A simple guide on how to clean and wash your headphone earpads

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With the availability of top-sound quality on headphones over earphones, the latter was replaced by the masses a long time ago. We use our headphones when we travel to work, exercise, sit in a park or even while tanning on a beach. Now just like you need to bathe everyday, your headphones need a good wash once in a while too.

Imagine your velour headphone earpads to be a collage of lint, grime and dust. With its spongy texture and micro-hair filled surface, it acts like a sticky spider web, attracting and housing foreign elements all the time. Also since your headphone sits over your ears, the cups tend to absorb some amounts of sweat when worn constantly. Now you’re left with a grubby headset and earpads that reek of sweat too.

Modern day headphones come in a variety of makes with both on-ear cups as well as over-the-ear ones. While top of the line headphones come fashioned with leather ear-cups, others are made with ‘pleather’ (plastic + leather) or velour- a sponge ear-cup that is lined with a silk-like upholstery.

Here are a few steps on how you can go about cleaning your headphone’s earpads:

  • Identify if detachable– The very first thing you will need to do is identify if your headphones allow you to take off the ear-cup so you can clean it. Older headphones don’t really allow you to take off the over-the-ear cups, but the on-ear sponges come of readily. If, however, you have a newer headphone, you should be able to separate the ear-cup from the speaker with no trouble at all.
  • Figure out the material– Depending on what headphones you use, you need to find out what material the ear-cup is made of, this will decide what method you will employ to clean it, and if it is wise to attempt cleaning it at all. You will find very few headphones to have earpads made of 100% leather. If you’ve got a mid-priced headphone, you’re probably looking at ‘pleather’ and if you’ve got something a little cheaper, you’ll find velour. It’s not always this way, but it’s how it goes.
  • Cleaning Leather Cups – If you realize that your expensive pair of headphones have exquisite leather ear-cups, you should consider not using water as it, more often than not, causes more damage than help. Using excessive water will encourage the top layers of the leather to begin pealing. A mildly dampened microfiber cloth should be able to serve just fine, helping you wipe away the stickiness and grime. You may need to do this intricately so as not to create too much tension when trying to wipe the grease off at the risk of a tear in the ear-cup. Leather-milk will also help you maintain the rigor of the leather whilst keeping it shiny.
  • Cleaning Pleather Cups –  Although most might say it is fine to occasionally douse a pleather ear-cup to clean it thoroughly, the plastic in it doesn’t lend much resilience to water. Also, the leather composition does make it unfit for a complete soak. While it is recommended to get the dirt off your ear-cup with a moist cloth, you must ensure the pleather ear-cups do not stay damp at all. One of the most disappointing things is to watch your ear-cups peal and spoil. Again, just as mentioned above, using a leather protector or leather milk will help maintain the integrity of the pleather, extending the life of the ear-cups after each cleaning.
  • Cleaning Velour Cups –  If you are one of those people that use your headphones outdoors and have velour ear-cups, you are sure to have a trying time pinching the dirt off them. But that’s only if you decide to do it the hard way.
  • Pinching small particles of dirt off with your finger often encourages an increase in the amount of hairy-filaments on the velour ear-cup surface. This means that you’re simply giving way to more dirt and in the process making your problem worse. Using a lint roller will ensure that you take away all foreign depositions from the surface of your ear-cup without spoiling its texture. If you can’t seem to find yourself a lint roller, you can use regular sticky-tape. Try not to use duct tape or one that has too much of adhesive, as you may find some residue stuck onto your velour ear-cups.
  • After you’ve gotten rid of the topical dirt, you’d want to take care of any odors that may come from absorbing sweat. For this you’ll need to get yourself a container that can fit both ear-cups, filled with warm water (about 45 degrees Celsius). Add a spoon of mild detergent to it. Now the trick is to ensure using something mild, not excessively harsh and you do not want your water to get too soapy. Try not to use anything with bleach or something that says ‘stain remover’ as you run the risk of destroying your ear-cups.
  • Once you have a mildly soapy solution prepared, just drop your velour ear-cups into the container and let them rest for about 5-10 mins. You will then need to re-soak your ear-cups in fresh but warm water to help get the soap out, gently squeezing and re-soaking the cups each time you use fresh water.
  • Once you manage to get all the soap off, be sure not to squeeze the water out of the ear-cups, this will disfigure them and they will not return to their original form. Instead, fetch a thick bath towel that’s absorbent and pat-dry your ear-cups, moving to a drier area on the towel each time the previous is soaked. This will make sure you do not have any creases on your ear-cups and they will look as well as smell as good as new.
  • Leave the ear-cups to air dry for as long as required only resuming its use after it has completely dried off. Using ear pads with soapy residue or moist ear pads can cause rash over and around the ears.

Washing your headphone’s velour pads does not in any way contribute to a better listening experience. It is however, instrumental that you maintain and clean your headphones every once in a while in trying to keep it in mint condition just like you would your laptop or your smartphone.

Ashlyn is a young communications professional with disciplined training and apt exposure. He has been a voice for a number of media houses in the country and overseas. Travel, Technology, Consumer, Real Estate and Healthcare have been his main areas of practice using conventional messaging with effective digital strategies.

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