Protecting your sound investment: How to clean earbuds properly

Woman wearing Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds while dancing

Wireless earbuds have become an essential part of daily life, as many people like to take music and podcasts on the go, whether commuting to work, traveling, or exercising. That said, regular use can create buildup of earwax, sweat, dust, and dirt. Dirty earbuds are unpleasant, but even worse, they can affect performance. Keeping your earbuds clean can help maintain the optimal pressure in the ear canal for excellent sound quality.

Here’s how to clean earbuds — whether wireless earbuds or noise cancelling earbuds — properly and get the most out of your sound experience.

Tools to clean your earbuds

Earbuds are easy to keep polished and should be thoroughly cleaned at least every two months (or more depending on how much you wear them). You don’t need any fancy tools to clean your earbuds. In fact, you likely already have the tools you need at home. Cotton swabs, toothbrushes, mild dishwashing liquid, water, a microfiber cloth, and a soft bristle brush will be able to get into the nooks and crannies where dirt and debris thrive.

Just be sure you’re using delicate materials when cleaning your earbuds and case. It’s recommended to clean electronics over a flat surface — you may be surprised by how much gunk drops off of them. Be prepared to wipe down the surface with a wet rag or towel afterward. Note that while some online instructions recommend using rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes, several manufacturers actually warn against using alcohol to clean your earbuds.

How to clean your earbuds and other parts

The most important thing to remember is not to damage your electronics during the cleaning process. Make sure to keep any openings or connecting ports dry. Do not submerge your earbuds in water, and don’t leave your earbuds in your pockets before doing your laundry. That’s a surefire way to break them.

It’s important to note that the process for cleaning earbuds vs. headphones differs, as headphones have more hidden spots for dirt to build up.

Here are instructions on how to clean earbuds and all the individual parts.


Woman wearing QuietComfort Earbuds II walking on a boardwalk with backpack

Hold the earbuds gently between two fingers. Using a small dab of water on a lint-free cloth, wipe the entire exterior of the earbud. Be vigilant and careful to avoid getting water in any of the openings. Use another cloth to dry completely.

Earbud tips and stability bands

Carefully detach parts from the earbuds and wash them in water with a small amount of detergent. Make sure they are completely dry before reattaching.

Earbud nozzle

To properly clean the earbud nozzle, gently wipe using a soft, dry cotton swab. Do not insert cleaning tools into the nozzle.

Charging case

Yes, even your charging case can get gunked up. Clean the exterior of your case regularly by wiping with a lint-free cloth. Use a dry, soft-bristled brush to clean the charging port. To clean the interior, use a toothbrush to gently scrub the inside and loosen any stuck debris.

Earbud charging contacts

Wipe the charging contacts with a dry cotton swab. Getting water into the charging port is a big no-no.

How to remove earwax and dust

If you don’t clean your earbuds regularly, one day you may take them out of the case to find them crusted with earwax and dust. It’s gross but totally normal. That’s why regular cleaning is important.

A cotton swab can help remove earwax and dust from your earbuds, and the pointed end of a dental floss stick can get into the hard-to-reach crevices, but take extra care not to dig in too deep and damage parts. Using a piece of tape or putty can also be a great way to pull out any stuck gunk.

Canned air can also do the trick to knock out any loose dust or particles.

The easiest way to keep your earbuds clean is to keep your ears clean! Most gunk comes from earwax buildup, natural skin oils, dust, and more. Make sure to give your earbuds a regular wipe after every use. Storing earbuds in a carrying case will also help protect them from extraneous debris and dirt. Keeping your earbuds clean is essential for the highest sound quality and life span.

Reasons to use a charging case

QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds with silicone case cover clipped to av backpack

Earbuds and their wireless earbud charger case are lifelong partners. Not only does a clean charging case help keep your earbuds pristine, but it also protects them from water, harsh drops, and other damage. Your earbuds can’t charge and last without the case, so the case should be treated with just as much care. Always store your earbuds in their charging case, never loose in your bag or pockets. This prevents dust from entering the case and protects your earbuds from scratches. And you can add a case cover to keep the case and earbuds extra protected, as well as clipping them to a bag or somewhere easily accessible.

Regularly cleaning your earbuds helps you get the best sound quality and extend their life. This will save you money in the long term, preventing expensive repairs or the need to purchase replacements.

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