(Consumer Reports) - Headphones can be magnets for everything from lint, to dust, to ear wax. Which is not only gross –– but could be the reason your headphones sound slightly muffled or on the quieter on one side. The team at Consumer Reports says a good once-over every few weeks can be a fairly simple fix –– and shows us the right way to clean them.
First, be sure to unplug or turn off the headphones before you begin cleaning them. You'll want to have on hand a paper clip and cotton swabs for cleaning earphones. You can use those same tools to get in the nooks and crannies of larger home/studio style headphones that fit on or over your ears. A soft, clean toothbrush will also come in handy.
You can use alcohol-free unscented baby wipes or a towel dampened with warm water and a drop or two of soap or mild detergent. In some cases, you may want to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. And have a second towel available for drying things off when you’re done. Use a cloth that won’t leave behind stray fibers or dust.
Except for a handful of models marketed specifically for swimming, headphones should never be submerged in water. Even water-resistant models shouldn't get more than slightly damp. (Electronics and water don't mix well.)
Don't apply any liquid directly to headphones, and when you do wipe them down, don't let any interior parts get damp.
Usually you don't need anything stronger than soap and water. There are certain things you shouldn't use on headphones because the material will dissolve. Be careful using alcohol; it might destroy any part made of foam. But it's fine for plastic, rubber, or silicone. You’ll want to use it only occasionally, and carefully dry off headphones. Letting them air-dry can lead to damage.
The Bose company website recommends hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax. Look for a solution of no more than 3 percent. Apply it with a cotton swab, and merely dampen the surface. Wipe the solution off quickly and carefully when you're done. Even at that low concentration, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes cause bleaching and discoloration.
No matter what you use on headphones, towel them off, making sure they are completely dry before using them.
Cleaning your headphones once in a while will keep them sounding great and help them last longer.