 

It usually takes about 60 seconds for the alcohol to dry, depending on the percentage of alcohol content. If your earbuds have a microphone attached with cords, you'll want to disinfect those as well, using a small rubbing alcohol wipe to run over it. Not cleaning your earbuds regularly can lead to ear infections or other related illnesses, according to CNet, so you want to do this as frequently as possible.

Let the earbuds dry

Let your earbuds dry completely before you use them. You should let them dry for 15 minutes away from any direct heat or sunlight. According to The Spruce, you should avoid using a fan or even a hairdryer as they can cause damage to your earbuds by blowing dirt and lint back in. If you're someone who works out or sweats a lot, it's important to not only disinfect your buds but also not allow them to stay damp for periods of time as your earbuds can become damaged that way as well, according to the New York Times

When your earbuds are clean, they will not only last longer, but they will sound better. Heat gets trapped in your ear canal and melts the earwax, which is what causes it to linger in the earbuds. This is why it's extremely important to give your earbuds a frequent, thorough cleaning. Not only is excessive build-up disgusting, but it actually does affect the sound quality of your earbuds.

Protect yourself and your earbuds

Even though there isn't a set rule on how often you should be cleaning your earbuds, you may want to clean them as often as possible based on how regularly you use them. If you use your earbuds daily, whether at work, on the train, at the gym, or just running errands, you should wipe them down every week, more if you have the time. Every day your earbuds have come in contact with more germs and bacteria than you'd ever think or could imagine. Remember, the more you use them and the less you clean them, the more dirt and excess build-up that the earbuds will contain. Even if you're not someone who uses yours regularly, it's important to pay attention to the dirt build-up over time. 

According to the New York Times, you should also never leave your earbuds in hot or cold environments, especially if your earbuds contain battery life.

Invest in a case

You should invest in a case for your earbuds because when you place them loosely in your pocket or bag, they pick up lint and debris each time. You should also clean your case as often as you clean your earbuds, so you're not picking up the lint and debris from there to your ears. Dust and debris can also disrupt your case if you're someone who has Apple AirPods, according to The Spruce.

 If you have a wireless charging case, wipe the inside of your case with a microfiber cloth lightly dabbed in rubbing alcohol. You should also avoid keeping your earbuds around water. Even if they are water-resistant, it's important they aren't placed around water for too long as moisture can still slip inside. If for any reason they do get wet, let them air dry away from direct heat. When your earbuds are exposed to heat, put them in a sealable plastic bag, or even better, invest in a waterproof case. Don't ever share your earbuds with anyone; they are for your ears and your ears only. The cleaner your earbuds are, the healthier you will be!