How to clean earbuds


Cleaning and sanitizing your earbuds removes bacteria that could lead to ear infections.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

How do you clean earbuds?

We know your secret — your earbuds are gross — but luckily, they’re easy to clean. Earbuds can harbor hundreds of thousands of bacteria, so leaving them to fester is unhygienic and can lead to ear infections.

Once you know how to clean earbuds, it’s easy to keep it up by regularly wiping them down. After a period of neglect, the first time you clean your earbuds will take some extra care and attention to get into all those nooks and crannies. It’s certainly worth the small amount of effort to have sparkling clean earbuds.

How often should you clean your earbuds?

Once you’ve given your earbuds a thorough clean, simply wiping them with a microfiber cloth once a week should remove the worst of the dirt. We would, however, recommend giving them a deeper clean and sanitizing them every couple of months to remove bacteria and get rid of earwax and other dirt that’s made its way into hard-to-reach areas. 

The best way to clean earbuds

Now you know how often you should clean your earbuds, how do you go about the cleaning process? Luckily, it isn’t difficult, and while it might seem like one more chore to add to your list, you’ll be pleased once you’re done.

Clean silicone earpieces

If your earphones are of the variety that has flexible silicone earpieces, start by removing these and cleaning them. You should be able to simply pull them off the body of the headphones without damaging them. 

Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap

Once removed, drop them in a bowl of warm soapy water and leave them to sit for 5-10 minutes to allow any wax to loosen. We’d recommend using a mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap. After leaving them to soak, wipe them with a microfiber cloth to remove any dirt and set them aside until you’ve cleaned the rest of your earbuds. 

How to clean earwax out of earbuds

The majority of the dirt on your earbuds probably comes from dried earwax. It can get in any crevices and recesses, which makes it hard to remove. We’d highly recommend buying a brush designed to clean hearing aids, as they’re specifically designed for removing wax from earpieces. 

cotton swab

You could also utilize a reusable cotton swab or even a toothpick to get into the tiniest crevices. Alternatively, you can buy special putties designed for removing dirt from hard-to-clean items like earbuds and computer keyboards. The putty molds itself to every tiny crevice where any dirt adheres to it and is lifted away when you remove the putty.

Sanitize your earbuds

rubbing alcohol

By this point, you will have removed any visible dirt from your in-ear headphones, but there may still be bacteria lurking on their surfaces. Since you put them directly in your ear, you can get ear infections from unsanitary earbuds. Lightly dampen a microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol and use it to clean your earbuds, making sure to get into any nooks and crannies. You could also use alcohol wipes to clean your earbuds.

Let your earbuds dry

Make sure to let your earbuds air dry before using them, putting them away or returning them to their charging case. Your earbuds must dry completely before you put them into a charging case, as you could damage the case or the earbuds by getting moisture in there.

Wipe earbuds regularly

Now that your earbuds are spotlessly clean, you can keep them free of wax and other dirt for a couple of months by simply wiping them with a microfiber cloth or an alcohol wipe once or twice a week. Eventually, dirt will start to build up in crevices, and you’ll need to do another deep clean, but simply wiping should tide you over for a while. 

How to clean earbud charging cases

If you have a pair of truly wireless in-ear headphones, they’ll come with a charging case that you may also want to clean. Although changing cases are unlikely to get as dirty as earbuds since there’s no earwax thrown in, they can still pick up dirt and debris from the bottom of a bag or a coat pocket. 

You don’t want to get your charging case wet, as it’s a tiny battery pack, and moisture could damage it, so the best way to keep it clean is to wipe it with a microfiber cloth. If you need to sanitize it, it’s okay to use a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth, just dry it off with a clean cloth afterward. 

Clear earbuds

It’s common for earbuds to pick up dirt in between uses if you simply throw them in a backpack, thanks to those mysterious crumbs of dirt that seem to live at the bottom of every bag. If your earbuds came with a case, store them in it between uses.

What you need to buy for cleaning earbuds

Klein Creek Hearing Aid Cleaning Brush

Klein Creek Hearing Aid Cleaning Brush

Although designed for cleaning hearing aids, this little brush is also perfect for cleaning earbuds. It even has wire protrusion to help clean vents and other hard-to-reach spots.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Just Wireless - Airpods Cleaning Kit

Just Wireless Airpods Cleaning Kit

This 32-piece cleaning kit removes gunk and dirt from tiny crevices. It includes a microfiber cleaning cloth, wet and dry cleaning wipes, different styles of brushes, and a cleaning solution.

Where to buy: Sold by Best Buy

MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Soft microfiber cloths perfect for cleaning headphones. They come in a pack of six, so you don’t need to worry about losing a couple.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 


Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.