Here's How to Clean Your AirPods and Headphones (a Task You Probably Don't Tackle Enough)

Find out how often you should be wiping down these essentials—and the best methods for a safe, effective clean.  

Cleaning high-touch surfaces most often means wiping doorknobs, kitchen appliances, and even cell phones on a regular basis. But these aren't the only essentials that deserve attention. Over-the-ear headphones or earbuds, like AirPods, are everyday mainstays that can get overlooked. No matter if you're using them to listen to music or to answer a call, taking the time to make sure they are clean will make sure they work their best and prevent the spread of bacteria.

How Often Should You Clean Headphones and AirPods?

These frequently-used accessories, which we turn to for hands-free calls or a much-needed guided meditation, should be wiped down often. As for cleaning frequency? "There isn't really a firm rule as to how often you should clean your headphones," says Rod Villegas, a Geek Squad agent. "Timing depends on how often you use them, what kinds of activities you are doing while wearing them, and the climate you live in."

Routine Refresh

If you use your headphones or earbuds every day while simply sitting inside, wiping them down on a weekly basis could be enough, says Villegas. But if you're wearing them during vigorous exercise, that would likely warrant a cleaning after each session. "Overall, it's best to make sure you keep it top of mind and clean them as frequently as needed," Villegas adds.

How to Clean Headphones

Giving your over-the-ear headphones a quick, easy clean will make them good as new in no time. First, focus on the pads.

  1. Start by mixing a small amount of dish soap or other soft detergent with warm water.
  2. Next, make sure to power off your headphones (if they have smart technology); also remove the ear pads if possible.
  3. Dip a soft cloth into the soapy solution and wipe the removable pads. Don't soak any part of your headphones directly in this mixture.
  4. Repeat the previous step, only this time with a cotton swab so you can thoroughly clean the pads' interior.
  5. Make sure to have another soft cloth on hand, so you can dry off any wet surfaces.

Next, tackle the bulk of the product.

  1. "Dampen a soft cloth with the water and soap mixture (it should not be dripping wet) and wipe down the mesh over the speaker and the rest of the exterior of the headphones," says Villegas.
  2. Wet a cotton swab and use it to clean the small and hard-to-reach places.
  3. Dry the headphones with a soft cloth and then let all of the pieces air-dry for 30 minutes, so even minimal moisture can evaporate.
  4. Once everything is completely set, put the removable pads back on.
woman smiling working from home wearing earbuds
Maskot / Getty Images

How to Clean AirPods

Cleaning wireless earbuds involves a similar method—and the same rules apply (don't submerge them in the soapy water solution!). It's also important to be extra gentle when cleaning AirPods: Jessica Samson, the communication manager at The Maids International, says to use a dry cloth when cleaning the speaker grill to avoid damaging the electronics inside the pieces.

  1. Begin by powering off the earbuds. Take off any removable tips and clean them with your soapy solution.
  2. Wipe down the AirPods' exterior with a cloth dipped in your soapy solution, and then dry off a fresh cloth.
  3. Clean the speaker grills with a wax removal brush tool, like the Westone Wax Loop, advises Villegas.
  4. Gently press mounting putty, like Blu Tack Original Adhesive Putty, into the speaker grills to remove more difficult debris.
  5. Wipe down the exterior of the AirPods one more time with your damp cloth to remove any cleaning residue.
  6. Dry off the earbuds; wait another 30 minutes to let them air-dry.
  7. Reinstall the removable tips.
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