How to Disinfect Ear Plugs

Foam ear plugs
Foam ear plugs (Image: Photo by Autumn Miller)

Ear plugs are designed to protect the ear canal from noise, water, dust and foreign objects. Nondisposable ear plugs are made for extended use and are easily washable. Disposable ear plugs are intended for limited use and should be thrown away when soiled or ineffective.

Identify ear plug type. Many ear plugs are made from foam that reshapes to the ear canal when inserted. Other materials include silicone putty, soft wax, silicone rubber, and vinyl plastic. For ear plug examples, click on the link in the Resource section below.

Reconsider cleaning foam plugs, as the washing of disposable ear plugs is not recommended. However, it is possible to clean and disinfect foam ear plugs. Fill a container with warm water and a few drops of anti-bacterial soap. Soak the ear plugs for a few minutes. Use the faucet to thoroughly rinse out the soap. Squeeze each plug under the warm water stream until no soap comes out. Place in a paper towel and squeeze out excess water. Let the plugs air dry completely before next use. This cleaning process will change the effectiveness and feel of the plugs.

Use soap and water for silicone rubber and vinyl plastic ear plugs. Soak them in warm, soapy water. Use a soft tooth brush to gently scrub the hard to reach areas. Rinse clean with water. For added disinfecting power, spray the plugs with alcohol. Let them air dry completely before reuse.

Do not disinfect or wash silicone putty and soft wax ear plugs. Maintain cleanliness by washing hands thoroughly before inserting the ear plugs. Make sure your ears are clean and dry before using these moldable ear plugs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Another option for cleaning foam ear plugs is to wash them in the washing machine. Place them in a tied off nylon, a lingerie bag, or any cloth container. After the cycle is complete, remove and let air dry thoroughly.
  • Follow the manufacturer's label for proper care and cleaning of specific ear plugs.

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