In-ear monitors are an essential component of every serious stage musician’s equipment. They let you hear exactly what’s going on on the stage and how the audience responds to your performance without risking hearing loss. You should clean them regularly so you can be sure they’ll keep helping you rock your audience in the future.
Here’s how to clean an IEM nozzle:
- Prepare the tools.
- Wipe the outside with some alcohol.
- Remove the gunk with a piece of Blu Tack.
- Scrape the ear wax out from the inside with a blunt needle.
- Let them dry and return them to the case.
Read on to learn more about what you can do to ensure that your in-ear monitors are squeaky clean and prevent any loss in sound quality. Keeping them clean will also extend their life and save you some money in the long run.
1. Prepare the Tools
Luckily for you, you don’t need a set of specialized tools to clean your IEMs. You probably already have most of the necessary items at home—and if you don’t you’ll be able to get them at your nearest convenience store.
The things you need are:
- Rubbing alcohol
- A microfiber cloth (or any piece of cloth)
- A needle, preferably blunt
- A piece of Blu Tack
It’s a good idea to have these tools ready and close to you before you start cleaning your IEMs. Once that is done, you can start working.
2. Wipe the Outside With Some Alcohol
Before you get to the nozzles, it’s important to clean the outer parts of your IEMs. You need to clean all of them—otherwise, you won’t get all the benefits from doing proper maintenance to your IEMs.
For example, sweat can cause corrosion and have a negative impact on the performance of your IEMs, so you need to get rid of all traces of it.
This part of the process is very easy:
- Soak your cloth in the alcohol.
- Gently wipe the cable and the outer portions of the earpieces.
Make sure you’re being gentle. Tugging the wires and applying too much pressure on them may cause them to break. They’re the most delicate part of your in-ear monitors and you want to keep them intact.
You should also avoid using too much alcohol. The goal is simply to remove the sweat and the bacteria it brings along. Moisture can damage your monitors, so if you try to counter it with more moisture, you are likely to damage them.
Use as much as you need to remove the sweat and kill the bacteria while leaving the cable and earpieces as dry as possible.
Besides posing a risk to the internal components of your IEMs, sweat could also cause the wires to turn slightly green over time. This is a natural process called oxidation. It shouldn’t affect the sound quality, but you may still want to avoid it anyway.
3. Remove the Gunk With a Piece of Blu tack
Blu Tack may be a weird choice for cleaning, as it is typically used to stick things to walls, but it does help. Its sticky surface will quickly and easily pick up the earwax and other debris on the outer portion of your IEM nozzle.
To do this, simply press the piece of Blu Tack against the nozzle a couple of times until you see that you’ve removed all the gunk. This is particularly helpful with stubborn, sticky earwax that simply refuses to come off no matter what you might do to it.
You can see the effectiveness of Blu Tack in this Youtube video:
As always, try to be as gentle as possible. The mesh on the nozzle is often glued on and it can come off if you’re not careful enough. Your IEMs will still work without the mesh, but the inside of the nozzle is bound to get even dirtier without it, affecting their sound quality.
4. Scrape the Ear Wax Out With a Blunt Needle
There’s a chance the piece of Blu Tack will remove most of the earwax in the nozzle. However, there may be some earwax left, usually sticking to the sides of the nozzle. In that case, you may want to try using a blunt noodle.
Although it’s an effective method, do it only if it’s necessary and with the utmost care, as one rough movement could end up damaging your IEMs.
If the sound quality of your IEMs has been getting worse lately, it might be a sign that you need to clean the inside of the nozzle. A blunt needle is the best tool for this job because there’s a lower risk of damaging something in the process.
Alternatively, you could also use a sharp needle or a toothpick, but needles pose a higher risk of damage, and toothpicks are usually not thin enough to go through the mesh anyway. However, you can still use a toothpick to gently scrape off ear wax from the outer parts of the earpieces, that didn’t come off with the piece of Blu Tack.
Here’s how to clean the inside of a nozzle with a blunt needle:
- Turn the nozzle upside-down to prevent pushing the gunk deeper into the nozzle.
- Insert the needle gently into the nozzle and slowly move it around to clean it.
- Be very gentle and patient. Repeat the process a few times until the nozzle is clean.
In some cases, you’ll get a cleaning tool with your IEMs. If that’s the case, then use it instead of a needle. It was designed specifically for cleaning your IEMs’ nozzle, so there will be less risk of damaging it.
If you don’t mind spending some extra cash on your IEMs’ maintenance, then you could replace the blunt needle with a hearing aid vacuum cleaner. These devices aren’t not only much safer but will also produce better results.
