First, be sure to unplug or turn off the headphones before you begin cleaning them.
Next, you can use alcohol-free unscented baby wipes or a towel dampened with warm water and a drop or two of soap or mild detergent. In some cases, you may want to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Make sure to have a second towel available for drying things off when you're done. Use a cloth that won't leave behind stray fibers or dust.
Finally, you'll need a paper clip and cotton swabs. You can use those tools to get in the nooks and crannies of larger home/studio style headphones that fit on or over your ears. A soft, clean toothbrush will also come in handy.
Do's and Dont's
Except for a handful of models marketed specifically for swimming, headphones should never be submerged in water. Even water-resistant models shouldn't get more than slightly damp.
Don't apply any liquid directly to headphones. When you do wipe them down, don't let any interior parts get damp.
RELATED: Think refurbished headphones aren't for you? Wait until you find out how much you can save.
Usually you don't need anything stronger than soap and water. There are certain things you shouldn't use on headphones because the material will dissolve. Be careful using alcohol. It might destroy any part made of foam, but it's fine for plastic, rubber, or silicone. You'll want to use it only occasionally and you'll need to carefully dry off the headphones. If you're letting them air-dry, it can lead to damage.
The Bose website recommends hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax. You need a solution of no more than three percent. Apply it with a cotton swab and merely dampen the surface. Make sure you wipe the solution off quickly and carefully when you're done. Even at that low concentration, hydrogen peroxide can sometimes cause bleaching and discoloration.
No matter what you use on headphones, towel them off, making sure they are completely dry before using them.
Cleaning your headphones once in a while will keep them sounding great and help them last longer.