How to clean true wireless earbuds

Keep your buds feeling fresh with these top tips

Sony true wireless headphones held in someone's hand
(Image credit: Sony)

It’s time to be brutally honest. Your true wireless earbuds have the potential to get very, very gross. They’re going in your earholes, and it turns out that even the sparkliest of ear canals still produce oils that you’d rather not let build up on your buds. Don’t be the person hiding your charging case because there’s enough excretions in there to make a small candle out of.

Plus, dried sweat and wax get in the way of the audio, spoiling what can hear from even the best true wireless earbuds. The hampering of sound and risk of waxy embarrassment makes it exceptionally important to know how to clean true wireless earbuds. Spoiler; it doesn’t mean running them under the tap.

Unless you’ve got a pair of swimming-focused buds, your true wireless earbuds from most manufacturers will be water resistant and not waterproof. This means no dunking them fully in water and screaming H2-oh-no when they never work again. Instead, the best way to clean the main body of true wireless earbuds is with a lint-free cloth.

If there are any particularly stubborn attachments, you can dampen this slightly but make sure to wring it out and to leave no moisture behind. This is especially essential when it comes to sound outlet holes and mesh. You can also use an alcohol wipe to keep everything sparkling clean but don’t go near your buds with bleach or other chemicals as you’ll definitely damage them.

Beats Fit Pro on wooden surface

(Image credit: James Holland)

For the fiddly bits, don’t be tempted to insert a fingernail in the sound or microphone holes to get anything out as you might damage the bud or just push things further in. With the damp cloth, gently work out any unwanted ear debris, making sure that no moisture ends up running into the sound holes or microphone. 

For hard to reach bits, you can also use a moist cotton bud but again, make sure there’s no excess water and that no fluff comes off the bud itself. To avoid any risk of this, the best thing to do is buy a specific earbud portable cleaning pen. There are a range of microfibre brushes available and they are relatively inexpensive. It’s useful too to let gravity help, turning the bud so that the debris can fall out once you’ve loosened it and that way you’ll prevent it from tumbling deeper inside.

The good news is that you don’t need to be as precious with any silicone tips for your earbuds. Stay away from harsh chemicals, but you can soak the tech free tips in water to remove any stubborn stains or build up. Simple soapy water can make all the difference. Just make sure everything is completely dry before you reattach them to the main body of the earbud.  

It’s equally as important to keep your charging case clean as the charging ports won’t work if they don’t have proper contact with the buds. Again, an alcohol wipe will do the business here, or you could use a damp lint-free cloth to clean the inside of the case. Always make sure everything is fully dry before you put the buds back inside. You could always go over it all with a dry lint-free cloth just to make sure.  

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.