Earphone cleaning tips and cheap iPod speakers--Ask the Editors

Get the answers to all of your questions about MP3 players, headphones, and more in this weekly feature.

Consider yourself warned: The following post is not for the squeamish. It's time to clean the wax out of your earbuds. Yes, it's gross, but if you have the style of earbud that gets inserted into the ear canal, it must be done. Otherwise, wax can build up on the outer speaker and affect sound quality, and it may actually seep in and damage the inner workings of the earpieces. It's also not a bad idea to disinfect the sleeves from time to time. Find out how to do both below. Also this week: Your iPod isn't just for your commute, travels, living room, and bedroom anymore...it's also for your bathroom. Check out some cheap solutions for listening to your MP3 player while you shower.

Yep, it's gross alright, but it has to be done. Staples

Q: You mentioned on the MP3 Insider podcast about cleaning the in-ear headphones, but you forgot to talk about how to clean them if yours do not have a tool. Please help us out buy explaining how to get the dirt out without ruining the headphones. Also, please discuss how to disinfect then to kill or get rid of germs that could get into them. I know that with everyday use you can get germs, but also lots of people use them when they are sick and many more things may leak out of the ear into the headphones when one is sick, so we need to also sanitize them. --Aaron, via e-mail

A: To clean inside the earpiece of in-ear headphones, a straightened out paper clip will do the job (preferably the coated, colored variety)--just be careful. Insert gently and twist around the edges of the aperture; pull out; wipe on a tissue; repeat. Disinfecting should be done to the sleeves/ear tips ONLY. Most can simply be washed with dish soap and warm water.

Q: I'm looking for a set of iPod speakers to use while I'm the shower. I love rocking out my tunes while I take my bath but I don't want to waste a lot of money

JBL
on a set of speakers just for using them in my bathroom. Sound quality is not so important and I'd rather like them to be small. They don't have to come with an iPod dock but I'd like them to be an active set of speakers so I can hear my tunes through the noise of the shower and to be connected to the outlet so I don't have to waste money on batteries.--Juan, via e-mail

A: Thanks to the proliferation of compact iPod speakers, you can now find several sets for less than $50--some for much less. A few that I recommend: the Logitech mm32 (a personal favorite of mine for around $40), the JBL OnTour (recently found for $29.95 online ), and the IceTech Duette, which gets surprisingly loud for its size and only costs $12.

CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze

MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)

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