(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

Learn how to keep your headphone cables sorted out with our storage and wire-wrapping tips.

You reach for your headphones only to find its cables in a hopeless mess. You wonder how in the world this has happened. It’s not like you’ve been spinning endlessly in your desk chair or intentionally being careless with them, and yet there it is – a twisted, tangled heap.

For such a small issue, twisted headphone wires can be a great source of annoyance and inconvenience – but luckily, they don’t have to be. In this article, we’ll share some tips and tricks on how to straighten out headphone wires and how to stop headphone wires from curling. Let’s get into it.

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Why Do Headphone Wires Start to Twirl?

The cable is neatly braided
The cable is neatly braided

Headphone wires curling or twisting is caused by natural everyday use. Throughout the day, we’re constantly adjusting the position or orientation of our headphones. Perhaps we’ll set them down if we have to step away from our desks, then put them back on again, and as we do this, we sometimes inadvertently turn them in the process.

Turning them anywhere between 0-360° is enough to set off the twisting effect on the wires, especially if it happens all the time.

As the twisting effect worsens from the repeated turning of the device, the wires are forced out of their natural shape and tension builds. This isn’t immediately apparent at first, so we aren’t always able to detect or fix the problem early on.

Since headphone wires are flimsy and can’t exert enough strength to revert themselves to their original position, they collapse by twisting in on themselves to relieve the tension. As a result, you’re left with a tangled, twisted mess of wires.

Why is it important to keep your wires from twirling?

Some people may be entirely unbothered by twisted headphone wires, but there are a couple of reasons why it’s essential to keep this from happening.

Firstly, if the wires are continually getting twisted and not set straight again, wear and tear can damage the plastic wire shielding to the point of exposing the copper wires inside. Secondly, constant twisting of the wires can also lead to microfractures and bends in those same copper wires, affecting sound quality, or ultimately rendering your headphones defective.

Cheap and midrange headphones may be more susceptible to wire damage from twisting due to the wires’ composition. On the other hand, most high-end headphones make use of a Litz wire, which consists of several individually-insulated copper wire strands woven together. This type of wire is generally considered to be more robust and more flexible.

How to Straighten Out Your Headphone Wires?

If curling headphone wires are driving you nuts, you can straighten them out by returning them to their natural position, or how they were right out of the box. You can do this utilizing these five tips:

Running your fingers across the wires

The most common way to quickly fix twisted headphone wires is by using your fingers.

  1. Grab the wire between your thumb and index finger.
  2. Keeping a mildly firm grip, slowly and thoroughly pass the wire through your fingers, moving from the base of your headphones to the end where the jack is.
  3. Repeating this process 2-3 times should significantly untwist your headphone wires.

Pull your headphone cord through the headphones

This is another easy fix once you’ve gauged which direction the twist has formed in your headphone wires.

  1. Take the twisted wire and pull it through your headphones. This means just passing the wire through the space where your head would typically be situated if you were wearing it.
  2. After pulling the wire through the headphones a couple of times, note if it’s becoming less or more twisted. If the wire is becoming less twisted, continue passing it through the headphones until the twist is removed. If not, pull the wire in the opposite direction.
  3. When you’ve removed the bulk of the tangle, and you can still notice a slight twist in the wires, you can remedy this by straightening the wire with your fingers using the method above.

Set the wire straight using a weight or flat surface

This method is best used after you’ve initially detangled and straightened your headphone wires as best as possible but are still noticing some twisting in the wires.

  1. Hang your headphones from a higher point. It can be anything like a banister, coat hanger, doorknob, or a towel rail.
  2. Attach an object with a slight weight to the other end of the wire, near the audio jack. Keep in mind that the keyword here is “light.” Since you’re already working in tandem with gravity, make sure that the object you attach to the end isn’t too heavy so that the wire isn’t damaged or pulled unnecessarily.
  3. Leave your headphones hanging with the weight for 24-48 hours to see results.
  4. If you don’t have a place on which to hang your headphones, lay them out on a table instead. Pull the wire taut (remembering to be gentle) and secure both ends down with a heavy book.

