Many of us are now wearing headphones more often.
We wear them for work and for leisure. We use them to create quiet spaces in populated places like on planes, trains, or in communal offices. We’re exercising in them, too.
It’s easy to take them for granted but they’re as vulnerable to damage as any other piece of wearable tech. Whether you’re wearing on-ear or over-ear, open-back, closed-back, wired or wireless, it’s important to take care of them especially if you expect them to keep working long after their warranty period has ended.
What is sweat?
Sweat. It’s not the most glamourous of subjects but it’s important. Sweating helps regulate the body’s temperature. We may see it as being inconvenient or embarrassing, but it’s a vital reaction and without it we’d be in real trouble.
Sweat is made up from water, ammonia, urea, salts and sugar. When we start heating up our body releases sweat onto the skin. It's this process of evaporation that cools the skin rather than the moisture itself.
Can sweat break my headphones?
Why are headphones vulnerable to sweat?
Most headphone earpads are made from plastic leather. Some are made from leather and others from velour, but most commonly it’s pleather.
Plastic leather is vulnerable to sweat damage.
A little sweat every so often is unlikely to cause too many problems for the average wearer but excess moisture built up over time can and will. Sweat then sits on the earpad. If you’re not being super-diligent and wiping it off, then sweat will seep into the cushion. The more this happens the more quickly damage can appear.
Over time this leads to cracking and flaking. It can make even a premium pair of headphones look cheap and nasty. It can be embarrassing, too, especially once the covers begin smelling badly.
Some headphones allow users to replace the cushions. This isn’t always ideal (especially when money has already been spent on the headphones in the first place), but it’s more preferable than having to replace them.
Cheaper headphone brands sometimes don’t have the option of replacement so sweat damage can become expensive as well as annoying.
Exercising in headphones makes this especially difficult. After all, we expect to sweat when we exercise. We want to sweat. If our body temperature and heartrate is up, then it means we’re doing something right.
Exercising with headphones regularly can speed up sweat damage as more moisture is seeping into the cushions more regularly. The easiest thing to do then is to stop wearing headphones during a workout. But for some people music when exercising is a must. Not everyone can do it without a playlist or soundtrack. Equally, not everyone likes or wants to switch to in-earphones.
This isn’t only a problem for people who are exercising. Gamers wear headphones for many hours at a time and often regularly. This can lead to sweat damage too. Open-backed headphones are popular with gamers because they create a more realistic soundstage. They also have a better airflow. Closed-back headphones (the type preferred by people in nosier environments) can make the face and ears warmer and may be more susceptible to sweat damage.
How do I stop sweat breaking my headphones?
There are two main things to do to help reduce the likelihood of sweat breaking your headphones.
One of the easiest things to do is to wipe the cushions down with a soft dry cloth after you’ve used them. This helps reduce excess moisture and will stop the surface sweat from seeping into the material. You may also like to add a small amount of gentle soap if you’ve been sweating heavily.
We’d recommend adding moisture resistant headphone covers to the earpads. This is a more proactive approach rather. Headphone covers prevent the moisture from getting onto the earpad and then getting inside it. The sweat-wicking fabric moves the moisture to the surface where it can be evaporated away. This keeps your headphone cushions fresher and drier for longer. It also helps prevent makeup stains from rubbing against the cushion.
Sweat resistant headphone covers allow you to personalise your headphones. There’s a ton of designs and colours. They’re easy to add and remove. And they’re machine-washable.
Open-backed headphones allow more air to circulate. Next time you’re buying a pair of headphones it might be worth exploring other options beyond closed-back. Open-back can also be safer when exercising outdoors as it allows ambient street noise to pass through. This won’t be ideal for people looking to exercise with some degree of noise-cancellation.
Switching to earbuds for exercise will help reduce sweat damage in your headphones but that’s hardly ideal.
You can buy sweat-resistant headphones. We looked at Under Armor’s partnership with the Rock a few years ago but whilst the headphones looked good, the sound quality wasn’t up to everyone's standards. It’s far better to have headphones that you love and to then adapt them (or your behaviour) in order to keep them free from damage.
Can Sweat Break My Headphones?
Sweat can damage headphones.
A little bit of moisture probably won’t cause you much trouble but consistent moisture exposure can. The more expensive the headphones are, the more we should be motivated to keep them in good working order. Sweat damage isn’t exclusive to cheaper brands. Beats, Bose, Sennheiser, Sony...are all vulnerable especially if you’re exercising or gaming heavily in them. Being aware that this can happen (and finding ways to help combat it) is key in ensuring your headphones will last as long as they can.
Don’t forget to visit the GymHugz headphone cover store. Sign up to the newsletter, too, for an exclusive discount on your order.