Ear Plugs – How to Clean and Disinfect Them

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Ear plugs are useful for blocking out all the loud and annoying sounds that we do not want to listen to. We use them for a variety of other purposes such as keeping water out of our ears when swimming. But ear plugs become dirty very easily. They collect ear wax and dirt when inserted into the ear. It is important to clean your ear plugs regularly to keep them working properly.

There are primarily two types of ear plugs. There is the one made from memory foam and the other made from rubber.

How to clean ear plugs

Ideally, you should not wash foam ear plugs in liquid. This is because it will lose its ability to hold a compression and will not last long. You usually roll a foam earplug between your fingers to make them smaller so you can easily insert them into your ears. The ear plug holds the compression for a while and then expands to its original shape when it’s inside your ear, blocking out all the noise. If you wash it, the foam loses its ability to hold a compression. It springs back to its original shape immediately, making it difficult to insert it in your ears.  We’ll present a method to somehow clean memory foam ear plugs below.

For easy cleaning, get a rubber ear plug. You can wash those without worrying about damaging them, so they usually last longer than their memory foam counterparts.

How to Clean and Disinfect a Rubber Ear Plug

Required Items:

  • Mild dishwashing soap
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (undiluted)
  • A small bowl
  • Washing Machine or Dishwasher
  • Delicates laundry wash bags
  • A brand new soft bristle toothbrush
  • Rubbing Alcohol

Inspect Ear Plugs

Give your ear plugs a good inspection to see if there are any damages to them. Look for torn and heavy soiling. If the ear plugs are damaged, it is best to dispose of them and get new ones. If it is heavily soiled, it might not be worth cleaning them for the sake of the health of your ear canals. Too much dirt and ear wax can cause the ear plugs to harden and become rigid. This can then cause injury to your ear canals when you use them.

Wash Ear Plugs in Washing Machine or Dishwasher

Wash them in the washing machine. You can place the ear plugs in a delicates laundry wash bag and wash them with your clothes in a washing machine. Remove them after the rinse cycle, and air-dry them. Do not put them in the dryer.

  • You can also wash them in your dishwasher. Again, put them in a delicates laundry bag before washing them in the dishwasher.

Clean Ear Plugs by Hand-Washing Them

  • Add a few drops of dishwashing detergent to warm water in a small bowl. Agitate the mixture until soapsuds form. You can use undiluted hydrogen peroxide in place of the soap water mixture.
  • Place your ear plugs in the soap water or hydrogen peroxide and leave it to soak for about 15 to 30 minutes. Make sure the ear plugs are completed covered by the cleaning solution.
  • Remove the ear plugs and dump the old cleaning solution. Make a new soap water cleaning solution or use hydrogen peroxide.
  • Dip a soft bristle toothbrush in the solution and use it to scrub the ear plugs. Reach under the flaps to get rid of grime and wax that may be hiding underneath. If you don’t have a toothbrush, you can dip a soft cloth in the cleaning solution and use it to wipe the ear plugs clean.
  • Inspect the ear plugs to ensure that you have removed all the dirt, stains and wax from the surface. Then rinse with cold water.
  • Pat, the ear plugs with a towel, to dry them. You will still need to leave them to air-dry before using them again.

Disinfecting the Ear Plugs

It is important to disinfect your ear plugs to ensure that you are putting clean and bacteria-free ear plugs into your ears. To do this, apply rubbing alcohol to a piece of soft cloth and use it to wipe the surface of the ear plugs. The alcohol kills any bacteria and cleans the ear plugs. Make sure the plugs are soft and free of damage before using them again.

How to Clean Foam Ear Plugs

Foam ear plugs are usually made to be disposable after each use. They are not meant to be cleaned and reused. But if you still want to clean and reuse your foam ear plugs, then use the method below. We don’t recommend it because it’s not a very effective method, but at least it is better than not cleaning them at all.

  • Tape a piece of sticky tape and press it against the ear plugs. The tape helps lift dirt and wax off the surface of the plugs.
  • Take a new piece of sticky tape and rub it against the surface of the plug. Keep rubbing until the tape is no longer sticky. Change to a new piece of sticky tape and repeat this step. You would’ve removed most of the dirt and wax from the surface of the plugs after a few repetitions.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol or vinegar to a soft cloth and squeeze out excess liquid. You want the cloth to be damp but not soaked. Use the cloth to wipe the surface of the plug to clean and disinfect it. Make sure you get into any nooks and crannies.
  • You can use a dry cleaning fluid in place of the vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
  • Damp a clean, soft cloth with clean, cold water and wipe the surface of the plugs clean.
  • Air-dry the plugs completely before using them again.

The above method should reasonably clean and disinfect the plugs and also let them hold a compression. But if you plan on reusing your ear plugs, it is best to get the rubber (silicone rubber) ones.

Tips (Ear Plugs Hygiene)

  • Treat your ear canals as part of the interior of your body. This means that don’t put anything in there that you wouldn’t put in your body. Take a few precautions to prevent infections due to the use of ear plugs.
  • DO NOT share your ear plugs with anyone else. This is a quick way of transferring whatever infections the other person might have to yourself.
  • Wash reusable ear plugs after each use. You reduce your chances of developing ear infections or ear canal irritations. And your ear plugs last longer when you clean them often.
  • Having to clean your ear plugs after each use can be time-consuming. If you can, use only disposable ear plugs. A pack of 200 pairs of disposable foam ear plugs costs about $20 on amazon.com and can last almost an entire year with daily use. Why not make your ear plug use hassle-free by getting the disposable ones instead. This is a way to ensure that you are using a clean ear plug each and every time. The only downside is that it leads to more waste.
  • Use ear plugs only when you need to. Don’t keep them in your ear all day. Take them out when you don’t need them so your ear canals can breathe and resume its natural processes. There are risks with keeping them in your ear for extended periods of time.
  • Always use the correct size ear plugs for your ears.

Did the above method work for you or do you have any tips on how to clean earplugs? Please share with your fellow readers by leaving a comment below.

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