How to clean headphones and make them last

Man standing over sink whisking ingredients in a bowl and wearing QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

You take care of your wireless headphones carefully when they’re not in use, tucking them away so they don’t get damaged, but when did you last take the time to clean them? If the answer is never, it’s time to learn how to clean headphones — and why it’s so important.

What you need to clean headphones

To clean your Bose over-ear headphones thoroughly you’ll need the following supplies, many of which you may already have around your home:


  • Dish soap diluted in warm water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A microfiber cloth or paper towels
  • A soft-bristled toothbrush or specialty cleaning tool
  • Tweezers (optional)

How to clean headphones

Once you have your tools together, use the following steps to clean your Bose wireless headphones:


  1. Remove the earpads by gently pulling the top away from the earcup. There are 10 tabs that hold the pad in place around the inner rim, and they should release easily when pulled.
  2. Lightly dampen a clean cloth with soapy water and wring out any excess liquid. It should be a damp cloth, not wet.
  3. Work in small circular motions with the damp cloth to scrub dirt, earwax, and other buildup off the front and back of the cushions, then set them aside to air dry. You can use this same process to clean off the padded portion of the headphone headband as well.
  4. Avoid getting the screen covering the inner headphone wet, as this could damage the electronics below. If needed, wipe the screen with a dry cloth to get rid of dust.
  5. Wipe the plastic exterior with a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel to remove any dirt and grime and disinfect the surface — remember, you’re constantly handling this part so it needs to be cleaned regularly.
  6. If there’s buildup inside the charging port or around the buttons on your headphones, use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away the residue. Tweezers can also be useful for pulling out small pieces of hair or lint, but be careful not to shove the tweezers inside the headphones.
  7. Let the earpads air dry completely before reassembling your headphones.


How to replace Bose ear cushions

Close up of man adjusting volume on QuietComfort Headphones

With proper care, the ear cushions on your headphones should last for several years, but they will eventually wear down over time if used frequently. To ensure the best acoustic seal and optimal comfort, you may need to replace them with a new ear cushion kit.

Here’s how to replace your ear cushions at home:


  1. Remove the old ear cushions by pulling them away from the earcups.
  2. Ear cushion kits include new scrims — the inner covering that protects the electronics — so you’ll need to remove the old ones. To do so, grab the top edge and gently peel it away from the headphone.
  3. Install the new scrims first. Identify the one marked with an R, then remove the paper backing from its tape strips. Line up the scrim inside the right earcup (which has the power switch on the back), then gently press down on the tape strips to secure it in place. Be careful not to press down in the center of the headphone, which could damage the electronics.
  4. Repeat the same process with the scrim labeled L, installing it in the left earcup.
  5. Once the scrims are in place, you can install the new ear cushions. Line up the top of the cushion with the earcup and press the edge of the mounting flange until it snaps into place under a tab.
  6. There are a total of 10 tabs around the edges of each earcup, and you’ll need to insert each one by pressing around the edges of the mounting flange. For optimal performance, especially on noise cancelling headphones, it’s essential that all 10 tabs are locked in — you will hear when the cushion fully snaps into place.
  7. Press down around the entire edge of the cushion for 30 seconds to secure it to the earcup.
  8. Repeat steps five through seven on the other cushion for a full replacement.


Why it’s important to clean your headphones

Earwax and dirt build up easily on the outside of wireless earbuds, so it’s easier to spot. Over-ear headphones, on the other hand, may not look quite as dirty, since they have lots of nooks and crannies for dirt to hide in. Studies have found that bacteria thrive inside headphones thanks to the dark, warm environment. From a health standpoint, it’s a good idea to wipe down your headphones on a regular basis to kill off bacteria and viruses that may be on the surfaces.

If you use your headphones while working out, it’s even more important to clean the ear cushions often. Sweat can make its way into the inner foam of the cushions, leading to an unpleasant odor and even discoloration. To save yourself from having to replace the cushions often, wipe down your headphones at least once a week, especially after working out.

Make your headphones last

Bose QuietComfort Headphones folded in their carrying case

Your Bose headphones will last for years if cared for properly and cleaning them regularly is just one way to extend their life span. Headphone accessories like cases and new ear cushions can also help protect your investment. Or if you’ve been wondering “why do my headphones keeping cutting out?” A good cleaning and factory reset may solve the problem. If you’re experiencing issues, check out Bose Support to learn how to troubleshoot your headphones further.

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