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I wash my ears regularly, I swear...
January 7, 2008 11:59 AM   Subscribe

How do I wash / clean foam earplugs (specifically, these ones) without completely ruining them?

I have a hearing "problem" in my right ear (see here). Thanks to it, I've been carrying foam earplugs for years (these kind, not the ones above). I usually cut them about in half and only use the rounded end in my problem ear. When they get too grimy from use, I just toss them, because they are cheap.

The ones I linked to in the headline, however, are not cheap ($25 / 10 pair). And for some reason they seem to be of lesser quality than your average foam earplugs. These ones are sleeves for my Shure E4C headphones, and as I use them frequently, it seems I have to replace these more often than once / month, which seems rather fast to me. I'd like to be able to clean them somehow, but to date, scraping them off with my fingernail to get an extra couple wears out of them seems the only way to go.

As I know from years of finding "washed" earplugs that I left in my jean pockets when they went through the laundry, earplugs absorb all the liquid and then lose their pliable shape and are basically useless when you try to wash them with soap / water.

I realize this one is a stretch, but if anyone has any other ideas, I'd love to hear them...
posted by allkindsoftime to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
ear buds and alcohol?
posted by special-k at 12:01 PM on January 7, 2008


You could try using the non-foam ones that Shure offers. I use them during the winter, because those foam ones are hard to manage and almost get frozen in the cold weather. Plus, the non-foam ones claim to be washable.
posted by pete0r at 12:03 PM on January 7, 2008


Yeah the problem with the non-foam ones (rubber) is that their about 5 times as uncomfortable for me as the foam ones. I'm a prissy ear bitch, I know.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:09 PM on January 7, 2008


I used those sleeves on my Shures for a long time. I found that if I hand washed them with mild soap, and then pulled them back into their original shape (I would use my fingernails to pinch little bits of the surface to do this, and work around the circumference) they would air dry and actually regain some of the squishiness that they normally lose through regular use.

I never tried to wash a pair more than once, though, I don't think.
posted by MsElaineous at 12:27 PM on January 7, 2008


Any way you can DIY the cheaper foam earplugs to serve the same purpose?
posted by yarrow at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2008


You mentioned you've accidentally run earplugs through the washer but have you tried doing it intentionally? As a member of a clay/skeet shooting league, my SO goes through a dozen foam earplugs in a week and since I'm forever trying to reduce/reuse/recycle, I started collecting his discards (urgh) in a lingerie bag and tossing them into the wash with the whites load (which gets some bleach in addition to detergent). Then I hang the bag to air dry for a few days. The mesh bag keeps the plugs from scattering all over the washer and also buffers the abrasive effects of being tumbled about with clothing. SO reports that the laundered earplugs work as well as new ones.
posted by jamaro at 12:37 PM on January 7, 2008


I clean foam earplugs by dipping them in a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. Eats up the wax.
posted by herbaliser at 12:47 PM on January 7, 2008


If the ones you're using are pricier and of poorer quality, why not just go back to the old ones?
(I use the plastic screw type ones myself - they're washable!)
posted by platinum at 1:09 PM on January 7, 2008


I use a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a glass of water and let them soak for an hour or two. Then I hold them under cold running water for a minute or two. Finally I gently roll them over a tissue and let them air dry.

I do this every couple of weeks and each pair lasts four or five washings.
posted by MCTDavid at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2008


Scratch that - just realized you were using those with your headphone, not by themselves! What about replacing them something like this for your headphones instead?
posted by platinum at 1:13 PM on January 7, 2008


Try the lingerie bag but in the top rack of the dishwasher.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 2:19 PM on January 7, 2008


Depending on the model, your Shures should have come with a decent assortment of the non-foam sleeves, I know it took a little while for me to figure out which size and density felt good in my ears, but I can't imaging using the foam ones again.

Perhaps you could figure out a way to modify the non-foam sleeves to work?
posted by jjb at 2:29 PM on January 7, 2008


You can cut the regular earplugs (like in your third link) down to size, then put a hole in them with a heated nail, or a soldering iron if you can find the right sized tip.
This is half of a trick to make headphones that you can comfortably wear under a motorcycle helmet.
posted by gally99 at 2:33 PM on January 7, 2008


"This is half of a trick to make headphones that you can comfortably wear under a motorcycle helmet."

Not to be too OT, but please: what is the other half of this trick?
posted by Acari at 3:00 PM on January 7, 2008


Acari- the other half: Adding about a foot of flexible tubing between the earplug and the post that holds the original foam.
posted by gally99 at 3:31 PM on January 7, 2008


The black ones pete0r links to aren't the silicone ones, they're new foam ones that replace the yellow ones. They're, in my experience, easier to clean and last longer. I've been using the ones in my ears on and off since September, cleaning them with hot water and soap every once in a while.

My brother and I have tried pretty much every sleeve Shure sells. He likes the triple flanged ones, I prefer the black foam ones. Your mileage certainly varies.

Explore the intarwebs for new sleeves — ebay has 20 yellow sleeves for $23, 5 black ones for $14
posted by stereo at 6:17 PM on January 7, 2008


hydrogen peroxide and dish soap worked well on mine, but they still need replacing after awhile; they lose their resiliency
posted by caddis at 7:40 PM on January 7, 2008


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