Beautiful woman wondering if her headphones will work after being washed

Will Headphones Work After Being Washed?

Have you ever washed something that shouldn’t be washed? It’s easy to forget important items in your pockets and accidentally throw it in the washing machine. Many people have been here.

While some electronic items won’t work after being submerged in water, that’s probably not the case for your headphones. In fact, the chances are VERY high that your headphones or earbuds will work after a cycle in the washer. While they may smell like clean linen, don’t fret, there are things you can do to save them. The main thing is letting them dry out completely before attempting to use them.

Know the IPX Rating of Your Headphones

An IPX rating describes a device’s protection against water submersion. In other words, it describes the level of water-resistance or how waterproof a device is. IPX ratings go from number 0 to number 8. In this rating system 0 means the device has no protection, and 8 means it’s submersible in water depths up to 9ft or 3m, or fully waterproof.

Most earbuds feature speakers that are piezoelectrical type rather than paper-cone. If your earbuds are made from biocellulose or paper material, the driver may become warped in the same way that cardboard changes shape after getting wet. It’s worth noting that many units made like this are sealed pretty well, but if they’re not, water may linger inside even after they are dry.

Also, keep in mind that while wireless earbuds that are water-resistant can resist certain amounts of penetration, they only do so to a certain degree. So, they’re not completely water-resistant under all circumstances.

Technically speaking, wireless earbuds labeled as waterproof should not be penetrated by water if they are submerged regardless of how long they stay there. However, it’s important to understand that even when marked as waterproof, it doesn’t mean your wireless Bluetooth headphones can withstand water forever.

There’s a system used in headphone devices called IP (Internal Protection or Ingress Protection) that rates the water-resistance of devices. This system tells you just how waterproof a device really is. The IP ratings have a range of IP54 to IP69K. The first digit signifies the resistance of devices to solid particles such as dust, while the second digit signifies the level of resistance to a liquid.

When using this system, the best protection against water is offered by headphones that have IP67, IP68 or IP69K ratings. Each of these ratings ensures your earbuds are totally protected from dust ingression and protected from water entry when submerged between 15 cm and 1 meter of water depth. These ratings also mean that your headphones are protected against long-term submersion up to specified pressures.

Now that we’ve discussed the differences between waterproof and water-resistant, you should ask yourself if your headphones are actually waterproof. If so, what are the ratings assigned to your device? The higher your device’s IP rating, the greater the chance your earbuds will survive when subjected to any form of water.

Let’s say you accidentally drop your headphones in water; there are some things to consider regarding the circumstances. If you are using your wireless earbuds and drop them in boiling water, there is a good chance your device may be ruined. The fact is earbuds operate using electric circuits. Hence, if water touches these circuits, they can get damaged.

Furthermore, the headphones may not function as they did before. This can happen when you don’t dry them well enough or try using them too soon after being washed or subjected to water in general. You may notice the sound resembles an echo, or they begin to skip.

There are many ways your headphones can get wet. There are even reports of people leaving them in their pockets and going for a swim in the ocean, but they still work. Keep reading for tips on what to do and what NOT to do when this happens.

What you shouldn’t do if you’ve washed your headphones

As with anything else, there are certain things you should not do if your headphones are submerged in water. The following tips will explain what you shouldn’t do and the reasoning why. If you avoid these things there is a good chance your earbuds will work just fine after they’ve dried out.

Don’t plug them in or power on for at least 72 hours

Regardless of how desperate you become to see if they work or not, DO NOT plug them in! You need to resist turning them on and connecting them to your smartphone.

This is the number one mistake people make, and it should be avoided at all costs. Many people become anxious and eager after a day or so to see if they work; however, it takes at least 3 days for all internal components to completely dry out. The main reason for this is because headphones contain electric circuits, as I mentioned before. If the device is still wet and turned on before drying, the circuits will short out, and it could potentially damage your headphones instantly.

The best thing you can do is place them somewhere you won’t see them. If they aren’t in your sight, you won’t be tempted to try them before the 72-hour period is over.

Don’t try to force them dry using a heat source

  • Don’t use a hair dryer!

These devices use extremely high temperatures that are harmful to electronic devices. This is especially true when the heat flow is applied directly to electronics.

While it seems like a good idea at first, using a hairdryer on your headphones can damage the plastic and alter the shape of the cords. In turn, this can cause significantly more damage than water alone will. So, whatever you do, don’t use a hairdryer to speed the process up. You’ll end up with headphones that have a deformed shape both inside and out.

