How to Fix Earbuds That Have Lost Their Rubber

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About: I am an artist and clothing designer with a passion for helping others bring their own creative dreams to life.

I happen to love the earbuds that came with my iPod. When the rubberized part came off of one, then the other, I tried pair after pair of replacements only to find myself wishing I had my old earbuds back. My music just didn't sound the same without them. I even wore them with just the hard plastic against my ears for a while, but they wouldn't stay put and were very uncomfortable.

So I set out to fix my earbuds (and even make them a little more stylish!) with just a bottle of fabric paint. The paint is very soft and comfortable, with just the right amount of grip to keep the earbuds where I want them. It's super easy and inexpensive, and the paint comes in so many different colors that you're sure to find something that suits you.

Step 1: Clean the Earbuds

Remove all traces of the old ring of rubbery material, and wipe the earbuds well with rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Apply Fabric Paint

Choose a bottle of dimensional fabric paint (available at craft stores) in a color that makes you happy. I've chosen a metallic silver, because... sparkles. You do want to make sure that you choose a brand that is thick and not runny, or else the paint will slide around before it's dry and not end up where you want it.

Shake the paint towards the tip of the bottle, then remove the cap and start squeezing a ring of paint onto the earbud where the old rubber used to be.

The paint will be thicker and duller when it is wet, so make the ring of paint a little thicker than you think it should be. It will shrink as it dries.

If you make a mistake and get paint where you didn't want it, just let the paint dry and you'll be able to peel it off. It's rubbery and stretchy and it doesn't come off very easily at first, but once you get it started, it will come off cleanly. In the third picture here, I'm peeling off the paint I had on my earbuds for 2 1/2 years. (I did that so I could show you guys how I painted them in the first pace!)

Step 3: Hang to Dry

Extend the earbuds over the edge of a table or an open drawer, and clip or weight the other end of the cords to make sure they don't fall.

Step 4: Paint the Collars (optional)

If the little rubber collar (where the wire goes in to the earbud) is in bad shape, you can replace that, too.

Cut off the old rubber with a pair of scissors (make sure you don't cut the cord!) and clean the area with rubbing alcohol. Paint the bottom of the earbud, and extend the paint down the cord a bit.

Hang to dry.

Step 5: Rock It!

I love the way they look! I had actually originally painted these two and a half years ago. I had painted only the rings because the collars were still in good shape at the time. Then recently the original rubber collars started to crack, so I thought I'd re-paint the rings so I could show you guys how it was done.The brand of paint I used has been very durable and comfortable, and it stayed in place perfectly for 2 1/2 years with no peeling or cracking.

Have fun repairing (or just customizing) your earbuds!

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    18 Discussions

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    jldecker

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much. My attempt does not look as professional as yours but seems to do the job. Much easier on the ears now!

    1 reply
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    castresana

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, nice work. I faced this very same problem recently and I used a different approach: heat-shrink tubing. It's not as nice as yours but It's been working for me until now :)

    earbuds_20120321.jpg
    1 reply
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    SnazzyBotcastresana

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    That's so interesting! I'm actually not familiar with that product, but it looks very nice. May be a great alternative for someone who already has that on hand.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    SnazzyBotamorarun

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Lol, never pay good money to replace something if you can put glittery paint on it instead. ;)

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    Sk8ty

    3 years ago

    Doesn't the glitter scratch your ears?

    1 reply
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    SnazzyBotSk8ty

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Nope, it's totally encased in the paint and very smooth and comfortable. They do make the same kind of paint without glitter though, if you don't fancy any bling.