Your headphones are an everyday staple: You use them on the commute to work, during office hours, and in the middle of a heavy sweat sesh. That alone introduces those tiny earbuds—and, in turn, your ears—to plenty of germs. Not to mention the exposure that goes on each time you take them out of your purse or gym bag. Wearing earbuds can transfer bacteria from person to person if they're shared, increase bacteria growth in the ear, and even cause an ear infection. So we asked Becca Napelbaum, cleaning expert at Handy, for her best tips on how to clean headphones.
How to Clean Headphones
1. Dust 'em off.
Headphones increase the heat in the ear canal, and when that happens, Napelbaum says it can lead to more wax and oil on the earbud itself. Combine that with a sweaty workout and, well, you can see how quickly bacteria spreads. Nip it in the bud (see what we did there) with a Q-tip, which you can use to "brush off any dust that may have accumulated in the metal part of your earphones," she says. If that doesn't catch it all, try using a clean, dry toothbrush—the bristles can squeeze into tiny crevices.
2. Wipe it up.
Next, grab a cloth and "with a small amount of cleaning solution—a mixture of soap, like dishwashing detergent, and a little warm water works best here—wipe the rest of the headphones thoroughly," says Napelbaum. Just make sure all the excess water is wrung out of the cloth before you wipe to avoid any water damage to the wires, and don't go overboard with the soap, as that can leave a residue on the earbuds.
3. Take them apart.
Okay, only do this if there are silicone covers on the headphones. Those can be washed separately with soap and water, away from any electronic wires.