The Jodi Consumer Hearing Aid Vacuum Cleaner is very simple to use and works with any pair of IEMs. It’s very compact, so you can carry it around with you.
5. Let Them Dry and Return Them to the Case
It’s very important to let the earpieces dry completely before you put them back in the case. There will always be some residual moisture from the alcohol, even if you’re very conservative when using it. You want it to evaporate completely before you put the IEMs back in the case.
This will prevent any potential damage to your IEMs. The moisture could condense in the case and cause problems. As with all electronics, you want to reduce exposure to moisture as much as possible.
How Often Should You Clean Your IEMs?
You should wipe and dry your IEMs after every use, ideally. Give them a light rub with alcohol at least once a week to prevent bacteria, dust, and ear wax from building up. Don’t do a deep clean of the nozzles too often as there’s a small risk of damaging them in the process.
Performing in front of an audience is a strenuous activity. This means that you’ll be sweating quite a lot, and the sweat will definitely trickle down onto your IEMs.
For that reason, you should clean them after every use. You don’t have to do a deep clean after every gig you do, but it is good to at least wipe them with a cloth and a little bit of alcohol. A little bit of effort will go a long way here.
If you really don’t have time to clean them after every gig, or if you forget to do it, the least you can do is leave them out to dry. Putting them back in the case immediately will not let the moisture evaporate, and this might cause problems. It is also a good idea to put a silica gel packet in the case, just to be sure.
Try to wipe them and remove the earwax at least once a week. You don’t want to allow it to build up and get inside the nozzle.
When it comes to the inside of the nozzle, don’t clean it too often. It can have a negative effect on it, so you should only clean it if absolutely necessary. However, you should clean the outside part regularly.
Use the Same Steps to Clean Your Earbuds
You can follow these tips to clean your earbuds. Even though earbuds and IEMs are not the exact same thing, they are very similar, and you can follow the same tips for their maintenance.
I would advise you to stay extra careful when cleaning your earbuds, though. Earbuds are typically cheaper than IEMs, which means that the build quality isn’t as good. This makes it much easier to break something, so you need to proceed with extra care.
It is probably best not to clean the inside of the nozzles on your earbuds unless they are sturdy enough to withstand it. If the nozzle is so clogged up that the audio quality has dropped significantly, it might be worth it to get a new pair.
How To Take Care of IEMs
Now that we’ve established how to properly clean IEMs, we should take a look at some other maintenance tips. While cleaning them regularly is a huge part of it, there are some other useful tips that will extend the lifespan of your IEMs.
Keep Them in the Case
When you are not using your IEMs, they should always be in the case and not in your pocket, backpack, or suitcase. They can easily break in such environments—the cables could get tangled up and snap in two.
The case will protect them not only from physical damage, but also from moisture, dust, and other factors which can negatively affect their performance. Plus, it looks way cooler than just keeping your IEMs in your pockets or wherever.
Read more: This Is the Proper Way To Store IEMs
Coil the Cables
To prevent the cables from becoming a tangled mess, they should always be neatly and gently coiled. The easiest way to do this is to coil them in an eight-shape, but there are many other ways of doing this. As long as it’s not too tight, your IEM cables will be safe.
Don’t Pull the Cables
You might be tempted to pull the cable whenever you want to unplug your IEMs. However, the cable is the most vulnerable part of the device, and pulling may cause it to break after a while.
Instead, you should always hold the plug when you wish to unplug your IEMs. The plug is much sturdier and will withstand being pulled. This will prevent any unnecessary stress on the cables and ensure they’ll stay in good shape.
Use Moderate Volumes
Using the IEMs at full volume is not a good idea for multiple reasons. From the perspective of their lifespan, you could end up straining them too much and causing them to break from overuse.
From the perspective of your ear health, it is just not good for you to have music at full volume blasting into your ears. You don’t want to suffer from hearing damage and potentially hinder not just your musical career, but your entire life as well.
Besides, it is unnecessary to use your IEMs at full volume. They are designed to make a seal in your ears and isolate them from any outside noise. If you find yourself having to constantly turn up the volume of your IEMs, you may want to get a new pair with better noise isolation.
As you can see, IEMs can be cleaned very easily—even the nozzles. The main takeaway is to clean them very gently, without applying pressure. The outer part of the nozzles is much easier to clean, and you should do it at least once a week.
The inside of the nozzles should be cleaned only if necessary and with great care. You should also not forget to clean the outer components of the earpieces as well as the wires.