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How to properly clean your earphones (AirPods, Buds, etc.)


Over time, our headphones become coated with earwax, which can sometimes reduce their sound quality. It is advisable to wash them regularly to prolong their life.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but your ears are dirty. Even with perfect hygiene, over the course of your hours of listening, they risk dirtying your headphones. Earwax, also called cerumen, is not dangerous, but can cause you some problems. Here are some tips from Numerama’s editorial staff to properly maintain your headphones.

Cleaning your headphones can improve the sound

Proper maintenance of your headphones is not just a question of cleanliness. Whether you have AirPods, Galaxy Buds, or headphones from another brand, you might be facing sound issues due to improper cleaning. Indeed, if the earwax enters the small grids through which the sound passes, the latter can become clogged. This blockage may not be visible visually, but the sound could be obstructed, and therefore diminished or distorted.

Cloth and cotton swabs, the gentle method

To clean your headphones, the easiest way is to use a soft cloth, like this one for example. We canmoisten a little if you wish, but never too much (🚨). A cloth that is too wet could kill your headphones, which are not big fans of liquids. To improve the quality of the wash, you can also use a little isopropyl alcohol and rub hard on the outer surfaces of the headphones.

You must imperatively avoid the grids which, they, will not appreciate the substance. The same can be done with the charging case of your wireless headphones, but again, this is important(🚨), do not put your headphones back in their box until everything is dry.

A cotton swab can help you clean headphones. // Source: NL – Numerama

To clean the grates, you can use a small brush or cotton swabs dry. Try to remove the dirt in this way and take the opportunity to rub the places that your cloth had trouble reaching. After a few minutes of application, your headphones should be clean.

In the case of in-ear headphones, it is possible to remove the tips and wash them with water. Let them dry before putting them back on.

Fixed paste, the expert method

If you’re already experiencing sound issues, our previous tips are unlikely to be enough to resurrect your headphones. Dirt is probably hiding on the other side of the grates, which means it’s inaccessible. Fortunately, there are a few tricks.

The most effective is undoubtedly the fixed paste, but be careful before using it. Indeed, if your fixed paste is too hot, it could melt on contact with the grids and be even harder to remove. Leaving it in the fridge for a few minutes can be a good idea.

How to properly clean your headphones (AirPods, Buds…)
The fixed paste takes the shape of the grid that it cleans. // Source: NL – Numerama

Next, get one small piece of fixed dough and press very hard on one of the grilles of your headphones. Normally, the dough should take the shape of the grid. Then pull very hard (in hair removal mode) and repeat the operation several times. If all goes well, the stuck earwax is no longer stuck. If you’re out of fixed paste, there’s an alternative method that, let’s face it, doesn’t sound very appealing. You can indeed put the tip of your earphones in your mouth and inhale very hard, spitting out quickly behind it. The wax is not dangerous, but does not taste good.

For further

Surface Laptop trackpad and keyboard // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

By cleaning your headphones once a month (or when they fall out, for example), you should help them live longer. They will also be more pleasant to use.

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