Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning AirPods (And What to Do About that Gross Earwax)

updated Mar 3, 2020
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Apple airpods headphones on a wooden entryway table next to keys and a houseplant

There’s a lot to love about Apple’s latest generation of headphones—the slim little buds fit snugly in your ear, so you can comfortably and discreetly stream your favorite songs or podcasts. But after countless commutes, you might start to wonder: Do I need to clean something that sits so close to my ear drum? 

The short answer is yes. Just like anything else you own, a quick, occasional cleaning will keep your AirPods in good, working condition for longer. Here’s how to do it:  

One Thing to Know Before You Start

Rule number one, according to Apple: Don’t run any AirPods—even AirPods Pro—under water.

Regular AirPods (1st generation and 2nd generation) and their charging cases are not waterproof or water-resistant. 

AirPods Pro are water-resistant, but they are not waterproof or sweatproof. This means that AirPods Pro can withstand some moisture—like if it’s drizzling outside, for example—but should never be placed under running water or submerged. (Note: The wireless charging case is not water- or sweat-resistant.) 

How to Clean AirPods

The good news: You don’t have to use running water to give your AirPods a nice, thorough clean. Here’s how to do it without damaging your beloved electronics: 

1. Give AirPods a once-over with a soft, lint-free cloth. 

Wipe AirPods down using a damp cloth, being very careful not to get any liquid in the openings. A microfiber cleaning cloth is great for this. 

2. Clean the microphone and speaker meshes with a dry cotton swab.

Use a clean, dry cotton swab to gently clean the microphone and speaker meshes. Never use sharp objects or abrasive materials for this—a gentle swipe will do the job just fine.

3. Let everything dry.

Allow your AirPods to dry completely before using them or placing them back in the charging case.

How do you clean earwax out of original AirPods?

To clean earwax out of original AirPods, follow the second step in the instructions above. All you need is a clean, dry cotton swab. Never stick sharp objects or abrasive materials into the speaker mesh—a gentle swipe will do the job just fine.

If this doesn’t work, you can try a product like AirSquares Gunk Remover. This product is sticky enough to pull out any debris, but won’t damage the delicate mesh. 

How to Clean the Ear Tips of your AirPods Pro

You can use the method above to clean the main body of your AirPods Pro, but the pro model also has removable ear tips that benefit from a deeper clean. All you need is some running water, a cleaning cloth, and a little bit of drying time. Here’s how to do it: 

1. Pull off the ear tips and rinse.

To give ear tips a thorough clean, pull them off of each AirPod and rinse with water. (Never use soap or other household cleaners.) 

2. Dry completely with a microfiber cloth.

Wipe off any water with a dry microfiber cloth. 

3. Reattach each ear tip. 

Once completely dry, reattach the ear tips. Just make sure to align the oval tips before clicking them back into place. 

How to Clean your AirPods Charging Case

The case may not come into contact with your ear, but it does spend a lot of time in your pocket, purse, and even on dirty surfaces like the coffee shop counter. Keep it clean and germ-free with this simple cleaning method—all you need is a soft brush and a damp cloth. 

1. Remove any debris from the Lightning connector.

First, use a clean and dry soft-bristled brush to remove any debris from the Lightning connector. A clean, unused toothbrush is a great option for this. 

2. Wipe with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Then, follow the same method you used to clean the AirPods themselves—use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the surfaces of the charging case, taking care not to get any liquid in the openings. If a deeper clean is in order, Apple says you can dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol rather than water.

Make sure not to get any liquid inside any of the ports, and never put use any brushes to clean inside the charging ports—this can damage the metal contacts. 

3. Let dry. 

Make sure the charging case is completely dry before placing your AirPods back inside. 

Can the Apple Store clean your AirPods?

According to one savvy Redditor, the Apple store will clean your AirPods for you. We spoke to an Apple team member who confirmed your local store will clean your AirPods or AirPods Pro without charge, provided nothing more than an “outer cleaning” is necessary.

When should I clean my AirPods?

To keep any earphones—including AirPods—in good, working condition, experts suggest cleaning them at least once per month.

According to Apple, you should also clean your AirPods immediately if they are exposed to soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes, solvents, detergent, acidic foods, insect repellent, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye. These products can negatively affect the acoustic membranes, as well as the water seals on AirPods Pro. 

Also, if you use AirPods Pro, you should clean them after workouts, heavy sweating, or water splashes.