February 26, 2024

Surprise! Those AirPods that you stick in your ears on a regular basis, sometimes for hours on end, often when you’re sweating in the gym, need occasional cleaning.

Some people just give them a wipe off and get on with their day, while others want to go all the way and fully clean and sanitize their AirPods.

Well, my AirPods Pro have seen a lot of use, and they could do with a clean, so I thought that I’d bring you along for the ride.

How to clean and sanitize your AirPods

Dirty AirPods Pro

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Note that while I’m cleaning AirPods Pro here, the process is similar for the AirPods too. Apple offers its official guidance on how to clean AirPods here.

Materials needed:

I see people overcomplicating the cleaning process. I like to keep it simple. 

  • A couple of Q-tips
  • A couple of lens wipes
  • A disposable surface for the cleaning process like a paper towel (so everything doesn’t get covered in earwax)
The cleaning bench

ZDNet

I’ve come across people who use isopropyl alcohol for cleaning but I’m reluctant to drench AirPods in a solvent. I don’t think that dissolving earwax and pushing it deeper into the earbuds is all that good for them in the long run. Then there’s the possibility of damaging plastics. 

These Lens Wipes are inexpensive and only contain 40-50% alcohol, so they’re less abrasive and fit for cleaning glasses, camera lenses, screens, and, in this case, AirPods.

Step 1: Assess the damage

Lots of "buildup"

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First, I assessed just how bad things are. Apple replaced my AirPods Pro earbuds a few months ago because they suffered from the crackling issue. They look quite new. The case on the other hand is over two years old, and it looks it. It’s scratched, and there are chips that came off. No amount of cleaning or buffing it out is going to make it look new.

I notice that there’s also a fair bit of muck trapped in the Lightning port.

Dirt in the Lightning port

Dirt in the Lightning port

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Step 2: Clean the case

A Q-tip or two comes in handy

A Q-tip or two comes in handy

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I started with the case. There are a lot of nooks and crannies in this design, and they trap a lot of debris. Around the hinge area, where the AirPods sit, and the connectors at the bottom that supply power to charge up the earbuds all seem to be muck magnets.

However, it’s nothing that a lens wipe (you could use a screen cleaner too) and a Q-tip can’t solve. I was actually surprised how easily it lifted off. The Q-tip was particularly handy for cleaning around the charge connectors.

Step 3: Clean the AirPods

Cleaning the AirPods earbuds

Cleaning the AirPods earbuds

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As I said, the AirPods earbuds themselves were quite clean. However, they did benefit from removing the silicone earbud tips and a general cleaning.

Step 4: Clean the Lightning port

Cleaning the Lightning port

Cleaning the Lightning port

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To clean the Lighting port, I used — gently, with a lot of caution — the bamboo stick of the Q-tip. Be careful, don’t go full gorilla on it, and you should be fine. If you have a can of compressed air, then this might work, too.

My AirPods Pro definitely don’t look like new, but they do look a lot cleaner, and are a lot more hygienic. 

Mostly clean, but a lot more hygenic

Mostly clean, but a lot more hygienic

ZDNet

FAQs

It really depends. Probably every few months would help to keep the AirPods looking fresh. However, It’s probably been over a year since I cleaned my AirPods Pro case, so to each their own! 

Buildup of debris or earwax can affect the sound output quality of your AirPods, so giving them a thorough cleaning to see if dirt is interfering with sound may save you a trip to the Apple store.

Never use hydrogen peroxide, solvents or any abrasive cleaners to clean your AirPods as this can damage them. This includes household cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. You should also never submerge your case or AirPods in any cleaning solutions or in water. A q-tip, lens wipe, and some meticulous cleaning is all it takes to get them in top shape.