How to Clean Earbuds


Earbuds: in-ear speakers that get waxy.

Here’s the situation with earbuds – and to better know what we’re cleaning, let’s back up a minute and quickly understand our ears a bit better. According to Wikipedia, ears produce earwax to protect the skin of the human ear canal, assist in cleaning and lubrication, and also provide some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water. Cool…ish? I mean happy to have that self-cleaning function but it does put us in a bit of a pickle when it comes to earbuds.

See, when these are in your ears, heat is being generated. Heat makes them practically a magnet for earwax. Heat melts the earwax and it kinda, well, re-settles on the earbud – or IN the earbud, so even after a couple of uses, you’ll start to see some sort of residue build up. Now, it’s not dangerous, but it can affect the sound quality of your earbuds over time and by the way, #obvious, it looks gross.

Alright, let’s see how easy it is to clean these. And just so you know, I went to an Apple store and got lectured by a genius on the proper ways of cleaning earbuds as they do in their very own facilities. So I got this straight from the Apple-horse’s mouth.

You’ll need

  • dish soap,
  • cotton swabs,
  • a cleaning toothbrush,
  • rubbing alcohol, and
  • alcohol wipes.

Silicone covers

If you have silicone covers, pop them off and soak in warm, soapy water. Use a cotton swab to remove any debris or discolouration after they’ve had time to soak. Rinse well and then leave them to dry overnight. You can’t put them back on until they are 100% dry.  These are usually found on in-ear headphones.


  • Start by gently dry brushing the wax out of the earbud.
  • Hold them with the mesh facing down so that any debris can fall down as opposed to back into the earbud. Don’t press too hard, you don’t want to push the gunk in any further.
  • Once that’s done, if you still see a waxy build up, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, tap it off and then wipe the bud to remove anything remaining.
  • Then, take an alcohol wipe and wipe the earbud and surrounding area. This can mildly clean as well as disinfect the earbud. Rubbing alcohol dries lightning fast and won’t seep into the bud.

Soapy water or cleaning products, or perfume, are not suitable cleaning agents for this job, because they’ll seep in and damage the innards of the earbud.

Also, ensure your cleaning toothbrush is nylon bristle only, as anything else could break off and get caught and potentially ruin the earbuds. Plus, nylon is anti-static, which means it won’t fry your earbuds during the cleaning process.

You can clean them with an alcohol wipe as often as you feel necessary, and I would say giving them a clean like this once a month would be a reasonable frequency.

Using your earbuds!

Now, once you’ve cleaned your earbuds – you might as well use them – so, we’ve teamed up once again with the fine folks over at who are offering all of you a FREE audiobook and 30 day trial – with access to over 150,000 audiobook titles – it’s the perfect way to break in you newly cleaned earbuds!

Currently, I’m listening to The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – as many of you know , I’m a junky for a good business book and THIS is one of my personal favourites.  A lot of you ask me about business advice, and I’ve learned so much from this very book.  Check it out!

So, to gain access to this title and over 150,000 other titles – head on over to AUDIBLE.COM/CLEANMYSPACE for your free audiobook and 30 day trial!


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Melissa Maker is the host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube, editor-at-large of, and founder of Clean My Space (a well-known Toronto-based cleaning service). She's been knee-deep in the cleaning game since 2006. Follow Melissa: @MelissaMaker on Instagram, SnapChat & Twitter!


  1. WOW. Toothbrush trick worked like a charm. My skullcandy earbuds are working like new, and the right one was previously all blocked up with almost no sound coming out. Thanks for the tips!

  2. This fact is disgusting but I thought I’d share. (note that I’m not a disgusting person by any means…) I was cleaning my beats earbuds like this often but the quality of sound was getting very bad. I took off the silicone covers and popped off the mesh from the earphone itself with a needle and it had a coating of earwax inside the mesh. I cleaned that up and put the mesh back in and they are like new again.

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