How To Stop Headphones From Smelling? (Solved)


Ever since the invention of smartphones and tablets, headphones have become a crucial part of our lives. From listening to music to playing games, frequently using your headphones make them smelly. So how exactly do you stop your headphones from smelling?  

Stopping your headphones from smelling requires one thing― cleaning it. Depending on what type your headphones are, you can wipe, brush, or use a water-detergent mixture. Furthermore, just like any other gadget, removing bad smell from your headphones requires the utmost care. This ensures that your headphones don’t get damaged during the process. 

Since removing bad smell from your headphones should not be done hastily, you must follow specific instructions in cleaning them (more details about that later). But first, it’s important for you to understand why your headphones smell bad. 

What Causes Headphones to Smell Bad?

Imagine this: you went on a run wearing your headphones. After an hour or so, you stop running. Being sweaty and sticky, you decide to take a short rest and hop in the shower. 

Meanwhile, your headphones don’t get any sort of cleaning. You just put them wherever you want, with all the dirt and sweat they got from your run. 

See how we often neglect our headphones? They get neglected enough that they become dangerous to our health. 

Headphones become smelly due to the dirt and moisture that accumulate on it. In particular, ear wax, dust, grease, and sweat, among others, cause this. 

Months or even years of exposure to these things attract bacteria, making your headphones smelly. Worse, your headphones become a health hazard. 

Headphones Accumulate Foul Smells Differently

There are four types of headphones: (1) over-ear, (2) on-ear, (3) in-ear, and (4) earbuds. 

Over-ear headphones have thick bands and large cups that fully cover the ears. On the other hand, on-ear headphones have smaller cups that stay on top of your ears.

Check out this article for the best over-ear headphones that are resistant to sweat.

More portable headphone types include in-ear headphones and earbuds. In-ear headphones have small tips that are put into the ear canal. Earbuds slightly differ, with their tips resting at the edge of the ear canal. 

Since headphones vary in size and position on your ear, they accumulate foul smells differently as well. 

Over-ear headphones, being the biggest of them, are more prone to bacteria coming from outside of your ear (e.g. dust & dirt). On-ear headphones are prone to external bacteria as well, but not as much as over-ear headphones. 

In-ear headphones and earbuds may be small, but they’re not safe from bacteria. In-ear headphones easily accumulate ear wax, since they stay in your ear canal when you’re using them. Meanwhile, earbuds are prone to accumulating bacteria found at the edge of your ear canal. 

Thus, it doesn’t matter what type of headphones you use. All of them can become smelly if not cleaned properly. 

How to Remove Bad Smell from Your Headphones

We hate to break it to you, but cleaning your headphones is not that easy. It takes the utmost care and attention to get rid of that bad smell. 

How to Remove Bad Smell from In-Ear Headphones and Earbuds

Things you need:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Q-tip
  • Toothpick (use at your own risk)
  • Alcohol 
  • Alcohol Prep Pad 
  • Toothbrush
  1. Wipe your in-ear headphones or earbuds using a microfiber cloth. 
  2. Hold your in-ear headphones or earbuds with the mesh side facing you.
  3. Using a dry Q-tip, gently remove the dirt from the mesh. Be very careful in doing this, as the cotton might dislodge and get stuck in the mesh.  
  4. Dip another Q-tip into alcohol. Make sure to not get too much alcohol in it. Better yet, you can use an alcohol prep pad to make sure that only enough amount of alcohol gets absorbed by the Q-tip.
  5. Using that Q-tip, clean the plastic parts of your in-ear headphones or earbuds. 
  6. You can use a toothpick to get rid of the grime that’s not removed by the Q-tip. However, you must use this at your own risk, since it might damage your earphones
  7. Using a toothpick, lightly scrape the dirt. 
  8. Remove the extra dirt and grime using a small, soft, dry toothbrush. It’s best to use a brand new brush, as bristles of old ones might get stuck in your earphones.