Hang the headphones from a stand, a hook, or desk edge

BrainWavz Hooka
Bose 35 hanging off the BrainWavz Hooka

Having dedicated accessories, like a stand or desk hook, on which to hang your headphones is a good way to ensure that wires that become twisted throughout the day can properly unfurl while they’re not being used.

A desk stand ensures that your headphones are always stored in the same position and that you can easily pick them up and put them on without turning them around or changing their orientation. If a desk stand isn’t your thing, a headphone hook attached to the end of your desk will also work well.

Or if you’d rather not bother with extra accessories on your desk at all, you can simply hang your headphones by their arch on the corner of your desktop monitor. Either way, each option will help your headphone wires naturally straighten out.

Use a hairdryer to heat up the wires

If your headphone wires are hopelessly twisted and need a bit more ‘persuasion,’ you can use a hairdryer. A hairdryer set to low heat can gently warm up the wires, plastic shielding, and the delicate metal interiors, making them more pliable and easier to manipulate.

Once the wires have warmed up considerably and are more workable, you can begin to bend or mold them back into their natural position. It’s important to pay close attention to their natural orientation so that you’re working with it and not against it.

Make sure to keep the hairdryer at low heat and try not to place the nozzle too close to the wires to avoid heat damage.

How to Prevent Wires From Twisting

Naturally, the best way to stop headphone wires from curling is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are a few ways to do that:

Be very aware of how you use and store your headphones

We mentioned earlier how headphones often get turned around throughout the day from regular use. Sometimes, just turning them 180° each time you pick them up is enough for you to end up with very twisted wires.

Simply being extra conscious about how you’re storing and handling your headphones helps avoid this. Having a headphone stand or hook helps develop this habit because it encourages you to keep your headphones in the same position every time you put them on or take them off.

Storing them correctly

How you store your headphones also impacts their overall lifespan. We talked about how a headphone stand and hook can help with day-to-day use, but if you aren’t going to be using your gear for a while, it’s good to keep them in a dedicated case or carry bag.

Headphone cases and carry bags are designed to prevent your device from getting jostled around while you’re on the go. They also come with designated slots that keep your wires safely tucked away instead of getting tangled, tugged, or folded if you just stuff them in your bag.

Using the ‘over-under’ method to wrap the cables

Wrapping your wires properly before storing them helps keep the kinks away. Most of us coil our wires in on itself around our hands, twisting the cable with every single turn, as demonstrated by the London School of Sound in the gif below. This method is incorrect as each coil creates a twist in the wire, which becomes apparent when you unfurl it.

Incorrect Cable Wrapping
Demonstration of incorrect cable wrapping (From: London School of Sound/Youtube)

Instead of doing it that way, try the ‘over-under’ method, which is commonly used by backstage production crews worldwide. Here’s how:

  1. Start with the end of the wire in one hand, then slide your other hand a little way down the wire and make the first coil.
  2. For the next coil, twist your hand, so your palm is facing outwards. Grab the wire with your palm in that position, then as you’re bringing the wire up to coil it, twist your palm back inwards.
  3. Continue alternating both steps until the wire is completely wrapped.
Over-Under Method
Demonstration of the over-under method of cable wrapping (From: London School of Sound/Youtube)

The great thing about the over-under method is that every initial coil is countered by the loop you make with your twisted palm. As a result, there’s no tension building up in the wire, and when it comes time to unwrap it, there’s no twist present.

Conclusion

Hopefully, our guide on how to detangle headphone wires and keep them that way will help lessen those frustrating instances. The next time you put your headphones on, just remember how the slightest change in orientation can set off a twist effect in the wire, and being wary of this can make a big difference.

Do you have a great tip for keeping headphone wires tangle-free? We’d love to hear more about it in the comments, so don’t hesitate to share it with us!