Beer On Your Shoes? Grime On Your Headphones? Get Your Music Cleaning Questions Answered

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How are you getting that festival mud off of your shoes?

Here at Soundcheck, we're not exactly what you'd call "neat." Our desks -- particularly host John Schaefer's -- are often barely viewable under piles of CDs, books, papers, promotional materials, coffee cups, old birthday candles... you get the idea. But despite appearances, we do care about cleanliness -- and upon further thought, we realized that there are a lot of cleaning questions that pertain specifically to music fans. 

So, we asked cleaning expert Jolie Kerr to help us out. Kerr is the creator of the Ask A Clean Person column for websites like Deadspin and Jezebel, and author of the recent New York Times bestseller My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha.


Soundcheck host John Schaefer, buried under a pile of CDs and press releases. (Photo: Michael Katzif/WNYC)

Soundcheck host John Schaefer, buried under a pile of CDs and press releases.


Check out Jolie Kerr's spring cleaning tips for music fans, ranging from how to clean grimy headphones to how to get beer out of your leather shoes. And tell us if you have a music-related cleaning question that you need help with -- leave a comment below, or call us and leave a voicemail at 866 939 1612. 


Do you really need that 2003 Hanson concert stub? (flickr/natatwo)

1) Decide whether music memorabilia is worth keeping around. 

"If the clutter is getting in the way of your daily life, it's time to do something," Kerr told us. "A lot of clutter management is taking a step back and having an intellectual or psychic response to the stuff, and examining whether or not its making your life better or making your life worse." If you're on the fence, think about how much effort you're willing to put in for your stuff. "If you're not willing to take the time -- and by time I mean two to five minutes -- to find a place for something, then how much does it really mean to you?" Good point. 


2) If you think you can part with it -- consider donating.

"A lot of times, it makes people feel more comfortable with parting with something if they know that someone else can enjoy it," Kerr said. "Good places to donate things like CDs, records, are to small libraries -- school libraries, small public libraries -- senior centers, halfway homes. Those kinds of places will really be happy those things because the people living there will use them."


Plenty of room for more CDs here! (flickr/ekkikrist)

3) Decided it's a keeper? Buy storage with extra room. 

"If you have 100 CDs, don't buy a 100 CD rack," Kerr said. "Buy a 200 CD rack so you have space to grow into it." 


4) Don't be afraid to clean your electronic music-playing devices -- carefully.

"It is important to clean these things, because they're in our hands constantly," Kerr advised. "There's an easy and cheap way to clean them: rubbing alcohol. You can find these pre-moistened wipes -- they look like Handi Wipes, they come in a little individual packet. They're low-moisture, so you're not going to worry about flooding any of your components using them." 


Ew. (flickr/jakescreations)

5) Headphones gross? (Probably.) Give 'em a wipe down too. 

 "You can use those Isopropyl alcohol wipes on earbuds," Kerr told us. "You can also use them on fabric and foam headphones -- so really, any kind of headphone you have, you can use them on that."


Your shoes don't have to smell like beer forever. It's going to be okay. (flickr/benchilada)

6) Beer on your shoes after that last concert? 

"Beer is actually a pretty easy stain to get out, because it's so water based," said Kerr. "If you've got canvas shoes, basically throw them in the laundry machine. Just don't dry them, because the rubber soles won't like that. A little stain remover -- a Shout, a Zout, an OxiClean -- any of those spray stain removers before you launder them, you're good to go." 


7) But my shoes are leather! Or... suede! 

If you wore leather shoes to a concert or festival and they got into some trouble, there is hope. "If it's a bad stain, you can use what's called saddle soap, which is basically leather soap," Kerr told us. "You buy it at the pharmacy, same aisle where you buy shoe polish. [Use] less than a pea sized amount. Rub it in a circular motion with a soft cloth. That should take the stain right out. If there's any residual discoloration, just the same color shoe polish as the leather shoe."

When it comes to suede, Kerr would advise leaving those types of shoes at home because they're harder to clean. However, if the damage is already done, "All is not lost. You can get what's called a suede eraser -- or one of those white art erasers. Just erase that mark right off the suede -- it's amazing how well it works."