  • Don’t place them in the microwave

While this may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, there have been people who’ve tried it. No matter how much you want to expedite the drying process, the microwave or oven is never a good idea.

Not only will doing so cause the plastic on your headphones to melt, but it could also damage the microwave or cause injuries to you. The oven will not become damaged, but once the plastic melts, the smell will radiate through your home, and you’ll be left with a mess to clean up.

  • Don’t put them on a radiator or heat vent

Using a heat vent or radiator may seem like a safer option, but again this is a heat source that is not good for the electrical components of your headphones. The high temperature can cause internal and external damage to your device. Not to mention, you may get a false sense of security from using this method. You may think that spending a few hours to a day on a heat source has dried out your headphones, but in reality, there’s no way for you to know if they’re completely dry inside or not.

Don’t put your wet headphones in the dryer

The dryer is another household appliance that uses high temperatures to dry at faster speeds. It’s also another way to cause more damage than the water may have already caused.

The heat from the dryer can melt your headphones, altering their shape and rendering them useless. The heat can also negatively affect the internal components, such as the electrical circuits.  The other thing to keep in mind is that wireless earbuds contain batteries, and batteries are dangerous when subjected to high heat. Not only can they begin to leak, but once the battery acid leaks inside the headphones, chances are they will never work again.

Don’t throw away your wet headphones just yet

While you may be losing hope, don’t give up just yet. We’ve already discussed the things you shouldn’t do if you accidentally wash your headphones or drop them in water, but there are also several things you should do. One of the most important things to remember is electronic devices these days are made better than ever. If you remain calm and take the right steps, there is hope for saving your headphones. Keep reading to learn the correct steps to take anytime your earbuds are submerged in water.

Act quickly

It’s imperative that you don’t waste any time and act quickly! Taking immediate action can greatly reduce the chances of losing your earbuds or headphones for good. Though you need to act fast, it’s important to take the right steps. The last thing you want to do is panic and attempt one of the things I discussed above. Even if it takes you a few minutes to figure out how to react, it’s better than making one wrong move. This is especially true if your headphones have any type of waterproof rating.

What you should do if you washed your headphones

Now that we’ve discussed the steps you should not take, it’s time to discuss what you should do if you wash your headphones.

Check the detergent you’ve used

Before proceeding, you will need to see what kind of detergent you used. Depending on the type and brand, it may be mild or strong. Knowing this information will allow you to take the correct steps to begin drying out your headphones.

6 easy steps to take after washing your headphones using a mild detergent

Did you check your detergent bottle and determine it was a mild variety? If so, you have the best chance of saving your headphones if you allow them to dry naturally. In fact, they may even maintain full functionality.

  1. First, you’ll want to use a soft towel to dry the headphones as thoroughly as you can.
  2. Then you need to remove the elastic/rubber/foam nozzle sleeves from the earpieces and allow them to air dry.
  3. Next, shake the headphones vigorously to remove as many water droplets from inside the headphones as possible. You’ll want to shake them until no more water comes out.
  4. After you’ve done all you can to remove excess water, it’s time to allow the headphones to air dry for at least 72 hours.
  5. While you will become impatient and want to speed the process up, don’t be tempted. Trying to expedite the drying process by using a hair dryer, clothes dryer, or any type of hot air source will further damage the device.
  6. Finally, if you want to speed the process a bit, the only safe way to do so is to place the headphones in a small container with a moisture absorbing pack inside. Such packets are those that contain silica gel and are found in many products such as shoe boxes. If you don’t have access to one of these packs, uncooked rice can also act as a moisture absorber. Hence, you can place the headphones inside a small Ziploc bag of rice.

Steps to take after washing your headphones in a strong detergent

While strong detergent works wonderfully for cleaning clothes, it can be more harmful if you washed your headphones in it. Powerful detergents can leave residual amounts behind that cause corrosion in electronic devices. If you have a good washing machine, it’s possible that it was all expelled during the rinse cycle.

The 6 steps outlined above may still work for you. So, begin by following each step described above. However, if after the 72-hour period is over and your headphones still don’t work, you can try the following things.

