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How to clean AirPods and the AirPods Charging Case

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The cases get scuffed in your pocket or bag, and then there's the matter of ear wax. Whatever the cause, those gorgeous AirPods of yours — and their charging cases — soon get dirty. Here's what to do about it.

Keep your AirPods looking as good as the day you bought them.

Maybe you see an iPhone 11 as a working tool, and you're not that fussed about keeping it looking shiny and new. You'll live with the finger marks on your iPad as well, because you can only see them when the screen is off, and it's never off. But you need, and want to keep those AirPods clean.

After all, you're sticking them in your ears all the time. Those AirPods get mucky, and then you put them in their charging case, so that gets dirty too.

You could buy a case for your AirPods, or indeed one for your AirPods Pro, but that's chiefly going to protect them from exterior scuff marks. Not ear wax.

Fortunately, cleaning any edition of the AirPods, or their case, is not a long job — even if that's partly because these things are so small that there's not to scrub at anyway.

Don't scrub. In fact, more important than how you do clean these things is what you must not do to them.

How not to clean your AirPods

  • Never run them under water
  • Never use a pin to work ear wax detritus loose
  • Never get any liquid in the speaker grill or microphone
  • Never put anything at all in the charging ports at the bottom of the AirPods

With that said, here's what you should do.

How to clean the AirPods Charging Case

Wipe the case with cloth that is soft, dry and lint-free. Apple gear does not get on well with lint, and anything abrasive is as likely to scratch the material as it is to shift that dirt.

However, soft and gentle wiping may not be enough to restore these cases to their glory. If you have any kind of stain on it, or the wiping just doesn't shift the problem, you can do one more thing.

You can try wiping the case again, but this time with the same lint-free cloth ever so slightly dampened with isopropyl alcohol.

If you do that, though, take extra special care not to get any of that liquid into any of the charging case's holes.

Compare your charging case to this one and tell us you don't need to clean it.
Compare your charging case to this one and tell us you don't need to clean it.

How to clean AirPods or AirPods Pro

The first job is to wipe them, and that's again — and always — with your stash of soft, dry, lint-free cloths.

That's typically enough to clean the stem, and the earpiece part, but you do also have both microphone and speaker grills. The microphone one is so small that there's little you can do, but the speaker grill, the part that goes in your ear, that's different.

Not only is that a bigger target when you're cleaning, it's a bigger area that is the most likely to attract dirt and wax. They're just also the most delicate parts, so wipe carefully.

If they get more than typical wear and tear grubbiness, if they get exposed to detergent, or sun cream, or if you drop them in your food, you need to do more.

Do not put them back in the charging case. You're just going to spread the problem to the case if you put the AirPods back in there. So instead, keep them out, both while cleaning, and then as they dry.

That speaker grill is how AirPods sound so good, but they are also what gets clogged up with dirt the most easily
That speaker grill is how AirPods sound so good, but they are also what gets clogged up with dirt the most easily

For the stems, the earbuds, and the greater part of the AirPods, do the following.

  • Very slightly dampen the AirPods using a cloth with fresh water
  • Dry them immediately with a soft, lint-free cloth
  • Allow them to dry
  • Do not use them until they are dried out

This leaves the speaker, and the microphone. Use a dry cotton swab to clean those.

Treat your AirPods gently when you clean them. If you also treat them gently in use, though, you'll hopefully keep them looking new for longer.

In 2021, Apple introduced its own Apple polishing cloth. While roundly mocked for its $19 price tag, it immediately sold out — and is good for cleaning screens.