The Right Way to Clean AirPods and Headphones

The better to hear you with, my dear.

Your headphones and AirPods can get pretty gnarly. There’s no avoiding it. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just a chore to prioritize — and do often, if you regularly use your headphones.

Working this tiny errand into your cleaning routine actually has legitimate health benefits. Plus, it’ll help you hear all your favorite podcast hosts and bands with the crisp clarity that your AirPods were so meticulously engineered for.

Do I need to clean my headphones?

5000% yes, you absolutely need to clean your headphones! Consider this: they live inside your ears. You know what else resides inside those tiny caverns? Wax.

Even if you religiously Q-tip (despite the box’s warning), ears will continue to produce wax in order to protect themselves. But once that wax gets into your headphones, not only will it clog them and negatively affect their sound quality, but dust and grime will stick to the wax and then get inside your ear. It’s a vicious cycle. Wax, dirt, ears, more wax, more dirt...

But that’s okay, AirPods and headphones are very easy to clean. Here’s how:

How to clean AirPods

  • You’ll need:
    • a microfiber cloth
    • a tool with a fine end (ie: toothpick, dental floss stick, bobby pin, needle or a tool made specifically for cleaning earbuds) or a dry cotton swab
  • Note: make sure your headphones or AirPods are powered off or unplugged before you attempt to clean them.

Best way to clean AirPods

  • There’s no excuse for not cleaning your AirPods. It takes no time at all. You can even clean your AirPods as a way of productively procrastinating cleaning your computer screen or your tv screen.
  • Dampen a section of your microfiber cloth with warm water and wipe down each AirPod. Be mindful not to get any water into any openings of the device.
  • Using a dry portion of the microfiber cloth, dry off the AirPod.
  • Using your tool of choice (or a dry cotton swab), dig out any visible earwax. Check around the edges of the speaker for wax, being careful not to puncture the speaker.
  • If your AirPods have silicone tips that cover the speaker, you can remove them and rinse them with warm water.
    • To remove the silicone tips, pull firmly from the base of the tip and they ought to pop right off. Be sure to thoroughly wipe them dry with your microfiber rag before reattaching.
    • To reattach, align the tip with the connectors on the AirPod’s speakers and firmly push. They should click back into place.
  • We recommend keeping a small microfiber rag in your gym bag, purse, computer bag, or work backpack to regularly wipe down your AirPods. And by regularly we mean each time you use them, before putting them away. Especially if you’re wearing them at the gym. You’re wiping down the weights and machines you use, why wouldn’t you give your precious AirPods the same treatment?
  • Even if you’re not scraping the wax out of your AirPods after each use, just a simple damp wipe and dry will go a long way in keeping them clean, improving audio quality and keeping grime out of your ears.

How to get earwax out of AirPods

In case you missed it, we’re going to reiterate here. Even if your AirPods appear clean, they’re probably covered in a shiny, waxy sheen. Once you begin to mitigate your headphone ear wax buildup weekly, you’ll find a notable difference in their quality. You can thank us later.

  • Using your fine edged tool or dry cotton swab, carefully dig out the earwax from your AirPod.
  • Wax tends to accumulate around the edges of the speaker.
  • While cleaning your headphones, tip the AirPods downward so that the speakers are facing the floor to allow for any wax or dirt to fall off of them, rather than into the speakers.
  • If the AirPods have silicone or rubber ear tips, pull them off. Use your tool to scoop any wax out of them. You can also use a small, soft brush (a toothbrush would work fine) to gently remove any excessive gunk or dirt from the ear tips or AirPod speakers.
  • You can use a pinch of Dawn Dish Soap mixed with warm water to wipe off any remaining wax from the silicone ear tips. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove soapy residue and dry completely before reattaching them to your AirPods.
  • If you want to sanitize your silicone ear tips before reattaching them, you can dab them (and also any hard plastic parts of your headphones) with a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab. Be very careful not to get any in the speaker or any electrical bits, and make sure to fully dry.

How to clean an AirPod Case

And you thought you were done. If you don’t clean the case, it’s like taking a shower then sleeping in dirty sheets. Don’t worry, this one’s easy.

  • Those itty bitty metal pins and pads that recharge your AirPods can also accumulate dust and wax, which might prevent them from properly recharging your headphones. And we can all agree that dead headphones are the biggest bummer.
  • Using your dry microfiber rag, wipe out your AirPod case.
  • Take a cotton swab and dampen it with isopropyl alcohol. Wring it out and make sure it’s not dripping at all. Then swab the inside of the case, even where the AirPods connect with the charging mechanism.
  • You can also use a small brush (either a toothbrush or the brush end of your handy AirPod cleaning tool) to gently dust the connector ports, which might be harboring bits of lint.
  • Before you toss your AirPods back into their case when you’re done working out, be sure to wipe them dry with a microfiber rag first. Even if your headphones claim to be sweat or water resistant, it’s not great for them to remain wet, since that water can seep into battery compartments or the speakers. Moisture can cause damage to the speakers or drivers. And moisture can hide out in the silicone earbuds, too, so best to remove them and allow them to air dry completely before closing them up in the case to recharge.

Dos and Don’ts for Cleaning AirPods

While wiping down your AirPods regularly is the best way to keep them clean, we’ve got some additional behavioral tips that might just help you maintain that well-earned cleanliness — or prevent you from accidentally ruining your headphones by cleaning them the wrong way!

  • Avoid sticking your sweaty AirPods into your pocket or sports bra for a prolonged period of time. That’s a lot of moisture and humidity for those guys.
  • Avoid cleaning your AirPods with bleach or hydrogen peroxide products. These solutions are very abrasive and might damage your headphones.
  • If you don’t have a case for your headphones, keep them in a little pouch or bag when not in use in order to protect them from dirt and scratches.
  • Be sure not to store your AirPods or headphones in too hot, too humid or too cold of environments. Electronics are sensitive!
  • Try keeping a silica gel pack in your gym bag to soak up extra moisture.
  • Avoid wearing your headphones in the sauna or steam room.
  • If your headphones have a cable, try to be mindful when wrapping it up. If the cable is stored at an awkward sharp angle where the cable meets the plug, it will pull the wire out of the housing.
  • Don’t pull too hard on the charging cable, since this will ultimately weaken it over time.
  • When pulling your headphones out of your ear, don’t pull it from the cable. The vacuum created can cause damage to your ears. Always remove earbuds with a gentle twist, pulling outward.

Congratulations on your new hobby: cleaning your AirPods. It should be as routine as wiping off the lenses of your glasses or cleaning the hair from your brush. If you thought the peaceful chanting and ambient sounds from your meditation app sounded good before, you’re in for a treat.

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