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How to clean your Apple AirPods and why you should sanitize them often

If you wear your Apple AirPods regularly — whether you’re at the gym, mowing the lawn or taking Zoom calls — it’s time to take those dirty earbuds out of your ears and give them a good cleaning.

AirPods catch all the nasty stuff from in and around your ears, including sweat and earwax, both of which are moist environments that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. And when you pop those earbuds into your ears without cleaning them, you’re not doing your ears (or AirPods) any favors.

Following Apple’s recommended guidelines, we’ll tell you how to properly clean your AirPods and accessories without causing damage. Additionally, we’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do while cleaning them.

Before you get started on making your AirPods squeaky clean, there are a few things you’ll need to grab. Don’t worry: You should have these items in your home already.

  • Several lint-free microfiber cloths, preferably the type you’d use to clean eyeglasses

  • A soft-bristled brush

  • A dry cotton swab

  • A small bowl of warm water

  • A mild soap or detergent

Before you move on to cleaning your AirPods, there are a couple of things you should never do. The biggest is to never submerge your earbuds in water, or even run water over them — while most of the newer models are water-resistant, they are not waterproof. This can ruin them, and you’ll be out a big chunk of money to replace them.

Also, if there’s gunk stuck in the mesh, don’t use a sharp metal object like a safety pin to remove it. You can potentially damage the driver (that’s the little speaker inside), and we have a better way to remove stuck-on dirt or earwax.

Hand holding apple airpods

Never submerge your AirPods in water to clean them. (Getty Images)

Now that you have all the cleaning materials gathered and you know what not to do, it’s time to dive into the good stuff. Here’s how to clean your AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

For the exterior parts of your AirPods (everything but the mesh), grab your cloth and wipe off any residue that you see on the outside of your AirPods. If necessary, you can use a slightly damp cloth to help remove stains or other gunk that won’t budge. Make sure they’re completely dry before placing them back into the charging case or before using them.

Next, grab the cotton swab to gently clean the microphone and mesh parts of your earbuds. You can then use the soft-bristled brush to remove any loose debris.

If you have AirPods with silicone tips, you can rinse them under water but only after removing them from the earbuds. Make sure the tips have completely dried before placing them back onto the AirPods.

Grab your lint-free cloth and begin wiping down all parts of your AirPods Max. If needed, you can use a damp cloth to clean the exterior parts of the headphones. As always, make sure you avoid the drivers and other ports.

Remove the cushions from the AirPods Max and mix the soap into the warm bowl of water you have. Take your cloth and dip it into the soapy mixture, wringing it out so that it’s damp. Then begin cleaning the cushions and headband with the damp cloth.

When you’re finished grab another cloth, run it under fresh water and wring it out. Wipe off any soapy residue from the cushions and headband, and then use another cloth to dry them. Apple recommends laying all parts of your AirPods Max out to dry for at least one day before reattaching.

Now that your AirPods are clean and look new again, you don’t want to throw all that work out by placing them back inside a dirty case. We’ll tell you the best way to clean your charging cases.

Use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe down your case, and if necessary, slightly dampen it with water or isopropyl alcohol. While cleaning, make sure you don’t get any liquids in the charging ports. Let the charging case completely dry before putting your AirPods back in.

If the Lightning or USB-C connector is dirty, you can use your soft-bristled brush to loosen any debris. However, Apple says to avoid putting anything into the charging port because it could damage the metal contacts.

Grab your dry cloth and wipe down your Smart Case. If needed, you can slightly dampen the cloth with water or isopropyl alcohol. Let the Smart Case completely dry before placing your AirPods Max back inside.


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