How to Clean Your AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max [Ultimate Guide]

Dirty Airpods (From: Pexels)
Dirty Airpods (From: Pexels)

Dirty AirPods aren’t a good look. It’s time to give them the clean they deserve. 

With use over time, AirPods start to obtain a buildup of earwax, dust, grime, and dirt. It’s not a great look, and it’s very unhygienic. Without regular cleaning, your AirPods can become a safe haven for bacteria that can lead to an ear infection.

If this gets too bad, it can even affect the quality of your audio. Bodies of foreign buildup can block the speakers of the AirPods, making them sound muffled.

Luckily, giving them a good clean isn’t hard at all. As you’ll find out, you can clean AirPods (and their case) with minimal effort.

Dirty Airpods (From: Pexels)
Dirty Airpods (From: Pexels)

Here are some of the best ways to clean your Airpods, Airpods Pro, its charging case, and Airpods Max. Warning: It can be gross!

How to Clean Your AirPods

Cleaning your AirPods thoroughly only takes a few simple steps. And, you probably already have most of the tools needed somewhere in your house already.

Before you begin, you will need:

  • Soft, dry, lint-free cloth
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swab(s)
  • Toothpick
  • Toothbrush
Apple advises against using sharp objects to clean your AirPods. Sharp objects can cause irreparable physical damage. If using a sharp object, ensure you are being very careful while cleaning.
  1. Lightly apply isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab and lint-free cloth. Start by using the cotton swab to loosen any debris in the crevices of the AirPods.

    Cleaning AirPods with a cotton swab. (From: Jon Collins YouTube)
    Cleaning AirPods with a cotton swab. (From: Jon Collins YouTube)

  2. Using a toothpick (or similar object with a sharp point), gently remove debris from the inner edges. As you loosen debris, wipe it away using the lint-free cloth or cotton swab.
    It is very important that you do not apply too much pressure when using sharp objects. The mesh parts of your AirPods are very delicate and can be broken if too much force is applied.

    Removing ear wax with a toothpick. (From: Jon Collins YouTube)
    Removing ear wax with a toothpick. (From: Jon Collins YouTube)

  3. Once all accessible debris is removed, use a toothbrush to clean the finer debris. Gently brush any dirty areas, and finish with a wipe using the lint-free cloth.

    Cleaning AirPods with a toothbrush. (From: Jon Collins YouTube)
    Cleaning AirPods with a toothbrush. (From: Jon Collins YouTube)

How to Clean Your AirPods Pro

Cleaning your AirPods Pro is almost the same as cleaning regular AirPods, with a few added steps for the silicone tips.

Before you begin, you will need:

  • Soft, dry, lint-free cloth
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swab(s)
  1. Start by removing the silicone tips from the earbuds.

    Removing the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)
    Removing the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)

  2. Clean them with an alcohol-dampened cotton swab.

    Cleaning the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)
    Cleaning the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)

  3. Submerge the silicone tips in alcohol to disinfect. Leave to sit.

    Disinfecting the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)
    Disinfecting the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)

  4. Clean the earbuds using a cotton swab. Use a lint-free cloth and toothbrush for persistent debris.

    Cleaning AirPods Pro with a cotton swab. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)
    Cleaning AirPods Pro with a cotton swab. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)

  5. Remove the silicone tips from the alcohol. Dry them thoroughly, and re-attach them to the AirPods Pro.

    Drying the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)
    Drying the silicone tips. (From: David The Apple Tech Guy YouTube)

How to Clean Your AirPods’ Charging Case

If your AirPods are dirty, chances are they’re making your charging case dirty. Don’t worry, cleaning your charging case is just as easy as cleaning the AirPods themselves.

Before you begin, you will need:

  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swab(s)
  • Toothpick
  • Lint-free cloth (or paper towel)
  1. Dip a cotton swab in the isopropyl alcohol and clean the dirty areas.

    Cleaning the case with a cotton swab. (From: Glintify YouTube)
    Cleaning the case with a cotton swab. (From: Glintify YouTube)

  2. Dip the toothpick in the isopropyl alcohol and use it to clean the dirty areas that the cotton swab couldn’t reach.
    Be mindful with the toothpick, and do not apply too much pressure to areas with electronics.

    Using a toothpick to reach hard spots. (From: Glintify YouTube)
    Using a toothpick to reach hard spots. (From: Glintify YouTube)

  3. Using the cotton swab again, clean away any dirt that was loosened by the toothpick.

    Cleaning loose dirt. (From: Glintify YouTube)
    Cleaning loose dirt. (From: Glintify YouTube)

  4. Dry the case using a paper towel.

    Drying the case with a paper towel. (From: Glintify YouTube)
    Drying the case with a paper towel. (From: Glintify YouTube)

How to Clean Your AirPods Max

To clean your AirPods Max properly, you will clean the headband and ear cushions separately. This gives you the chance to focus on each part without worrying about damaging the other in the cleaning process.

Cleaning the headband

Over time, the headband of your AirPods Max can become dirty from sweat and general wear. And, because it’s made of a fabric-like material, a dirty headband can start to smell.