Removing the bad smell from in-ear headphones and earbuds doesn’t end there though. To completely remove the bad smell from them, you must clean their cases as well. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Wipe the case using a microfiber cloth. 
  2. Clean the crevices of the case using a dry Q-tip. Make sure to gently do this, as the cotton might get stuck in the case. 
  3. Dip another Q-tip into alcohol. Make sure to not get too much alcohol in it. Better yet, you can use an alcohol prep pad to make sure that only enough amount of alcohol gets absorbed by the Q-tip.
  4. Using that Q-tip, clean the crevices of your case. Don’t touch the connectors though. 
  5. Remove the extra dirt and grime using a small, soft, dry toothbrush. It’s best to use a brand new brush, as bristles of old ones might get stuck in the case. 

How to Remove Bad Smell from Over-Ear and On-Ear Headphones 

Things you need:

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Q-tip
  • Soft Detergent 
  • Warm Water
  1. Mix the soft detergent and water.
  2. Remove the ear pads. Make sure to do this gently, so the pads won’t get damaged. 
  3. Dampen the cloth using the water-detergent mixture. 
  4. Squeeze out the excess, making sure that the cloth is not dripping wet.
  5. Using the cloth, gently wipe your headphones. Make sure not to overly wipe them, as the Q-tip will remove the dirt from the small parts of your headphones. 
  6. Dip the Q-tip into the same mixture. Make sure not to get too much water in it. 
  7. Clean the crevices and small parts of your headphones using the Q-tip. Make sure to use more than one Q-tip if your headphones have a lot of dirt. 
  8. Air dry your headphones for at least 30 minutes. 

Removing the bad smell from over-ear and on-ear headphones doesn’t end there though. To completely remove the bad smell from them, you must clean their earpads as well. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Remove the ear pads. Make sure to do this gently, so the pads won’t get damaged. 
  2. Use a lint roller if your earpads are covered in some sort of fabric. If they’re covered with genuine or faux leather, use a microfiber cloth instead. 
  3. Fill a bowl with warm water and pour in one teaspoon of detergent. 
  4. Soak your earpads into the mixture. 
  5. Scrub the earpads using your fingers, making sure to get deep into it.
  6. Squeeze out most of the water.
  7. Drop the earpads into another bowl with water at room temperature. Rinse the earpads thoroughly.
  8. Air dry your earpads. 

Warning: What Not to Do When Trying to Remove Bad Smell

We told you what to do to remove your headphones’ bad smell. Now, let us tell you what not to do: 

  1. Don’t wipe your headphones vigorously. 
  2. Don’t use alcohol in cleaning any part of your headphones unless they’re made of plastic. 
  3. Don’t use any sharp objects to clean the mesh. 
  4. Don’t forget to check the guidelines issued by the manufacturer in terms of cleaning your headphones. 
  5. Don’t miss cleaning the other components of your headphones such as the case or earpads. 

How About Using a UV Light Sanitizer?

If you have money to spend on a UV light sanitizer, cleaning your headphones will be easier. There are compact versions that can clean your smartphones, too. 

However, most UV light sanitizers are ideal for cleaning earbuds and in-ear headphones only due to their usual size. There are UV light sanitizers that are big enough to fit your over-ear and on-ear headphones in, but they usually cost a lot, even more than the price of your headphones. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Headphones?

The answer to that question depends on how often you use your headphones. If you use them for many hours daily, cleaning them once a week is ideal. This ensures that they won’t get smelly and dirty. 

Plus, if you use your headphones while working out, you must wipe them down with a microfiber cloth after every workout. 

On the other hand, if you don’t use your headphones daily, say 2-3 times a week only, cleaning them once every two weeks is ideal. 

If you rarely use your headphones, cleaning them once a month is fine, as long as they did not get exposed to sweat. 

Conclusion

Headphones are a life-saver. Without them, enjoying your favorite music or playing your favorite game will be difficult. Just like any other gadget, your headphones deserve some TLC (tender loving care), too. 

They have to be regularly cleaned so they won’t smell bad. Follow the instructions above to have fresh, clean headphones all the time. 

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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