Hygiene Practices with Classroom Headphones

You’ve seen children listening to their favorite song or playlist, with each sharing half of an earbud. That’s what they do. Children don’t often stop to think that sharing is not always caring. In fact, teachers have to be the ones to ensure that the earbuds which are shared during instruction, independent practice, testing, and at stations do not contaminate the string of listeners who come behind each other to use them. With low budgets on the district and school level, teachers already fork over a lot of money for paper, pencils and other supplies – and they often do it out of their own pockets. So, if earbuds have to be recycled during the year, a few precautions can keep the woes at a minimum. Here are a few ideas.

Sanitizing Spray

An ear infection and its fluid build-up, excess wax and such are not the type of thing you want students sharing while they learn or take tests. We all have microbes in our ears, this includes adults, but may be especially true with children. Sanitizing spray is handy, doesn’t require a lot of manipulation, and they are easy to use. They don’t take up a lot of storage space. You can even buy spray that is scented, so that when you clean the earbuds, you also release a nice fragrance in the air.

Sanitizing Wipes

There are all kinds of sanitizing wipes out there. Ones with Clorox bleach are nice and very serious about eliminating germs. With a proper swipe, and a few seconds drying time, you’ve eliminated a lot of nasty microbes. After a child uses the earbuds, you can either wipe them down thoroughly yourself, or have an assigned mature student to do it after you train them. It also helps to wash those hands after this procedure – after you properly discard of the wipes of course.

Gel Hand Sanitizer

A lot of teachers say this is their handy go-to cleaner for earbuds and other shared or often-touched items. Available in a variety of formats and fragrances, gel hand sanitizer will vanquish germs if it is of the right formula. With common core requirements in most states, this will give you one more way to ensure that children who use them can be reasonably assured that they are not picking up the last classmate’s germs.

Regular Cleanings

Regular cleanings are a must. It’s a good idea to go back over the earbuds with some type of sanitizer at the end of the day after all the children are gone. After all, children are so prone to sticking the earbuds in their ears when they are passing by, such as while lining up to leave. You might not see this, but children are mischief makers as much as they are learners. They may do it just to be doing something, especially the fidgety ones.

So, if Loren and Aiden are going to have to stick an earbud into their ear and sit at a station to take a test or to watch/listen to video or audio/video content on an important area of content, then you have to make sure you are giving them each an optimally clean learning or testing experience.


Parents, when you see sanitizers showing up on the school supply list, be sure to buy them and have your child report to school with it, along with their other supplies. Teachers use them for purposes such as described. On Back-to-School Night, make sure you ask your child’s teacher what procedure she or he has in place to make sure children don’t share germs during the constant back-to-back use of earbuds. If you have time, volunteer to help out in your child’s classroom. If the teacher hadn’t thought of a procedure, visit the classroom some day and help her or him come up with a procedure for cleaning earbuds properly. Do it early in the year before bad habits take root.

Teacher Beware

If you’re the teacher, you should have a written procedure for this. You should also teach children, and have them practice the procedure. This will spare you from a lot of confusion and earbud sharing.