• Cleaning: 5 – 10 Minutes
  • Drying: Overnight
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Low

Silicone and foam earplugs are a type of ear protection equipment that is used to block out loud sounds and prevent water from getting into your ears. They’re often used when operating loud machinery, wanting to catch some uninterrupted sleep, and for many other purposes.

Damp and dirty earplugs can create an environment for bacteria, fungus, and mold to thrive, which can lead to ear infections. Therefore, it’s imperative that you clean your earplugs regularly and discard them as recommended by the manufacturer.

The good news is that earplugs can be cleaned easily! It is a simple task of soaking them in a cleaning solution, gently scrubbing the contaminants, and allowing them to dry properly before storing them.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of cleaning your earplugs quickly and effectively. We will also discuss some best practices that you can employ and also address some commonly asked questions.

Items Needed:

  • A small bowl
  • Warm water
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Cloth or a small soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Clean paper towel

1. Prepare a Mild Cleaning Solution

Before you start the cleaning process, you’ll need to prepare a small bowl of cleaning solution. Fill about ⅔ of the bowl with warm water and add about 8 to 10 drops of mild soap or dishwashing detergent to it.

create a cleaning solution for your earplugs

Then, stir the water well using your hands or a spoon so that suds form in the water. If the earplug manufacturer has provided you with information on the type of cleaning solutions you should wash the earplugs with, you should use only those. 

Make sure you do not use harsh cleaning chemicals on foam earplugs since they may be difficult to rinse out completely and may cause ear irritation over prolonged use. Using harsh detergents or cleaners can also damage the earplug’s material, make them less effective, and shorten their life span.

It’s also important to note that you should not use any solvent or alcohol-based cleaners on your earplugs, as they can potentially erode the material, rendering them ineffective in blocking out sound.

2. Soak the Earplugs in the Solution

Once your cleaning solution is ready, place your earplugs in the bowl of water. Allow them to soak in the solution for about 5 to 10 minutes. This will loosen the dirt and debris from the earplugs.

soak your earplugs

Some earplugs may float on top of the water. If this is the case, gently hold down the earplugs in the water for a few minutes or until they remain immersed. Take note that you do not need to squeeze your earplugs when submerged in the cleaning solution.

3. Gently Scrub Them 

When your foam earplugs have been submerged in soapy water for long enough, you can start scrubbing them. Using your fingers, apply mild pressure to rub away any dirt and debris accumulated on the earplugs.

gently scrub earplugs

By using your fingers to clean the earplugs, you are able to gauge whether all the dirt on the surface has been removed. Alternatively, you can use a cloth or a small soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub the earplugs clean.

This option can more effectively deep clean your foam earplugs as the fine bristles of the toothbrush can access areas in the foam that your fingers cannot.

Whether you are using the former, latter, or both methods in combination for cleaning your earplugs, avoid exerting too much force to ensure they remain undamaged. As your earplugs are made from either silicone or foam, they can easily scratch, deform, or break apart if scrubbed aggressively.

4. Rinse Off Your Earplugs 

Once your foam or silicone earplugs have been cleaned, you should rinse them with cold water. Make sure to rinse them for at least a minute, particularly the foam ones, to ensure that all soap has been washed away.

rise foam earplugs

Make sure that the water you use for cleaning or rinsing the earplugs is not too hot (whenever possible use cold water instead), as the heat can degrade silicone and foam over time.

5. Let Your Earplugs Dry Naturally

Lastly, before you store your earplugs, you need to make sure they are completely dry. Otherwise, moisture retained in your earplugs may promote bacteria or mold growth.

To dry your earplugs, take a clean, dry paper towel and gently dab the excess water from the earplugs. Then place the earplugs on a clean and dry towel in a well-ventilated room to allow them to dry naturally.

let earplugs dry

Silicone earplugs may be completely dry within an hour; however, it can take longer for foam earplugs due to their porosity. It is a good idea to leave your foam earplugs overnight to make sure they are completely dry.

