How Often Should You Clean Your Headphones


Much like our other necessities, headphones have become an integral part of life for many people worldwide. From using them at home to popping them on at the gym or even when we’re shopping, many of us can no longer bear to be apart from our headphones for an extended period of time. 

But while we regard our headphones as such an important daily part of life, have you ever wondered how often you should clean them?

Well, depending on what you use your headphones for, you should generally wipe your headphones at least once a week. If you’re using them at the gym or if you sweat easily, then you’ll have to increase the frequency of wiping down your headphones after every use.

This is to ensure your headphones are thoroughly rid of dirt and grime that may cause nasty ear infections or other health concerns related to your ears. In this article, we’ll guide you through why you should keep your headphones clean and further explain how often you should clean your headphones.

Why should you clean your headphones?

Like your clothes, your headphones can also get dirty after prolonged use. This is as your headphones are often in close contact with our skin, exposing it to dirt like sweat, sebum, and dust from the places we’ve been.

When your headphones are dirty, they are not only detrimental to your health but can also affect the sound quality of your headphones. 

According to physician assistant Andriana Cellini of FastMed Urgent Care, ear infections caused by dirty headphone use have become a common trait in many headphone users. While these infections can be cured with medicine, long term effects may lead to serious injuries like ruptured eardrums or hearing loss.

For audiophiles, having dirty headphones especially around the speakers and ear pads can affect the sound quality of your headphones. Hence, if you feel like your headphones are not performing to your expectations recently, maybe you’ll like to check if they’re dirty before investing in a new pair.

How often should you clean your headphones?

As you can see, dirty headphones are not only bad for your ear health but could save you the hassle and money from having to purchase new headphones. So, how often should you clean them?

Generally, you should always work on cleaning your headphones at least once a week. Gym goers who use their headphones while working out should, however, wipe their headphones clean after every workout session. 

This will help remove any sweat, dust, and bacteria that have been trapped in your headphones. In case you find it difficult to keep track of when you’ve last cleaned your headphones, it may be helpful to set a reminder or alarm that triggers you to clean your headphones next.

If you have recently shared your headphones with a friend or family member, it’s also recommended that you clean them before using your headphones again. This will avoid cross-contaminating bacteria between you and your friends or loved ones. 

How to clean your headphones: A step-by-step guide 

Now that you know how often you should clean your headphones, let’s discuss the best ways to clean them. Many of you may assume that wiping your headphones down with a cloth is enough, but did you know that a little in-depth cleaning can take you and your headphones a long way? 

To properly clean your headphones, you’ll want to prepare some of the necessary materials like: 

  • A soft and dry cloth 
  • A wet cloth 
  • Some soap and water
  • Q-tips

When cleaning your headphones, we recommend avoiding the use of alcohol as it may ruin the materials like the leather or fabric used to make your headphones. Once you have prepared your cleaning materials, you’ll be ready to clean your headphones following the steps below.

Wired headphones

Wired headphones are commonly used by many students and adults today. As they come with a cable to connect your device to your headphones, you should always remember to also clean the cables accordingly.

  1. Remove your headphones from any connected devices. Wet a cloth with some soap and water and wring away any excess water.
  2. Begin by wiping down your headband, slowly moving toward each side of the speaker and cushion. If needed, wet the cloth and repeat cleaning on both sides. 
  3. If your headphones feature removable ear pads, you may also remove them to get a deeper clean around the speakers and below the ear pads.
  4. Carefully wipe the cable clean with the wet cloth, avoiding contact with the headphone jack.
  5. Using a Q-tip, clean around the speakers without using too much force. This will avoid damaging the speakers.
  6. Wipe the headphone dry with a soft cloth. Gently clean the headphone jack and reattach the ear pads if you have removed them prior.

And you’re done. Repeat this as seen necessary, either once a week or each time after you’ve used it at the gym. 

Wireless headphones

Wireless headphones after often connected to your devices via Bluetooth. They’re becoming a crowd favorite today thanks to their convenience and a variety of features such as active noise canceling and providing heavy bass listening. 

  1. Disconnect your headphones from your devices and power down your headphones. Wet a cloth with some soap and water and wring away the excess water. 
  2. Begin by wiping down the headphone before moving toward each side of the speaker and cushion pads. If your headphones have an expandable headband, you should expand it fully to get a deeper clean.
  3. Should your wireless headphones feature removable ear pads, you should gently remove them to get a deeper clean around the speakers and below the ear pads.
  4. Where possible, avoid contact between your wet cloth to any open ports of your wireless headphones. For example, you should not clean the charging port to avoid damaging the hardware. 
  5. Wipe your headphone dry with a soft cloth. If necessary, you may use a Q-tip to clean the speakers and gently swab away any sweat or grime that is stuck to your charging port or other open ports.
  6. To finish, you may reattach the ear pads if you have removed them for cleaning and close the charging port if your charging port comes with a cover.

Wireless headphones are generally easier to clean as you don’t have to wipe down the cable or clean the headphone jack. However, wireless headphones may come at a steep price, so you’ll want to handle cleaning with care and avoid excess water exposure.

3 other ways to keep your headphones clean

Aside from cleaning your headphones often, you could also take some extra steps to ensure your headphones stay clean during storage or when it is taken around. Many of us may find convenience in dumping our headphones in our bags after use, but this can contribute to your headphone’s overall hygiene. 

Here are 3 other ways to keep your headphones clean if you don’t want to clean them so often. 

#1 Store your headphones in a specialized bag

Most high-end headphones would often come with a specialized carrying case or bag. While many of us may find it cumbersome, these specialized cases will help keep your headphones clean, especially when they are not in use.

If you’re able to find any silica gel packets, you’ll want to place some in your cases to keep the headphone case and headphones dry. Silica gel packets often come free with your shopping deliveries, so be sure to keep an eye out for them instead of throwing it away the next time you shop online.

#2 Keep your headphones dry to avoid catching dust 

Where possible, you’ll want to keep your headphones as dry as possible to avoid catching dust. This is common for gymgoers who tend to store their headphones away after a swim or if you sweat excessively. If you don’t have a separate bag or case, putting your headphones in a zip-lock bag will also help it dry off properly. 

Wet conditions may also cause your headphones to be vulnerable to mold growth, a condition you wouldn’t want to see on your expensive headphones. Thus, as important as it is to keep your headphones clean, you should also try to keep them dry. 

#3 Replace your ear pads 

Despite being made of the best quality materials, your ear pads may still breakdown from regular wear and tear. Constant exposure to sweat can also cause your ear pads to become smelly. Unfortunately, no amount of cleaning will help get rid of this stink. When this happens, the best approach for your headphones is to change the ear pads. 

While you may find official replacements according to your headphone brand, many 3rd party ear pad replacements will often come at a more wallet-friendly price tag. You can find these for sale from online retailers like Amazon or visit your nearest electronics retailer for help. You may otherwise visit the official stores to purchase original ear pad replacements if pricing isn’t a concern.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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