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.
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
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
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!
IEM Cleaning Solution
This concoction was recommended to me by my audiologist for flushing out ears — equal parts 91% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar. I dip a lint free rag into this and 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 Desiccant 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.
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.
How do you clean IEM? How to clean In Ear Monitors Step by Step:
- Clean the shell of the IEM
Clean the outside of ear bud using a link free cloth a safe cleaner (check with what your brand manufacturer recommends). I use a 1:1 solution of 91% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar.
- 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!
Editors Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and I try to update as often as possible for accuracy and helpfulness.