I bought second-hand headphones and my problem is that they smell bad.

Second-hand headphones that smell bad

The smell is a bit like a tshirt you would wear for a few days without washing it and it comes from the ear cushions. I suppose it's sweat from the previous owner. Those cushions are made from a leather-like material, I'm not sure whether this is real leather or not.

The day I bought them, the smell was strong enough for me to feel it when driving the car with the headphones on the passenger seat. Now I can still feel it a little with the device on my ears.

What I tried:

  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar

Both techniques could reduce the smell significantly but it's still there.

Of course I could completely replace the ear cushions but if they can just be cleaned that would be better.

  • 1
    Hi Mathieu, Welcome to Lifehacks. Did you try step #4. Rinse and repeat? I think your instincts are good and your proof of concept was sound. (sound - chuckle, chuckle.) Good luck.
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 17:54
  • 1
    Are the shrouds removable? If so, you could just let the parts ventilate where the air is moving freely, for a few days, and you could also wash them more thoroughly first. Clean the earphones underneath the shrouds gently with isopropyl alcohol too, on a swab. Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 18:35
  • 1
    Thanks @Stan for the amazing pun! I tried using vinegar a second time, it helped but then it smells like vinegar... I used a baby wipe to remove the vinegar, it helped again.
    – Mathieu
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 9:54
  • 1
    @WeatherVane I suppose the shrouds are removable because I can buy replacements, but I think new cushions come with installation instructions because I don't know how to remove them. I don't want to break anything.
    – Mathieu
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


Baking soda can kill bacteria and remove smells as well. It's a well-known hack to remove odors from smelly carpets, shoes, fridges and many more.

In your case, I would moisten the baking soda with cold water, one drop at a time, until you can rub in onto the headphone. Rub it into all the surfaces, not just the ear cushions. Let it sit and dry for an hout or so, then brush the rest off.

  • Thank you, I will try it before accepting your answer
    – Mathieu
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 9:53
  • Hi, I tried to wash the headset with baking soda and it worked! So I accepted the answer. Unfortunately, the smell comes back after a few days.
    – Mathieu
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 7:36

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