Will Sweat Damage Headphones? (And how to prevent it)

Woman working out with headphones

Most of us take headphones for granted. We pull at the wires instead of unplugging at the base, leave them all tangled up without bothering to arrange them properly, and use them during intense workouts, without bothering to clean them. But like any piece of wearable tech, headphones are prone to damage, including everything from over-ear, on-ear, wired, wireless, etc. 

Yes, sweat will damage your headphones if you do not take care of them. Sweat comprises water, ammonium, urea, and other salts that can seep into your device and damage the internal circuitry. It can even damage the surface of the headphone if exposed for prolonged periods.

Let’s discuss how sweat damages your headphones and the steps you should take to prevent the same.

How are headphones vulnerable to sweat damage?

Excess moisture buildup over time can easily damage both headphone earpads. Even on premium headphones, the ear cushions absorb sweat, causing it to crack and flake as you keep exposing it to sweat. 

Plastic is among the major components used to build headphones. Although some manufacturers use leather and velour, the most commonly used product is pleather(artificial leather that is used as an inexpensive substitute for products).

Pleather, short for plastic leather, is widely accepted by the industry to create affordable ear covers for low to mid-grade headphones. In case you are not actively taking care of your headphones, the outer layer of the cover will gradually begin to wilt away, leaving behind a torn and tattered cover.

Regular exercise is good for your health, but not so much for your headphones, as the excess sweat further accelerates the damage to your covers. Even gamers who wear headphones during prolonged gaming sessions also damage the headphone. Flakes start to appear at the outskirts of the headphone and move towards the center with further usage. 

So, how should you address the issue? Read on for further instructions.

How to stop sweat from damaging your headphones?

The best way to stop headphone damage is to avoid wearing them during intense workouts. Open-backed headphones are also popular options these days since they let air pass through the speaker drivers, not only enriching the listening experience but also reducing the overall damage on the ear covers. 

Here are a few ways you can ensure the longevity of your headphones:

1. Buy headphones that have at least an IPX4 rating which is the minimum requirement to withstanding continuous sweat onslaughts. I recommend the TREBLAB Z2

Not only does it have the required IP rating, but it also comes equipped with a massive battery that supports up to 35H of music playback, a dedicated button for activating voice assistants, and CVC technology for making crystal clear calls while you are burning carbs on the treadmill.

2. You can also use a soft dry fabric to wipe the headphone clean of any moisture after each workout session. This keeps the sweat damage in check and ensures little to no harm if you do it regularly. 

You can even use a little soap or shampoo if you have been sweating a lot for better cleanup.

3. Sweat-resistant headphone covers are also a great option simply because once you attach them to your headphones, you can forget about the whole setup. Detach the covers once every 1-2 weeks to dry them, and you are good to go. They are super cheap and can prolong the lifespan of your $500 headphone by at least a few years.

I recommend the Large WC SweatZ protective headphone covers since they are compatible with various models and are perfect for my Bose QC35. They fit in nicely, and I have been using them for over a year now, can vouch for their quality. 

4. As a final solution, consider switching over to earbuds. They are smaller, easier to work with, and usually come with at least an IPX4 rating that offers decent sweat protection. 

How to clean your headphones?

It’s best to use a q-tip to take out the initial grime before removing the covers and cleaning the entire headphone more thoroughly. Based on the type you’ll have to switch up the cleaning method for maximum results.

For cleaning, you’ll need a small clean cloth, rubbing alcohol, cotton buds or q-tips, water, soap, and multipurpose adhesive.

The metal/plastic is easier to clean compared to the ear cushions. Unless you want to replace them, proceed cautiously.

1. Remove the ear pads.

2. Soak the small cloth in soap and water and wring out the excess liquid. 

3. Use the dampened cloth to wipe the exterior. 

4. Use paper towels to dry the headphone and leave it out for about an hour.

5. Take another cloth and dampen it with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol.

6. Gently rub the exterior of the ear pads.

7. Use a q-tip soaked in alcohol/sanitizer and clean the crevices and hard-to-reach spots of the earpads. 

8. Spray some alcohol/sanitizer on a cloth and rub it over the foam mesh to clear off grime and any leftover sweat residue.

9. Place everything on some paper towels and leave them out to dry for about an hour, or until they are completely dry. 

10. Inspect everything before rearranging them together. 

For best results, you should use a mini vacuum cleaner or a can of compressed air, both of which you can buy online. Not only can you clean your headphones, but you can use the vacuum to clean entire computers, laptops, and other electronic devices as well.


Will sweat ruin my headphones?

Yes, eventually over time, sweat will ruin your headphones. It usually takes a year or two for any serious damage to take effect. Use good quality leather cleaner and conditioner to prolong the life of your headsets. It’s even better to get headphones with replaceable ear covers. 

What are the best headphones to wear while working out, especially ones that do not fall when you sweat?

Not all headphones are perfect for everyone. Some are big while others are too small for any given individual. Generally, any over-the-ear headphones with a decent grip are usually perfect for intense workout sessions. Also, consider using earbuds as they are more secure, portable, and comfortable.

When it comes to headphones, it’s all about personal preference. While some prefer Sony, others are die-hard fans of Sennheiser or Bose. If you’re worried about sweat damage buy headphones with swappable ear covers. Keeping a cleaning kit handy is also a great idea as you’ll need to wipe off the sweat following each workout session.

Excessive salt left behind by the sweat can easily damage the ear cushions. Although plastic headphones are usually safe from any sweat damage, any exposed metal parts might deteriorate over time.

How to keep earbuds/headphones from falling while running?

Each ear is shaped differently, so there is no universal way to prevent headphones from falling off your head. It’s better to use earbuds because they are less intrusive and snuggle up inside your ear, making it nigh impossible to shake them off. For headphones, ensure it has a tight grip on your head.

Check out this article for the best earbuds that don’t easily fall out.


IP ratings have become a standard these days, at least for mid-tier headphones. Cheaper ones, although not that durable, are still viable options that can survive 2-3 years if taken care of properly. Hopefully, this article has alleviated any queries related to headphone sweat damage. Until next time. Happy listening.

Difference between Bluetooth versio...
Difference between Bluetooth versions

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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