How to Keeping Your Earbuds Clean: A Step-By-Step Guide

In today’s world of smartphones and wireless audio, earbuds have become ubiquitous. Wireless earbuds like AirPods are incredibly convenient for listening to music, taking calls, and more on the go. However, their small size and direct contact with your ears means earwax and germs easily accumulate, making regular cleaning an absolute must.

Neglecting to clean your earbuds can not only lead to poor audio quality as earwax blocks the speakers, but also increase the risk of ear infections. Additionally, shared earbuds can spread illness between users. Follow this simple guide using just rubbing alcohol and a toothpick to keep your earbuds fresh and hygienic.

Why Clean Your Earbuds?


Like most electronics, earbuds naturally attract dust, dirt, oils, and moisture from the environment and your skin. The snug fit inside your ear canal also exposes them to earwax buildup. Without occasional cleaning, earwax and debris accumulates in the speaker mesh, degrading the sound quality and volume over time.

More importantly, dirty earbuds can breed bacteria and cause ear infections with prolonged use. The moist, warm environment of your ear is the perfect place for germs to multiply. Sharing unclean earbuds spreads illness between users. Keeping your earbuds clean not only improves audio performance, but protects your health.

What You Need to Clean Earbuds

Cleaning earbuds is quick and easy with just two handy items:

  • Rubbing alcohol – The high alcohol content in rubbing alcohol makes it an effective disinfectant against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The liquid consistency also makes it great for flushing out earwax and dirt when sprayed.
  • Toothpick – The tiny size and pointed tip allow you to gently loosen and extract built-up earwax under mesh screens. Toothpicks are non-abrasive and won’t damage delicate components.

Optional extras:

  • Cotton swabs – The soft cotton tip can sweep dust away from earbud crevices.
  • Microfiber cloth – Wipes away grime from the earbud’s outer housing.

Avoid using tissues, paper towels, or your fingers to wipe down earbuds, as these can leave behind fibers and lint.

How To Clean Your Earbuds

Follow these steps to refresh your earbuds:

  1. Check for damage – First, inspect your earbuds closely for any cracks or tears. Damage can allow liquid to seep inside and cause operational failure. If damage exists, do not attempt to clean until repaired.
  2. Disassemble – Depending on your earbud model, you may be able to detach the eartip and mesh screen for better access to clean. Check the user manual on how to remove parts safely.
  3. Loosen earwax – Use a toothpick to gently dislodge and scrape away any visible earwax blocking the earbud mesh and nozzle. Take care not to push wax further into the speaker.
  4. Apply alcohol – Lightly spray or dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, then swab the earbud nozzle around the mesh. The alcohol breaks down and dissolves earwax while killing germs.
  5. Flush debris – Tilt and lightly shake the earbud to let gravity help rinse away dissolved earwax and dirt with the alcohol.
  6. Dry and wipe – Allow excess alcohol to fully evaporate before carefully wiping away any remaining residue around the speaker and nozzle with a microfiber cloth.
  7. Reassemble – Replace any detachable screens and eartips. Make sure they are fitted snugly to prevent liquid intrusion when in use.
  8. Test audio – Power on your earbuds and test audio quality. Check that sound output is clear without any muffling.

Repeat the cleaning process for the second earbud. Store them in a clean, dry case afterwards.

Maintenance Tips

  • Clean every few weeks or whenever you notice sound degradation.
  • Use a light touch when scraping earwax; don’t shove the toothpick into the mesh.
  • Never submerge earbuds fully in liquid; moisture damage can occur.
  • Avoid getting moisture into any openings without mesh screens.
  • Check eartips regularly and replace if they become warped or cracked.
  • Don’t use cleaning methods not recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Wash hands and ears before handling earbuds to prevent dirt transfer.


How often should I clean my earbuds?

Ideally, you should clean your earbuds every few weeks. Clean them right away if you notice a decline in sound quality or volume that could indicate a wax blockage.

What supplies do I need to clean earbuds?

You only need rubbing alcohol and toothpicks. Optional extras are cotton swabs and a microfiber cloth. Avoid using tissues or paper towels.

Is it safe to use rubbing alcohol on earbuds?

Yes, rubbing alcohol is safe when used sparingly. It disinfects and helps dissolve earwax. Just don’t submerge the earbuds, and allow time to fully evaporate before use.

How do I loosen built-up earwax?

Use a toothpick to gently dislodge and scrape away visible earwax. Be very careful not to push wax further into the earbud speaker.

How can I dry earbuds after cleaning?

Allow rubbing alcohol to fully evaporate from the earbuds before carefully wiping away any remaining moisture with a microfiber cloth. Never use heat to dry.

How do I clean the eartips?

Check eartips regularly for damage. To clean, remove them and wash with mild soap and water. Let air dry completely before reattaching to earbuds.

Can I use alcohol wipes to clean earbuds?

Yes, alcohol wipes or swabs can substitute for spraying rubbing alcohol in the cleaning process. Just don’t scrub so hard that you damage the mesh.

What should I do if my earbuds get wet?

Gently shake out water and dry with a microfiber cloth. Place in front of a fan to speed evaporation. Do not use heat. If they don’t work after drying, you’ll need a repair.

How can I avoid dirt buildup in my earbuds?

Always wash your hands before handling earbuds. Clean them regularly before wax hardens. Use eartips that seal your ear canal so wax can’t enter.

Can I use earbud cleaning putty?

Putty may leave residue inside the earbud. It’s better to use a toothpick for wax removal. You can use putty to clean the external housing.


While simple in principle, regularly cleaning your earbuds makes a big difference in their audio quality, lifespan, and safety. By tackling buildup before it becomes compacted, cleaning takes little time and effort. Make it part of your routine maintenance to enjoy earbuds that produce great sound and stay germ-free. Visit to know and read more article about fixing speaker and related issues.

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