  • If you don’t already have deionized or distilled water, go to your local store and purchase some. Though using more water on your already wet headphones may make you uneasy, deionized water will not cause more damage, and it’s safe for use on electronics.
  • Fill a glass with the water and soak your headphones in it several times. Just remember to change the water each time you soak them. This process will help get any residual detergent and non-distilled water out of the headphones. After you’ve soaked them several times, the only water remaining inside should be distilled.
  • If you don’t have distilled water, you can try the same process described above, using 91% Isopropyl Alcohol. If you use alcohol, you won’t want to soak them. Instead, you’ll simply dip them in it for 10 or 15 seconds each time.
  • If you did not try the silica packs or uncooked rice during the first 72 hours, feel free to try it now. Both products act as desiccants and are great for absorbing excess moisture.
  • After following the steps above, it is time to allow the headphones to air dry. Be sure to place them somewhere warm, but not preheated or overly hot.

How do you repair Bluetooth earbuds after they’ve been washed?

Believe it or not, it’s very common for Bluetooth earbuds to get damaged. They are one of the most commonly washed electronic devices, as they are easy to forget in a pocket. The good news is that they are actually easy to fix.

  • The first step in repairing wet Bluetooth earbuds is to get them dry. This should be done immediately. The longer the water sits inside the device, the more permanent the damage will be.
  • To get the water out, shake the earbuds to remove as much excess water as possible.
  • The next step involves opening the device. The majority of earbuds can be taken apart without any tools by simply using a Flathead screwdriver or the like to remove the cover.
  • Then, fill a cup with distilled water and put the earbuds inside. Though this may sound dangerous, distilled water will not cause further damage because it is non-corrosive and non-conducting. While the earbuds are in the water, shake them to mix whatever remaining water is inside the device with the distilled water. Remove from the cup of water and dry them the best you can.
  • Next, either blow or use a can of compressed air to remove more water. Do so until no more water comes out.
  • Fill a clean, new cup with distilled water and allow the earbuds to soak. You’ll want to leave them in the water for several hours. This step will help dilute residual soap and salt left behind from when the headset originally got wet. Just be sure not to substitute tap water for distilled water because water from the tap contains lime scale, so it’s potentially corrosive and conductive for electronics. The main purpose of using distilled water is to remove salts and other impurities from inside the earbuds.
  • After it’s soaked for a few hours, it’s time to dry the device. As dry as you possibly can. Do so by shaking excess water and blowing into the earbuds again. To avoid getting spit inside the device, it’s suggested to use a can of compressed air. Just keep in mind that some earbuds can sustain damage from strong air streams, so don’t blow too hard. Once you’ve gotten out as much water as you can, place the device into a Ziploc bag with uncooked rice or silica get packets.
  • Ensure the bag is sealed well and place it in the sun, making sure it doesn’t get overheated. Check on the device every few hours and open the bag to allow excess moisture to escape. You should also replace the rice each time you do this. Allow it to stay in the bag for a day or two. After the device is completely dry you should be able to begin using it once again. You’ll probably need to charge the device first as the battery is probably drained due to submersion in dirty water. After the device has been on the charger for a few hours, it should be back to normal working condition. 

What if your headphones don’t work after getting wet?

So, you’ve tried everything we’ve mentioned above, and the headphones still don’t work? Or maybe they do work, but don’t function properly. What now? You basically have two options. If your earbuds are still under warranty, you can call the company and have them send a replacement pair. However, if the warranty period is over, your only option may be to buy another set of headphones.

You can also try contacting the customer care department of the manufacturer that made the Bluetooth earbuds and ask if they can help you troubleshoot. They may offer additional steps you can take to try to get your earbuds working again.

If neither of these things works and you decide to purchase a new set of wireless earbuds, there are some factors to consider before choosing your new product. First, be sure to buy a reputable brand. Doing so usually offers a higher-quality product that offers a better warranty. The other thing to remember is to purchase only earbuds that have high IP waterproof ratings. The rating of your new headphones should be IP67 or higher and please don’t just throw away your old headphones, instead, you should consider recycling them, check out this post I wrote on how to recycle your broken headphones.

How do you prevent your headphones from getting wet?

While accidents do happen, you will need to be more disciplined when it comes to your headphones. This means that you should refrain from placing them in your pocket and if you can’t stop yourself from doing so, always make sure to empty your pockets before changing clothes. You can also invest in a bag and be sure to always place your headphones inside it when you’re not using them. Regardless, it’s best to avoid putting them in random spots. The more disciplined you can make yourself with the placement of them, the less likely you will be to get them wet.

In conclusion, earbuds are a wonderful investment and handy to have. However, there’s nothing worse than forgetting them in your pocket and sending them through a cycle in the washing machine. If this has happened to you, don’t panic, and follow my steps above. The chances of being able to save your headphones are high, especially if you act quickly.


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