How to Clean Your AirPods the Right Way – PCMag

Keep your AirPods looking and sounding their best with our safe, effective cleaning tips.
AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max can accumulate dirt and bacteria, which you don’t want to introduce into your ear canal because they can cause irritation or infection. And as for your AirPods themselves, an accumulation of wax, sweat, and other substances can affect their performance. Gross all around.
But when it comes to figuring out how to clean them, those small white AirPods and AirPods Pro can seem pretty delicate. And even the bulky AirPods Max can be baffling because of the mix of materials they’re made out of. If you’re worried about how you should go about cleaning any or all of them, we’re here to help.
The first thing you can do is a bit of prevention. To keep AirPods and AirPods Pro out of dirt and water as much as possible, consider getting a third-party strap to keep them attached to each other, making them less likely to fall. You can find all sorts of styles, from simple silicone to glitzy gold. When your AirPods Max aren’t in use, stash them in their case instead of leaving them out or letting them go loose in a bag.
The things to have on hand if you want to keep your AirPods clean are pretty simple: lint-free cloths, cotton swabs, and a bit of water will do the job in most instances.
Apple used to only recommend water and lint-free cloths for cleaning most of its products prior to the pandemic. Now it says it’s OK to use 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes, 75% ethyl alcohol wipes, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes on the exterior parts of AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. But you should avoid using such wipes on the knit mesh or ear cushion parts of the AirPods Max.
And you shouldn’t use bleach or anything with hydrogen peroxide to clean any type of AirPods.
Maintenance is key to extending the life of your AirPods. For basic upkeep, clean AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max with a dry, lint-free cloth. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or fancy like the $19 Polishing Cloth that Apple sells. You can go over any microphone and speaker mesh with a dry cotton swab.
If your AirPods have gotten something on them like lotion or food (it happens), or have stood up to a lot of sweat, you can take a lint-free cloth and dampen it with a bit of water and give them a light rubdown. Dry them off with a lint-free cloth and then let them sit out a bit before you put them back in the case. If there is earwax still present, hold your AirPods with the mesh facing toward the ground and go over the mesh lightly with a dry cotton swab. If it’s still stuck, carefully try a toothpick or other small pointed object around the edges of the mesh but be aware that if you exert too much force, you can loosen or dislodge the mesh itself.
The AirPods Pro have an ear tip, so if you want a more thorough cleaning, remove the tips and rinse them with water. If there is earwax or anything else still stuck to them, use a dampened cotton swab to remove it. Dry the ear tips with a lint-free cloth and don’t put them back on until they’re thoroughly dry.
For the AirPods Max, a good cleaning involves wiping them down with a slightly dampened lint-free cloth and then a dry one after. Because the AirPods Max are headphones, there’s more surface area for them to attract dirt. If the cushions and headband look or feel grimy, you can give them a bit of a wash. Remove the ear cushions first to clean them separately. Then combine a teaspoon of mild detergent with a cup of water and use a lint-free cloth to wipe the band and cushions down with the solution. Follow that with a wipe of just water on a cloth and then dry all the components completely.
Since your AirPods are often sitting in their case, you want to keep that clean, too. You can use a clean, lint-free cloth slightly dampened with water or an alcohol wipe if the case really needs it. Make sure the case is completely dry before you put your AirPods back in. You would do well to turn the case upside down while it dries.
Finally, for taking care of your AirPods and beyond, see our five easy tips to extend the life of your headphones. And make sure to avoid the eight ways you’re using your headphones wrong.
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Chandra Steele is a senior features writer which lets her write about absolutely anything if it connects to technology. Fortunately that’s everything. She also writes fiction, essays, and some other things. You can find her on Twitter at @ChanSteele.
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