You can easily check if your foam earplugs are completely dry by rolling or squeezing them. If they aren’t dry, they won’t stay compressed. Lastly, once your earplugs are dry, make sure to store them in a safe, clean, and dry place.

Important Note: Do not use a direct heat source like a hot blow dryer or direct sunlight to dry your foam or silicone earplugs, as that can deform or damage the material. They may not block out sound effectively anymore. 

Best Practices When Cleaning Your Earplugs 

If you use your earplugs regularly, you should wash them after a few days or whenever they become visibly dirty. If you use your earplugs infrequently, it is a good practice to wash them after every use to prevent bacteria from forming around the earplugs when they are stored in the case.

It’s also important to mention that you should always use your earplugs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As foam and silicone types of earplugs have a shelf life, it’s important to discard them when required.

Let us take a look at some best practices when it comes to cleaning and maintaining foam and silicone earplugs.

  • Be Gentle – Both silicone and foam earplugs are made of delicate materials and can easily become damaged if too much force is applied. If you scrub your silicone earplugs with a hard-bristled brush, they can leave scratches on their surface. On the other hand, foam earplugs may start to crumble due to aggressive scrubbing. Hence, it is important that you always use gentle pressure when cleaning your earplugs.
  • Clean Them Regularly – It is important for you to always sanitize and disinfect your earplugs before you put them in. Foam earplugs are particularly prone to bacterial growth since they are porous. That is why they should only be used for a limited period of time. Some manufacturers recommend that you should throw out and replace your foam earplugs after a few uses.
  • Avoid Using Harsh Cleaning Agents – We recommend you only use mild cleaning products to wash your earplugs. Using harsh chemicals and cleaning agents can degrade the earplug quality, make them inefficient, and shorten their shelf life. In addition, using harsh cleaning agents on foam earplugs can also cause ear infections or irritation.
  • Replace After Life Span – Even if you clean your earplugs regularly, keep in mind that they have a very short life span and will eventually need to be replaced. Replace your earplugs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you will need to replace your earplugs once they become stained or lose their stickiness, reducing their efficiency. Foam earplugs will last you for 5 to 10 days, while silicone earplugs may last you for up to two to four weeks.
  • Store Them Properly – If you leave your earplugs lying around, they may become recontaminated or damaged. Once your plugs are completely dry or not in use, store them in a case. If you do not have a case, you can use a small plastic box or resealable bag to store them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years, we have received a number of questions about the care and maintenance of earplugs from our readers. We have decided to list down some of the most commonly asked questions here and address them accordingly.

Can I Use a Hair Dryer to Dry My Earplugs?

It is crucial to avoid drying your earplugs with a hair dryer. Although silicone and foam can withstand a certain amount of heat, direct heat sources can deform their shape. This will prevent them from molding to your ear properly and blocking out sound.

If you want to dry your earplugs quickly, you can use the “cool” setting on your hair dryer. However, the best practice is to allow the earplugs to dry naturally.

Can I Clean Them Using an All-Purpose Cleaner?

Household cleaning agents like all-purpose cleaners contain harsh chemicals and ingredients that not only damage the material of the earplugs but can irritate or inflame your ear as well. We recommend that you use a mild detergent, preferably one made with natural ingredients, to prevent damage to the product and to your health.

Is It Difficult to Clean Earplugs?

Cleaning your earplugs is a simple and straightforward process. Everything you need to clean your earplugs is readily available in your home, so you don’t have to make a run to the store.

If you are washing banded earplugs, you can just detach the ear pods that come in contact with your ear and clean them. It will take you no more than 5 to 10 minutes to clean your foam or silicone earplugs.

However, take note that it may take several hours for them to completely dry, but it will not require any effort on your part. Simply place the earplugs in a well-ventilated area, and they will dry out in a few hours.

Take note that foam earplugs might need to be kept out overnight to dry completely. Therefore, it’s best to clean them a day or two before you intend to use them.

About Sirinan

Sirinan is a self-proclaimed cleanaholic and the editor-in-chief of Cleaney. Apart from coming with up creative ways to keep her living spaces clean and tidy, she loves to read on rainy days.