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How to Take Care of Headphones on Workouts and Runs

BY: Editorial Staff | Apr 21, 2017

When you can't wait to hear what happens next or the bass drops in your favorite jam, workouts practically fly by. Obviously, none of that's possible without headphones. And it doesn't make a difference if you're using a new pair of studio-style over-ear headphones or some no-frills earbuds: you need to keep those things clean and safe for them to survive the hours of exercise you put them through. Take a look through some of these tips on how to take care of headphones so they continue to keep you entertained and motivated during your workouts.

During Workouts

Be careful with water.


When considering how to take care of headphones (especially waterproof headphones), it might be trickier than it seems. Despite the label, those headphones might not be completely impervious to liquid. Do your headphones have an IP rating? If so, what number is on the end? This is important in determining their actual resistance to the amount and type of water they come in contact with. For specifics, take a look at the below table. Bottom line, though: if your headphones don't have an IP rating, it's probably best not to take them on a rain-soaked jog.

0 No water protection No contact with water
1 Vertical drops of water Drizzle/light rain
2 Water hitting headphones at 15° angle or less Drizzle/light rain
3 Water spraying headphones at up to 60° Rain, sprays 
4 Splashes from all directions Rain, sprays, splashes
5 Continuous, low-pressure spray Driving rain, partial contact with household faucets 
6 High-pressure spray Driving rain, contact with household faucets 
7 Full submersion in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes Accidental submersion 
8 Full submersion beyond 1m (manufacturer will note specifics) Accidental submersion, swimming 

Mind your cables.

This goes beyond the obvious, like knotting them (we'll get to that later, though). Something as minor as threading the headphones' cable under your shirt can keep it from swinging and snagging on an object when you're running. Snagged cables mean pulled cables, which means damaged headphones. This is where headphones with a removable cable become particularly handy; if they get caught on something during your run, they'll simply disconnect without causing any damage.

After Workouts

Keep them clean!

Workout headphones need to be cleaned. You're sweaty when you use them, after all. Don't overthink it: something as simple as swabbing the headphones' housing with a baby wipe should do the trick. For smaller crevices and things like earbud gels (which you should definitely remove to clean), you might need to break out a brush or toothpick to clear away any debris. For in-ear headphones with fitted, silicone tips, check to see if those pieces are removeable. If they are, they can be taken off and washed directly in the sink with a dollop of dish soap.

Storage Tips

Use a case.

Many models come with one, but it's an especially good idea to get a case for your running headphones. The reason is one you can probably guess: if you're simply tossing your headphones into a gym bag along with shoes, clothing, a water bottle, and last week's gym socks, you're asking for them to get damaged or tangled.

Don't twist or crumple up the cables.

One mistake you'll likely see many fellow gym-goers making: tightly wrapping their headphone cable around their phone or MP3 player. It might seem like a good way to avoid the infuriating wire tangle, but all that bending and twisting around cornered edges puts undue stress on the wires' inner workings. This can result in your headphones giving crackly feedback or—worst-case scenario—not working at all.

Instead of going with the phone wrap, use a binder clip to store your earbuds. Just place the ear tips inside the clip, then wind the wires around the prongs, being careful not to do it too tightly. Slip the jack through the prongs to anchor it. This not only helps protect your headphones, but it'll also save you from untangling giant knots of cable.