Foam earplugs are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU, also called memory foam). We often use foam earplugs to protect our ears from harmful loud noise, dust, water intrusion, excessive wind, and foreign bodies. This frequency of use prompts people to just throw foam earplugs away. Most foam earplugs are disposable but there are ways to clean them and make them last longer. We're here to teach you the right methods on how to clean foam earplugs. However, foam earplugs are not designed to last for a very long time, so if they get really soiled or bent out of shape, then it means it's time to replace them.
Is It Safe to Wash and Reuse Foam Earplugs?
Only a few people probably bother cleaning their foam earplugs thoroughly, but yes, there are safe methods of washing foam earplugs to make them reusable and to enable them to last longer.
Keep in mind that knowing how to clean foam earplugs properly is important because not doing it the right way will only make things worse. Harsh soaps and cleaners can ruin your foam earplugs and shorten their life span even more, so it's best to avoid using soaps or cleaners with harsh ingredients.
As we previously advised, if your foam earplugs are really dirty or contaminated or if they have lost their elasticity, it's best to get rid of them and buy a new pair.
Why Do You Need to Clean Foam Earplugs Routinely?
It is important to clean foam earplugs regularly because using them frequently makes your earplugs more susceptible to bacterial growth. You wear earplugs to protect your ears, not to expose them to harmful bacteria. You also need to watch out for earwax as it can cause your foam earplugs to become rigid — losing their original shape in the process which can put a strain on your ear canal. Worse, it can also cause severe ear pain, ear infections, and hearing loss.
Even if you don't use your earplugs as often, they should still be washed after every use to prevent bacteria from growing while they're in storage. Frequently used earplugs should be washed every few days or when they're visibly soiled. There are various methods on how to clean foam earplugs — we'll discuss each of them and the steps involved.
How to Clean Foam Earplugs
To give your foam earplugs a general and more thorough clean, you will need the following:
Steps on How to Clean Foam Earplugs
- 1Fill another small bowl or dish with warm water or enough to immerse your earplugs completely. Add a few drops of dish soap then mix with the water to distribute the soap.
- 2Soak earplugs in soapy water for a few minutes to loosen dirt. Foam earplugs are bound to float, so it will be necessary to hold them and keep them immersed underwater for a few minutes.
- 3While submerged in water, scrub earplugs with your fingers to remove build-up, grime, and dirt. You can also use an old toothbrush with soft bristles to scrub your earplugs until they're clean. Check on the earplugs once in a while to get a better look. If needed, swish the earplugs in soapy water further to remove dirt completely.
- 4When earplugs are clean, rinse them thoroughly in cold water then pat dry with a clean paper towel to remove excess water. Leave earplugs to air dry on top of a clean towel or cloth. Allow earplugs to dry thoroughly before storing.
- 5Store earplugs in their original case or in a small plastic container. Make it a habit to store your earplugs in a case or container after every cleaning so as to prevent them from getting dirty or contaminated.
How to Remove Earwax From Foam Earplugs
To remove earwax from your earplugs, you will need the following:
- 1If earwax is present, start the cleaning process by filling a small bowl or dish with hydrogen peroxide or enough to submerge the earplugs completely.
- 2Let earplugs soak in the peroxide for 2 minutes to loosen earwax from the surface.
- 3Rinse earplugs in cold water thoroughly to remove any remaining peroxide and earwax residue.
- 4Gently press earplugs in between a clean towel to dry. Using your fingers, bring earplugs back to their original shape then air dry completely before storing.
How to Disinfect Foam Earplugs
To further protect your earplugs from bacterial growth and contamination, you can also disinfect them with isopropyl alcohol. This is a good way to disinfect your earplugs, especially if you expose them to heavy sweat. To do this, get a clean spray bottle and fill with alcohol. Spritz dry earplugs lightly a few times. Place the disinfected earplugs on a clean towel and allow it to air dry. When earplugs are completely dry, store them in their original case or in a clean, plastic container.
Additional Tips on How to Clean Foam Earplugs
If you don't have a lot of spare time in your hands to give your foam earplugs a thorough clean, you can also use the washer or dishwasher to clean them.
To clean them in the dishwasher, place your earplugs in a clean and fine mesh bag (the type used for produce). Secure the bag with a rubber band before putting inside the dishwasher. Make sure to run a short cycle with warm water so as not to damage your earplugs.
To clean your earplugs in the washer, place them inside a washing bag for delicates before putting them in the machine. Run a gentle and warm water cycle (not hot) so as not to ruin your earplugs.
After washing, dry earplugs thoroughly before storing them back in their case or in a plastic container.
Ear Care and Proper Hygiene
It's not just a matter of knowing how to clean foam earplugs — everything boils down to proper ear hygiene and ear care. If possible, clean foam earplugs after every use to decrease the chance of bacterial growth which can lead to an ear infection. Be especially mindful if you used your earplugs while sweating heavily.
NEVER share your earplugs with anyone. Now, that's just plain common sense. It's hard enough to clean your own earwax off those earplugs. You don't want to be sharing skin oils and bacteria either.
Avoid using your earplugs constantly. Doing so will stop the normal process of moving ear wax from your ear canal to your outer ear. You need to let your ear canals breathe from time to time. When earwax builds up and hardens in your ear canal, it can cause a bunch of problems: ear pain and ringing, discharge, irritation, infections, and possibly even hearing loss.
Get a right-sized pair of earplugs for your ears. Wearing earplugs that are too small might make them move too far into the ear canal which can potentially damage your eardrum.
It's also important to know how to use foam earplugs correctly. To make sure that you are wearing them properly and safely, follow these important steps:
- 1With clean fingers, roll the earplug until it's narrow enough to fit into your ear. You may use both hands if necessary.
- 2Pull the top of your ear up and back to straighten the ear canal. Slide rolled-up earplug in but do not push it too far inside your ear as this may irritate the lining of your eardrum.
- 3Using your finger, hold the earplug in and count out loud to 20 or 30 while waiting for the foam earplug to expand.
- 4When the plug has snugly filled your ear, your voice will sound muffled.
If you're producing more earwax than what's normal, have your ears checked by an ear doctor. They might require professional cleaning to remove the build-up. A major build-up of earwax will exhibit the following symptoms:
After your ears have been cleaned by an ear doctor, you can try applying 6-10 drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear every month to soften and dissolve earwax. Use an eyedropper and while laying on your side, drop the peroxide in your ears. Wait for about 5-10 minutes, then stick a cotton ball in your ear and flip your head over to the other side. Remember to consult your ear doctor first before doing this routine.
By doing these methods on how to clean foam earplugs on a regular basis, you can rest assured that you are protecting your ears both in and out.
While disposing of foam earplugs is more convenient to do, it can also be very costly. By practicing good ear hygiene and proper use, care, and maintenance of your foam earplugs, you will still be able to use them for a relatively long time.
Foam earplugs will serve their purpose for as long as you use and clean them properly. Remember, if your foam earplugs are too soiled or worn out, it's best to toss them and get a new pair.
Featured Image via Flickr