Wanna know the secret to make your headphones last? It’s pretty simple: clean them regularly! I know this sounds old school, but most people don’t take maintenance very seriously. Which is quite funny because why would you want to shorten the life of expensive gear? Anyway, I am quite particular about conducting routine checks of all my gear, and I’d advise you to do the same. For all you beginners, try starting off with smaller steps like cleaning your headphones. And’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this guide.

However, before we start keeping in mind that owing to its complex parts, cleaning this particular piece of equipment can get tricky (even home studio mixers). Hence, it’s always a good idea to read the user manual of the product before starting a thorough cleaning session. Follow these simple methods to get the job done:

Rubbing Alcohol/ Hand Sanitizer Method for Cleaning Plastic Headphones

Stuff you’ll require:

  • Small piece of cloth
  • Hand sanitizer/ rubbing alcohol
  • Q-tips
  • Paper towels

Method

  1. After reading the cleaning instructions on the user manual, gently remove the ear pads and use the cotton piece to wipe the exterior of the product gently. You can dip the cloth with some soap and water or even use some every-day wipes to get the job done. Once the area is clean, wipe it dry using paper towels. Allow it to air dry before following the next step.
  2. Take the piece of cloth and dampen it with hand sanitizer or some rubbing alcohol. As an alternative, you can also use alcohol swabs to save time. Use this to wipe the exterior part of your headphones and allow it to air dry completely.
  3. Soak the Q-tips in hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol and use it to clean the crevices and nooks of the gear.
  4. To clean the foam mesh, detach the ear pad (if that’s possible) and dab it with some hand sanitizer or cleaning solution. Remember not to vigorously rub the mesh since you don’t want to tear it. Dab it gently and let it sit for a while. This kills the bacteria and should also help you get rid of dirt and debris that may have settled inside the foam.
  5. Allow the ear pads to completely dry. I also suggest you dab it with some paper towels to absorb extra moisture before reattaching it. Make sure the product has completely air dried before use again.

You can also use this method for cleaning microphones – I use it for cleaning my Audio Technica AT2020.

Silica Gel Method

Another problem with ear-gear is that it can absorb sweat and pick up a funky smell after a couple of weeks of use. Now washing and cleaning your headphones every other day isn’t a good option since it can damage the earpieces. The good news is that you can quickly get rid of dirt and awful smells with some silica gel packs. These packs work exceptionally well for absorbing added moisture and odor that can result in the growth of mold and bacteria.

Simply place a pack of these near the mesh or ear cups. You should easily be able to find a silica gel pack the next time you purchase electronics or accessories. Allow the gel beads to rest for a couple of hours and you should be good to go. This is a fuss-free cleaning method that should only take a few minutes of your time if you don’t count the waiting period.

Isopropyl Alcohol for Finer Materials

Not everything is made of cheap plastic! (on a side note: here’s a list of some affordable studio headphones). With more delicate materials such as wood and steel, you’re better off using designated cleaners. Assess what material your headphones are made of. For accurate description, simply read the box in which the product came in.  You might have to take special care if the gear is made of platinum or silver. Using harsh cleaning solutions can damage finishes, causing the appearance to ruin quickly.

Using Isopropyl Alcohol is a good option as it is mild and also works as a disinfectant. It can easily dissolve dirt and grime while absorbing odor. On the downside, this solution comes with an odor of its own but the scent won’t last if you allow your product to air dry.

Tips for Cleaning Headphones

So this is quite basic but make sure you know what you’re doing before you start cleaning virtually ANY kind of equipment. You spent money on this, and you certainly don’t want to end up wrecking it. Keep these factors in mind before you put yourself to work:

  • Don’t use bleach: For some reason, people automatically assume that a couple of drops of bleach can always solve their problems – it won’t! In this case, using bleach can cause the surface of your product to corrode or degrade.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: Avoid cleaning your headphones in places with direct sunlight. This might cause specific reactions with the chemicals you’re using to clean your product.
  • Don’t experiment: If you’re not sure what materials you’re working with, it’s always safe to use good old fashioned distilled water. Soak a cotton ball with distilled water and use that to clean dirt and debris. Finish off with the silica gel since you’ll need something to absorb odor.
  • Finish off with some polish: Once you’re done cleaning, finish up by using some polish to really make your headphones shine. If you’re working with more extravagant materials such as woods, you can use a wood polish or cleaner such as Howard’s Wood Polish.
  • Pay attention to storage: You probably won’t have to clean your headphones as frequently if you’re particular about storage and don’t merely leave your gear lying around. Invest in a small travel case that can be used when you’re carrying your gear on the go. This will prevent the ear pads from tearing up and prevent the wire from getting tangled.

Ending Note

So there you have it, I hope you’ve found this detailed guide useful. Is there something you’d like to add? Hit me up or leave a comment below. I’d love to get back to you.