Ask LH: How Can I Clean My Over-Ear Headphones?

Dear Lifehacker, I own a pair of over-ear headphones (Corsair Vengeance 1500, to be precise), and they're getting rather grubby. The actual ear-covers are made out of a carpet-like material. What can I do to remove dust, sweat and grime from them without damaging the headphones in any way? Thanks, Filthy Listener

Dear FL,

Gross, dude. But seriously, your best bet is to apply the same cleaning principles you would to delicates like silk or lace: this means using a gentle cleaner (e.g. -- soap mixed with warm water) and carefully wiping the affected areas with a cloth.

The trick is to only use a small amount of cleaner -- too much soap could leave a residue behind, while too much water could seep into the internal cavities. As long as you're careful, the components should be fine.

An alternative solution we've discussed in the past is restaurant wet wipes, like the type you get at KFC. These are specifically designed to remove grease from human skin, which makes them suitably gentle on headphones. The same goes for baby wipes.

Another option is to carefully apply a few drops of hand sanitiser to the outer surface of the pads and then rub them together -- the combination of antiseptic and friction should be enough to banish all but the most stubborn stains. As an added bonus, this will also kill most bacteria.

If the stains aren't budging, you might need to get a bit more heavy-duty: try using cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol. Again, this will also get rid of germs but you'll need to be careful where you rub and use the solution sparingly. As a general rule, the less moisture you expose your gear to, the better.

If any readers have ideas of their own, let FL know in the comments section: he's all ears!

See also: How To Safely Disinfect And Clean Your Gadgets

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Its not really his fault. The microfiber on that headset attracts dust like no tomorrow. I have the exact same pair and I had the exact same problem with my Plantronics 780's before that. Its great that your ears don't tend to sweat during extended use but the trade off is the dust all over them.

    Would it be safe/recommended to use dry cleaning fluid to clean the headsets?

    You can be super environmentally unfriendly and just buy a new pair of pads:
    Can't seem to find them on ebay, but if you measure the size you can buy another brand which are similar in size.
    Alternatively, if you're worried about getting the drivers wet, take off the pads which allows you to be a bit more callous with your washing technique. Still don't go overboard, that velvet pleather falls apart pretty easy.

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