How to Remove Sweat Smell from Your Headphones

For a good pair of headphones, you’ll be handing over some serious cash—sometimes several hundreds. Whether they’re worth it is irrelevant, but the fact of the matter is no matter what kind of money you spend on headphones, they’re going to be worn and get incredibly dirty. The most common offender is a sweat smell.

Your ears are factories for heat, and that heat gets trapped when you use headphones. When it’s trapped, your ears sweat. Unfortunately, the headphones soak that sweat up and you get an awful musky smell. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria. How do you remove the sweat smell from a pair of headphones?

Cleaning Headphones With Cushions

If you have the kind of headphones that have a fur cushion of some kind, these can easily be cleaned with a bit of cleaning solution. However, it should be noted that this will take a day at least. You’ll have to let the cushions air dry because a dryer may melt any rubber lining the cushions have.

What You Will Need…

To properly clean your headphone cushions, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Lint roller
  • Toothbrush (soft bristles)

It’s a short list, but effective. Once you’ve gathered the two items, you can move on with the guide. Here’s what you do:

1. Start by filling two bowls with water, one with warm water and the other with room temperature water.

2. Take your lint roller and run it along the cushions. This will help pull out any dirt caught between the fabrics.

3. In the warm bowl of water, add a very small amount of detergent—a small spoonful is fine—and mix the two together.

4. Submerge the cushions into the warm water and detergent solution. Squeeze the cushions so that the cleaning solution can seep into the fabric. Do this several times. Use your soft toothbrush to scrub if necessary.

5. When they’re cleaned, squeeze the cushions thoroughly and then submerge them into the room temperature water. This is the equivalent of your washer’s rinse cycle. Dip and squeeze.

6. Squeeze the cushions above the bowl one last time to remove all the water and hang them up to dry.

What About Leather Cushions?

There isn’t much to cleaning leather headphone cushions other than using disinfectant wipes (View on Amazon) that do NOT have alcohol in them. Leather was cured in oils and alcohol will only dry the leather and eventually make it crack.

Cleaning Earbuds

If you have a pair of earbuds instead, they’re going to be much easier to clean than a pair of headphones with cushions. It doesn’t require submerging them into water—do not do that—but it does require a good scrub.

What You Will Need…

To properly clean your earbuds, you will need:

  • Toothbrush (soft bristles)
  • Mounting putty
  • A microfiber cloth
  • Q-tips
  • Low percentage hydrogen peroxide

1. Start by removing the ear tips. Take a q-tip and dip it into hydrogen peroxide. Swap the entirety of the ear tip, especially on the inside. Your goal is to remove all earwax, a contributor to smell. Dry them down with your microfiber cloth, then set them aside.

2. Shine the earbuds up with your microfiber cloth. This will pick up on any oils left behind.

3. Now, examine the earbuds. Do you see the mesh? That’s where the sound comes through. That can get incredibly dirty, and it probably is, which is also part of the reason it smells. Take your soft bristled toothbrush and scrub the mesh.

4. Once you’re done scrubbing the mesh, press a bit of mounting putty against the mesh to lift any remaining dirt.

5. Put the ear tips back on and enjoy!

Bottom Line

The trick to maintaining earbuds or headphones is to keep yourself clean. Sweat isn’t the only contributor to the smell. Earwax particles can make their way into the fabric. If you can, buy a second pair of headphones and swap them back and forth. However, you should certainly save your money and just keep them clean.