Spring cleaning: Wipe down your headphones

Cleaning your headphones only takes a few minutes of your time, and is possible with household items.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

It's not surprising how dirty headphones can get. We place them over or in our ears, after all. I'm guilty of rarely cleaning my headphones, since I'm the only one who uses them, but hygiene isn't the only factor to consider when cleaning.

Any oils or ear wax left on your headphones can impact the sound quality of your headphones -- especially the in-ear variety. With this in mind, try to make cleaning up your headphones a regular habit.

First you'll need to gather some supplies, all of which you probably already have around the house. You'll need:

  • A dish with soap and warm water (detergent will work just fine)
  • A soft cloth
  • A toothbrush
  • A small towel

Once you've gathered the supplies, wet the cloth in the soap and water. Don't soak the cloth; instead only get it a little damp. We are dealing with electronics here. The less water the better.

I recommend removing both the pads and the tips, when possible. This allows you to thoroughly wipe down either component without fear of getting water into the headphones themselves. Gently wipe down the headphone pads or in-ear tips with the damp cloth.

For the more stubborn debris and residue, use a dry toothbrush to loosen it up and then wipe it down with the cloth. After everything is wiped down, let it sit on the extra towel to air dry. Once it's dry, put it back together and resume using it as usual.

Some manufacturers recommend using different techniques. For example, Bose recommends using either hydrogen peroxide or soap and water to clean the various parts of its headphones. It's always a good idea to check the manufacturer's site for your respective brand, but the process outlined above is a decent starting point for all headphones.

Have headphone-cleaning any tips of your own? Be sure to share them with us in the comments below.

Editors' note: It's spring cleaning time! Week's two's theme: physical cleaning. Check back every day this week to see how best to keep dirt, grime, crumbs, and other annoying bits off your devices. And be sure to return next week for more spring cleaning tips and tricks.


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