This quick post will show you how to clean in ear monitors, in ear monitor molds and how to clean earwax from earbuds quickly with just a few tools and a bit of time to take care of IEM earwax. Great for monitor engineers, FOH engineers, audiophiles and musicians!
Ensuring In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) are clean, holes unclogged and all drivers are working can save you precious troubleshooting time and gain some confidence in your mix — although not the most glamorous daily task. It’s recommended to have plenty of light and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when cleaning IEMs.
Why is it important to regularly clean and test your IEM’s?
Taking some time to clean and test your IEM’s provides many benefits including improved consistent sound quality and longer life of your IEMS. Often impacted wax can prevent full high frequency reproduction which can lead to a unnecessary boost of the high frequencies and as well as increased volume which may cause those HF drivers to prematurely fail and/or risk dangerous audio levels. The same issue can arise with mid and low frequency reproduction.
Taking the time to test the output of your IEM’s can reveal blown drivers which in turn, can result in the same condition of artificially boosting frequencies and volume to compensate. Cleaning and testing your IEM’s can provide a much longer lifespan, reliable audio and safer listening.
How to store IEMs to prevent damage and promote longevity.
IEM’s are exposed to quite a bit of moisture, heat and physical stresses. Pulling your IEM by the cable of one ear can do a number on the integrity of the connections. The moisture and heat created by our bodies and the surrounding environment may introduce issues with the sensitive electronics and drivers inside the IEM as well as outside. After a show, we often just put our “ears” in their respective, usually airtight container, right after use…probably still moist. A quick solution to keep things dryer is to use affordable, reusable Silica Desiccant Packets or handy Hearing Aid Dryer Dehumidifier.
In Ear Monitor Cleaning Kit! NEW!
I put together a handy in ear monitor cleaning kit that includes everything you need to test and maintain your in ear monitors!
My tools & steps to clean in ear monitors
How to test your in ear monitors! Use your IEM Listening Tube!
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to listen and test each IEM driver? I simply play pink noise into the IEM in question, then “probe” each hole to listen for proper function. This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with their ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to compensate not knowing the failure. Buy your simple & affordable listening tube!
Tip: The fine folks at Sensaphonics in Chicago also offer a nice molded version for their customers.
Primarily used to keep hearing aids clean, friends at JH Audio and many others recommended the JodiVac in-ear monitor vacuum. I use the consumer model which seems to work just fine yet the pro model is also a great choice. Just be sure to keep the tip clear and verify suction.
Buy your JodiVac from Sound Nerds Unite!
New! The IEM LED Cleaning Tool
IEM Cleaning Solution
Over the years I’ve experimented with a solution that is fast and easy to use to clean the outside of the mold. The tried and true Audio-Wipes seem to fit the bill. Wipe down each IEM before attempting to clean out any impacted holes.
IEM Cleaning Tool
This tool, often included with your IEM’s, has a small loop and a brush. I dip the loop in the cleaning solution and clean out the holes. The brush is good for hard to reach places. I’ll then use the Jodi-Vac to suck out the remaining wax.
Silica Packets or dehumidifier for IEMs
After the show, try to let your IEM’s air out a bit before putting them back in a case. I tend to throw a Silica Gel Packet (Desiccant) in the case. This helps combat moisture. Quick and easy. (Tip: Grab the “Indicating Packs” if you would like to keep an eye on when the pack no longer is absorbing moisture.)
Another tool is a Hearing Aid Dryer Dehumidifier which is also handy to help with wax removal.
Flashlight to see the wax
This process is best done in the daylight but the take away is you want to have plenty of light to see any other issues BELOW the hole opening. IEM’s come in many different colors— some easier than others to see the “tubes” within the IEM.
I hope sharing my workflow is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have some other tips for cleaning IEM’s.
Time needed: 10 minutes
Step-by-Step Guide: Cleaning Your IEMs for Better Sound Quality
- Clean the shell of the IEM
Clean the outside of ear bud using a alchohol-free cleaner such as the handy Audio-Wipes.
- Use the IEM cleaning tool
Use a simple IEM cleaning tool to remove some of the outer wax from the holes. I dip this tool/loop in a bit of the cleaning solution to loosen up the hard wax. I’ve always wanted to combine a flashlight with the traditional wax loop tool. I developed a simple product to help see the in ear monitor ports much easier!
Affordable and simple! You can now order your own LED Cleaning Tool!
- Use Jodi-Vac to clear deeper wax in IEM
Use an in ear vacuum like the Jodi Consumer Hearing Aid Vacuum Cleaner. Be careful to not insert the probe too far into the holes. You don’t want to push the wax deeper. Take your time here.
- Test the In Ear Monitor using a IEM Listening Tube
This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with their ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to compensate not knowing the failure. Buy your simple & affordable listening tube!
Other resources for how to clean your in-ear monitors (IEM’s):
Need some help choosing the IEM model that works best for you? InEarGear.com is a great place to start!
Futuresonics — A pioneer in the in-ear monitor development!
Editors Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and I try to update as often as possible for accuracy and helpfulness.
About The Author (me!)
Hi! My name is Nicholas Radina. I’m a musician, freelance sound engineer, educator, and author proudly from Cincinnati, OH.
My 25+ year career has taken me on wonderful journeys with high-level acts, large-scale festivals, Fortune 500 corporate events, broadcast sporting events, and theater. As well as the occasional dip in large bodies of water.
You can find me stage-left as monitor engineer for the band, O.A.R as well as stage-right smacking cowbells at Cincinnati’s Salsa on the Square — a weekly outdoor summer latin music series I co-founded in 2008.
I was recently featured in New York Magazine!
I chat about my touring career on this podcast.
I make handy tools for my live sound friends, too!
I eat plants and love animals.
Learn more about me:
Reach out any time!