Headphones can be magnets for everything from lint, to dust to ear wax. It's not only gross, but could be the reason your headphones sound slightly muffled or on the quieter side. But a once-over clean every few weeks can be a fairly simple fix.

First, be sure to unplug or turn off the headphones before you begin cleaning them. You’ll want to have a paper clip or toothpick and cotton swabs on hand for cleaning earphones. You can also use those same tools to get in the nooks and crannies of larger home/studio style headphones that fit on or over your ears. A soft, clean toothbrush will also come in handy.

“If your headphones have removable tips, you want to take them off and clean them separately. That’s where a toothpick comes in handy. You just want to gently use it to pull out any gunk,” advised Thomas Germain, Consumer Reports tech editor.

But don’t stick toothpicks inside the inner workings of your headphones. It’s delicate in there and can be easy to damage.

If your headphones have a mesh screen covering the drovers, that can be a hot spot for wax. Use a toothbrush to gently clean that off.

Apple recommends using dry cotton swabs to clean mesh screens. But again, just be really gentle.

“For larger, over-ear headphones, if the ear pads are removable you want to go ahead and take those off and you can clean these separately. For these screens, you want to use your toothbrush again. And just brush gently across, dont push in because the drivers here can be delicate and you don’t want to damage those,” said Germain.

For the outside, you can use alcohol-free unscented baby wipes or a towel dampened with warm water and a drop or two of soap or mild detergent. And have a second towel available for drying things off when you’re done. Use a cloth that won’t leave behind stray fibers or dust.

There are certain things you shouldn’t use on headphones because the material will dissolve. Be careful using alcohol; it might destroy any part made of foam. But it’s fine for plastic, rubber, or silicone. You’ll want to use it only occasionally, and carefully dry off headphones. Letting them air-dry can lead to damage.

The Bose company website recommends hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax. Look for a solution of no more than three per cent. Apply it with a cotton swab, and merely dampen the surface. Wipe the solution off quickly and carefully when you’re done. Even at that low concentration, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes cause bleaching and discolouration.

Except for a handful of models marketed specifically for swimming, headphones should never be submerged in water. Even water-resistant models shouldn’t get more than slightly damp.

No matter what you use on headphones, towel them off, making sure they are completely dry before using them. Cleaning your headphones once in a while will keep them sounding great and help them last longer.