How to Clean AirPods (and the Case) Without Damaging Them

This guide to cleaning your AirPods (and their case) will make your wireless headphones look brand new.

AirPods and case next to unlabeled white plastic spray bottle of household cleaner, against yellow background
Photo: Jchizhe/Getty Images

Knowing how to clean AirPods is important for removing wax buildup, dust, and germs. Plus, the sound quality improves when the headphones are clean and clear. After being in your ears for multiple hours a day, then sitting in the charging case (often in a bag, pocket, or counter), AirPods can get pretty dirty and full of germs. Follow our step-by-step guide to keeping your AirPods and case clean.

How Often to Clean AirPods and Their Case

Clean your AirPods at least every 72 hours (of used time). The same is true for the AirPods case. If possible, it's better to clean them after every use. Of course, depending on how often they're used, you may need to clean them less often.

Use your discretion: If you see or feel any buildup, give your AirPods and their case a deep cleanse. If you haven't used them in a while, clean them. And, if you use them every day (for multiple hours or workouts), clean them after every use.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Before cleaning your AirPods and their case, remember these essential tips.

  • While AirPods are water resistant, that doesn't mean they are waterproof—so using a lot of water to clean your AirPods is a definite no-no.
  • Be sure that no moisture gets in the openings or charging ports.
  • Do not soak, dip, or immerse AirPods in water or cleaning products.
  • Avoid using bleach or hydrogen peroxide (or products containing those ingredients).
  • Don't use sharp objects or abrasive materials when cleaning, as they can cause damage.

What You Need:

You don't need a lot of fancy tools or cleaners to keep your AirPods in good shape. A few household items will do the trick.

To Clean AirPods

  • Lint-free cloth
  • Cotton swabs
  • Dry, soft-bristled brush (e.g., a clean, soft toothbrush or anti-static brush)
  • 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, alcohol wipes, or non-bleach disinfecting wipes (optional)

To Clean AirPods Case

  • 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, alcohol wipes, or non-bleach disinfecting wipes
  • Soft-bristled brush or cotton swab

How to Clean AirPods With a Cotton Swab

Step 1: Wipe AirPods

Wipe down your AirPods with a clean, dry cloth. Be sure to (carefully) clean all parts—outer surface, ear phones, ear tips, and handle.

Step 2: Clean the Mesh

Using a dry cotton swab, wipe the microphone and speaker meshes clean. Be careful with the openings and make sure no moisture gets inside.

Step 3: Brush Away Debris

If dust or wax is caught in the AirPod mesh, grab a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush away the debris. Remember, avoid using sharp objects to clean your wireless headphones.

Step 4: Remove Chemicals

If you get any chemicals on your AirPods—like sunscreen or lotion—you can use a very lightly dampened cloth to remove it. Then, dry them with a soft, clean cloth, and don't use them or store them in their case until completely dry.

How to Disinfect AirPods With Alcohol

If your AirPods ended up somewhere gross and grimy (it happens!), here's how to disinfect them.

Step 1: Wipe the Exterior

Clean the exterior using a sanitizing wipe, like a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe, or a non-bleach disinfecting wipe. Avoid getting any moisture into the microphone or speaker mesh, which can damage the AirPods.

Step 2: Dry Completely

Dry the AirPods with a soft, clean cloth, ensuring all parts are dry—from the earphones to the bottom of the handle. Wait until completely dry before using them or storing them in their case.

How to Clean an AirPods Case With Alcohol

Step 1: Wipe the Outside

Begin by wiping down the outer surface of the charging case with a clean cloth. If it is notably dirty, dampen the cloth with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. Be careful not to get any liquid inside the case's charging ports.

Step 2: Clean the Inside

Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently clean any dirt or dust from the connector. Remember, don't use sharp objects like a toothpick or knife to clean out the charging ports, as it could damage the metal contacts. Instead, use an anti-static brush designed specifically for cleaning tech devices, or try using a clean cotton swab.

Step 3: Dry Completely

Let the charging case air-dry thoroughly, upside down, with the lid open. Remember not to store your AirPods or use the case until completely dry. Moisture can damage the charging contact points.

How to Keep Your AirPods Clean Longer

Rather than waiting for AirPods to get dirty, you can perform regular maintenance each time you use them. Just wipe them with a clean, dry cloth after you've worn them to prevent the buildup of wax, sweat, and other potential irritants.

To avoid damaging your AirPods or the charging case, make sure they are thoroughly dry before charging or storing them. Keeping your AirPods clean and dry will help them last longer and prevent damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does Apple charge to clean AirPods?

    If you prefer to have your AirPods cleaned professionally, the Apple store will clean them for free. (Confirm with your local store before driving there.) A store employee will give the AirPods and case a general outer cleaning, taking one item off your to-do list.

  • How do you remove ear wax from AirPods?

    While ear wax is completely normal, you probably don't want it to build up on your AirPods. To clean ear wax from AirPods, follow the steps outlined above—wipe clean and let dry. If you have ear tips, you can remove them from the earphones and rinse them with water (no soap). Remember not to do this with the AirPods themselves or the case.

  • Is it safe to use hydrogen peroxide to clean AirPods?

    Never clean your AirPods with hydrogen peroxide. This harsher, more abrasive cleaner can damage your AirPods, the case, and individual parts. It's best to stick with alcohol when cleaning your earphones.

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