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Disposable Headphones vs. Regular Cleaning and Disinfecting—Which is More Beneficial?


Headphones come in a variety of options, including disposable models. While disposable headphones may not seem like a viable option, they actually offer a plethora of benefits that make them the prime option for many looking to use headphones for daily use. Read on to learn more about why more people need to take a second look at disposable headphones for all their listening needs.


Disposable headphones were created for convenience. They’re (usually) individually packed and then thrown in the recycling bin after several uses. Users receive great sound quality, and there’s no risk of contamination from others handling or using the headphones.

Traditional over-the-ear and on-the-ear headphones require thorough disinfection using soapy water to gently remove any debris, then clean the set via a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol, insert a Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol into small folds and the ear holes and clean the set a final time with rubbing alcohol on a cloth for a second time. Disinfecting wipes can be used in a similar fashion, but not just any disinfecting wipes — EPA-registered, human-safe disinfecting wipes without toxins must be purchased. 

In-ear headphones can become covered in germs since they’re inserted directly into the ear canal. Just like over-the-ear or on-ear headphones, to properly clean earbuds, they must be cleaned with disinfecting wipes or soapy water and rubbing alcohol. However, users should also utilize a toothpick to remove ear wax and grime from the listening device. Finally, just like over-the-ear or on-the-ear headphones, earbuds need a quick brush over with rubbing alcohol.

Thoroughly cleaning a pair of non-disposable headphones can take upwards of ten minutes. If utilized in a classroom setting, over a fifth of a class period can potentially be dedicated to cleaning school headphones. Some instructors may wish to provide the same pair of headphones for one student; however, these headphones still need weekly cleaning, at a minimum. 


In a classroom setting, headphones are simply passed out and thrown away after several uses. There’s no worrying about cross-contamination or pairing students with their assigned headphones; instead, students receive a new pair for each class period or have an assigned pair they keep in a bag for several weeks per pair. Once they’re dirty or if they break, a new set is given to a student.

On-ear, over-ear, or in-ear headphones require instructors to keep each pair in a specialized area to hand out to students, or students need to provide their own set (think of how many times students forget to bring something to class) and must be regularly cleaned.


Disposable headphones are surprisingly affordable, with many options costing less than a dollar a pair. Non-disposable headphones cost more, must be regularly cleaned, and can be expensive to replace if broken. Overall, both disposable and non-disposable headphones usually cost about the same; however, disposable headphones come with the promise of safety and a germ-free learning environment.

Disposable headphones are an excellent addition to any classroom due to the convenience and ease of use in addition to a low price point. Providing students and teachers with peace of mind in regards to sanitization and safety, disposable headphones are perfect for most classrooms.