Many headphones today are designed to take a beating without breaking, but it always pays to spend some time now and then to clean and care for them. After all, who wants to spend 100’s of dollars (our list is full of headphones at this price) on a pair for it only to start falling apart well before its use-by date?
You want your headphones to last, and I’ll show you how in this guide.
There are in fact quite a few ways to care for your precious cans so I’m going to break this guide down into a sections.
Let’s get to it!
Ear-pads and headbands are areas on a headphone that need to be cleaned from time to time. Because they are in regular contact with your hair and skin, there is likely to be a build-up of sweat and some dirt resulting in a smelly headphone.
Let’s say you lay your headphone down on your desk after using them and then you accidentally spill a can of soda on them! Hopefully the liquid does not seep into the electronics, leaving you with a functional but ugly looking pair of headphones with stained ear-pads. Luckily many ear-pads can be removed from the ear-cups, making the cleaning process a whole lot easier.
The method to clean them is dependent on the material, so I’m going to go through the most common ones you’ll find and the correct way to clean them.
Leather: First confirm that the pads are actually genuine leather as it may be actually pleather (fake leather). Take a look at the manufacturers website to confirm this information. For basic cleaning, wetting a cloth with water will suffice but for more stubborn stains it’s best to use a leather cleaner. Be warned though that a lot of leather cleaning products do wear out leather with consistent use, so it’s a good idea to keep this type of cleaning to a minimum.
Pleather (or faux/synthetic/protein leather): Pretty easy to clean and similar to leather, you can just grab a damp cloth and wipe. Dry off with a dry cloth and repeat the process if necessary. Do not use leather cleaning products as it may cause pleather to crack overtime. If you need to remove stains, you can use dish detergent in warm water and apply a wet rag gently to the affected area. The key here is to ensure that the rag is not dripping wet as you don’t want to over saturate the pleather with water.
Velour: Velour is a bit tricky and because of its ‘hairy’ texture it’s prone to catching dirt and retaining sweat more than other materials. A good trick is to use sticky tape and wrap them around your finger with the sticky part facing outwards. This will easily catch the dirt particles. Repeat the process with new clean tape until they look new again!
But what if your velour pads are soaked with sweat? Well if you can remove them from your headphones you’re in luck! You can dump them in warm water that’s mixed with shower soap (or some other soft soap that doesn’t contain chemicals) for 15 or so minutes. Then rub them and place them back in again. Let it soak again and then air dry them on a piece of cloth until they dry out (may take up to a day or so).
I must give credit to these ideas from creatip123 from linustechtips, who has tested and confirmed these methods to work. A mini-vacuum is another handle tool then can make quick work of dirty velour pads.
Alcantara: You can use a cloth or well wrung sponge with water. There are also specific products for alcantara cleaning that you can use.
You can follow a similar process to cleaning ear-pads (dependent on the material) but it’s a bit trickier since you probably won’t be able to detach the headband from the headphone. Make sure you lay the headphone down horizontally so you can easily hold them down, and if it makes things easier, fold the ear-cups in (if possible).
On the very rare occasion that the headphone jack gets dirty enough to cause a fit issue or worse signal problems, then you need to take some action to get that socket cleaned.
A brush or bent paper clip with sticky tape can allow you to get in those hard to reach places and remove the debris. Make sure to be super gentle!
Cleaning other components
Let’s say you need to clean the ear cup or the metal/plastic part of the headband. The best advice I can give you is to just use warm water and a cloth.
If there is one thing that is most likely to break in a headphone it is the cable. Here are some factors that contribute to world-wide cable deaths:
- Pulling the cable too tightly or being bent on an angle. This can cause the cable to dislocate from the headphone socket (especiallyprevalent in fixed headphone set-ups).
- Running the cable over with you chair! Yep, it does happen, and if the cable is protected by something like plastic, overtime those skid marks will eventually begin tearing up the protective cover to expose the delicate wires within.
- Cable knotting and twisting is another common issue and can cause damage to the internal electrical conductors.
So how do you go about preventing these issues? It’s always a good idea to just be aware of where the cable is lying when using the headphones. If the cable comes off the desk, make sure that it is away from your chair to prevent accidental run-overs. One other thing, never let the cable extend its full length as bad things are always bound to happen when this occurs.
A handy trick is to never leave the headphones on the edge of a desk or surface. I can’t recall how many times I’ve accidentally pushed my headphones off a desk, causing them to dangle with the cable holding the brunt of the weight. Sure, they may not break then and there, but overtime it weakens the internal connections.
Day to Day Use
For everyday use, it’s a good idea to keep your cans away from:
- Extreme heat or cold or direct sunlight. Materials (especially wood and metal) can contract and expand due to temperature fluctuations causing damage. Discoloration can also occur due to direct exposure to sunlight.
- Edge of a desk or surface. A no brainer, but something we are all prone to from time to time. It’s best to keep your cans away from an edge as this reduces the chances of accidentally pushing them over.
- Dust and dirt. Again, this is pretty obvious. It is a good idea to place your headphones on a clean surface.
- Pets. Putting your headphones on your desk usually solves this issue. Don’t leave them on the floor or places where your beloved pet can make them a chew toy!
Ok, so we’ve used our headphones for some time now and have taken great care of them. Great! But now we’ve decided to lay them to rest in storage – it’s a shame, but even the best headphones need to go into storage once in a while.
So how do we go about storing them? There are two parts – the cable and the headphone.
In terms of storing the cables, it is recommended that they are not bundled, twisted or wrapped around the headphones. The best practise is to store the cables circularly, like a fishing reel. You can achieve this by holding the cable with one hand and using your other hand to wrap it around your elbow and up towards your hand. Ensure enough slack as you don’t want to be wrapping it too tightly. It’s easier to do this with a detached cable, but you should be able to do it with fixed cables as well, just make sure the connection to the headphone jack is slack and not tight.
For the headphones themselves, either putting them back in the storage case that they came with or buying your own case will suffice. Also, it’s a good idea to store them in a dry area that doesn’t experience too high or low temperatures.
Make sure the headphones are dry before storing as putting them away when their slightly moist (especially the ear-cups) can cause a build of mold and nasty smells.
Taking a little time to invest in the upkeep of your headphones isn’t hard to do and it’ll make sure they will continue to look and perform as if they were brand new. If you have any questions or feel that something was missing from this guide, please contact us or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!