Before you begin, you will need:

  • Clothing detergent
  • Toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Cover for the ear pads (socks, plastic bag etc.)
  1. Cover the ear pads to prevent water damage. For this, you can use a pair of socks or a bag, as long as the water is not reaching the earcups.
    You can completely remove the earcups by removing the ear cushions and using a pin to detach them from the headband.

    Protecting the earcups. (From: iDV Create YouTube)
    Protecting the earcups. (From: iDV Create YouTube)

  2. Mix a small amount of tide detergent with cold water.
    Use cold water, as warm water can cause discoloration.

    Mixing the cleaning solution. (From: iDV Create YouTube)
    Mixing the cleaning solution. (From: iDV Create YouTube)

  3. Using your fingers, wet the headband with some of the detergent mix. Then, gently start brushing the headband with the toothbrush. Be sure to position the top of the headband towards the sink so the water doesn’t drip down towards the earcups if they’re still attached.

    Washing the headband. (From: iDV Create YouTube)
    Washing the headband. (From: iDV Create YouTube)

  4. Pat the headband dry, and let it sit to dry completely.

    Drying the headband. (From: iDV Create YouTube)
    Drying the headband. (From: iDV Create YouTube)

Cleaning the ear cushions

Much like the headband, the ear cushions on your AirPods Max will become dirty over time from regular use. Not only can they look dirty, but they can begin to smell dirty after a while too.

Before you begin, you will need:

  • Clothing detergent
  1. Rinse the ear cushions with cold water.

    Rinsing the ear cushions under water. (From: GYM Sweat YouTube)
    Rinsing the ear cushions under water. (From: GYM Sweat YouTube)

  2. Apply some clothing detergent and scrub them with your hands under cold water.

    Scrubbing with clothing detergent. (From: GYM Sweat YouTube)
    Scrubbing with clothing detergent. (From: GYM Sweat YouTube)

  3. Leave the ear cushions to air dry until completely dry.

    Leaving the ear cushions to dry. (From: GYM Sweat YouTube)
    Leaving the ear cushions to dry. (From: GYM Sweat YouTube)

What You Should NOT Do When Cleaning Your AirPods

There are a few things you strictly shouldn’t do when cleaning your AirPods. This is because you run the risk of damaging them, to the point where they may be irreparable.

Don’t use too much water

AirPods are not waterproof. The original AirPods (1st and 2nd generation) don’t have any water resistance, and AirPods Pro has an IP rating of IPX4, which means they’re only resistant to sweat and splashes. No models are rated for complete water submersion.

Because of this, using too much water can cause water damage to your AirPods. 70% alcohol is the better option for cleaning as it can kill bacteria, and it has a faster evaporation rate so it dries faster than water.

Don’t use abrasive materials

Apple advises against using abrasive materials to clean your AirPods. Abrasive materials can scratch and damage the outer surface of your AirPods and their case.

Don’t use compressed air

Despite popular belief, compressed air should never be used when cleaning your AirPods. The strength of the compressed air can cause damage to the delicate parts of your AirPods and their case, namely the speaker mesh and charging port.

Don’t use harsh cleaning agents

Harsh cleaning agents include chemicals like bleach. While bleach can bring your AirPods back to their original white, it can also damage the plastic.

When cleaning your AirPods, only use 70% alcohol. 90% alcohol is too abrasive and can leave scratches when used.

Don’t use the AirPods while it is still wet

If your AirPods are wet, let them dry completely before using them. If you use them while they’re wet, they may not be able to completely dry while in your ear. It’s also best to leave them to air dry before you store them back in their case. Because while the AirPods Pro may be water-resistant, the case is not.

Why Is Keeping Your Airpods Clean Important?

Man in black hoodie wearing Airpods (From: Unsplash)
Man in black hoodie wearing Airpods (From: Unsplash)

Keeping your AirPods (and their case) clean is important for two main reasons which are hygiene and sound quality.

  • Hygiene concerns – Your hands are always being used to take your AirPods in and out of your ear. If your hands are dirty, bacteria can attach themselves to your AirPods. Not only this, but the case is always in your bag, pocket, or sitting on a dirty surface where it can easily pick up bacteria. Built-up earwax also makes the Airpods slippery, causing them to fall out.
  • Impact on sound quality – If your AirPods are not cleaned regularly, the old wax in your AirPods will gradually be pushed back further. If wax is pushed back too far into the AirPods, it can seep through the mesh screen that’s protecting the speaker. If the buildup becomes too bad, it will muffle the audio and the mic.

How Often Should You Clean Your AirPods?

To avoid an excessive buildup of foreign bodies inside the AirPods, it’s a good idea to clean your AirPods every 72 hours of listening time.

In addition to this, it’s also important to keep your ears clean. This will help reduce the amount of wax that enters your AirPods, which keeps them cleaner for longer.

Conclusion

No longer will you need to worry about others seeing your dirty headphones or dirty build-up affecting your audio quality. Keeping your headphones clean is a proactive step in making sure they’re performing at their best.

Now, cleaning your Airpods may solve a lot of problems but it won’t fix everything. If you have any other Airpods concerns, fret not! We have created various guides for you, sich as: what to do when Airpods keep disconnecting, and how to use Airpods with Android phones.

Did the above cleaning methods work for you? Do you have another way of cleaning your headphones? Let us know in the comments below!

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