How to Clean AirPods Without Damaging Them

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Experts give the lowdown on how to clean earwax, sweat, and other gunk off your AirPods and AirPods case.

You use your AirPods constantly throughout the day, listening to music, taking calls, and catching up on your favorite podcasts. But when was the last time you cleaned them? If your answer is “never,” experts say you should learn how to clean AirPods, stat. “Cleaning your AirPods is for both you and your AirPods,” says Chandra Steele, senior features writer at PCMag.

The buildup of earwax, sweat, dirt, and other grimy substances can not only harm the performance and life span of your AirPods, she says, but it can also cause irritation or an infection in your ear canal. The problem: AirPods have a lot of tough-to-reach spots, and cleaning them the wrong way could damage them.

Not to worry! We’ve tapped experts for the scoop on how to clean AirPods (including Pro and Max) with items you probably have in your home right now. Doing so on a regular basis can keep your ears healthy and your audio experience crisp and clear. If some of your other tech items need a good scrub, learn how to clean your phone with the best phone sanitizer.

How to clean AirPods

Before cleaning any piece of tech, whether it’s a computer screen, TV screen, phone charging port, or headphones, be sure to read any instructions that came with the product. “Depending on the brand or model, earbuds may have components that require a specific method of care,” says Kristin DiNicolantonio, a director at the American Cleaning Institute. That said, you can clean most AirPods by following the steps below.

  1. Wipe down your AirPods with a dry, lint-free cloth.
  2. To clean sensitive spots, like the mesh on the microphones and speakers, scrub them with a dry cotton swab.
  3. If your AirPods are extra dirty—or clogged with food, lotion, or sweat—Steele suggests washing them with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Then wipe them with a dry, lint-free cloth and place them on a clean surface to dry.

close up of a cotton swab cleaning the mesh area of apple AirPodMackenzie Williams/rd.com

What to use

You don’t need a special AirPod cleaning kit or cleaner to wash your AirPods. “Lint-free cloths, cotton swabs, and a bit of water will do the job in most instances,” Steele says. Apple also suggests using 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipes, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to clean the outside of your earbuds.

Just be sure you know how to clean AirPods’ mesh—and how not to clean it. For starters, never use alcohol or disinfecting wipes on the knit mesh of any AirPods or on the ear cushion parts of the AirPods Max, Steele says.

What not to use

No matter which type of AirPods you have, you should never clean them with bleach or hydrogen peroxide products, according to Steele. Those cleaners are more abrasive and could damage your AirPods.

How to clean AirPods Pro

These AirPods can do a lot. A downside: They have ear tips that accumulate grime (like earwax, dirt, and sweat) in hard-to-reach spots. To give them a more thorough cleaning, take the following steps.

  1. Remove the ear tips and rinse them with water.
  2. Dry the tips with a lint-free cloth.
  3. When they are thoroughly dry, place the ear tips back on your AirPods.

How to clean AirPods Max

Heads up: You might need a bit more elbow grease to get your AirPods Max sparkling clean. “Because AirPods Max are headphones, there’s more surface area for them to attract dirt,” Steele says. Start with a basic cleaning by wiping them down with a slightly damp, lint-free cloth and drying them with another microfiber cloth. To clean the grimy headbands and cushions on your AirPods Max, follow the instructions below.

  1. Remove the ear cushions.
  2. Combine one teaspoon of mild detergent with a cup of water.
  3. Dip a lint-free cloth into the solution and use it to scrub the band and cushions.
  4. Wipe the band and cushions with a dry cloth.
  5. Dry all the components completely before reassembling them.

How to clean an AirPods case

If your AirPods case is getting dirty, a simple cleaning can make it look brand new again. Like many old-school cleaning tricks, you don’t need more than water and a cloth.

  1. Wipe down the case with a clean, lint-free cloth dipped in water. You can also use an alcohol wipe to give the case a deep clean, Steele says.
  2. Turn the case upside down and wait for it to dry completely before putting your AirPods back inside.

Are AirPods waterproof?

Avoid washing your AirPods under running water because those babies aren’t waterproof. The amount of water resistance they offer depends on the type of AirPods you use. AirPods Pro have a water-resistance rating of IPX4 (the lowest rating possible), while older versions of AirPods have no water-resistance rating at all. Although they can handle the moisture equivalent of a sweaty workout or light rain, beware of exposing AirPods to water for long periods of time. You should never shower or swim with AirPods, either, according to Apple. If your iPhone takes a dip, try these tricks to save a wet cell phone.

How to get water out of AirPods

To save AirPods that have gotten wet, you need to act fast. Place them upside down in a container filled with desiccant packets, then seal the container and leave it for a few hours. Steele recommends avoiding rice, which could end up getting inside the speaker and microphone. Even if your AirPods are only a little damp, wipe them down with a lint-free cloth and leave them upside down to dry, Steele says.

Sources:

  • Chandra Steele, senior features writer at PCMag
  • Kristin DiNicolantonio, director of communications at the American Cleaning Institute
  • Apple: “How to clean your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and EarPods”
  • MakeUseOf: “Your AirPods Aren’t Waterproof, but Here’s What You Can Do”

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