How to Clean AirPods in a Few Steps

by Alexa

By Alexa Erickson

Apple AirPods have made listening to music, podcasts, talking on the phone, and more that much easier. The wireless earbuds connect to your phone using Bluetooth, so you can slip your phone in a bag or pocket and enjoy hands-free entertainment and communication without a tangled cord getting in the way. Aside from having to charge the earbuds, AirPods couldn’t be more convenient.

Like any high-tech investment, AirPods aren’t cheap, however, and should be treated with care to protect their integrity. One of the most overlooked ways to keep them working well is to clean them. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to get your AirPods clean—and keep them that way.

fingers taking airpods out of case

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Clean AirPods

Standard AirPods float and nestle right into your ear canal. If you’ve never cleaned your AirPods before (or at least taken an examination of them), you’ll be surprised at the amount of dirt, debris, grime, and ear wax that’s stuck in there. Here’s how to remove all the gunk.

Tool and Materials Needed

  • Slightly damp microfiber cloth
  • Dry microfiber cloth
  • Cotton swab
  • Mounting putty (like Fun-Tak)
  • Wooden toothpick

Step 1: Wipe With Microfiber Cloth

Wipe the exterior of the AirPods clean from any residue (like sweat, lotions, and sunscreen) with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Then dry with another clean microfiber cloth. Avoid using the damp cloth on the speaker grills where the music comes out. 

Step 2: Clean the Speaker Grills 

Start with a cotton swab to clean the speaker grills. Push the swab into the grill softly and work your way around the edges. It’s likely you’ll dislodge grime and ear wax that’s collected there. Throw the dirty cotton swabs away.

Step 3: Clean Stubborn Dirt With Putty

For stubborn dirt that won’t dislodge from the speaker grill after going at it with a cotton swab, you can try using a putty. Although mounting putties are often used for hanging artwork or securing rattling windows, they can grip onto minuscule crumbs that might be stuck in your headphones. Soften the putty in your hand, then press against the grill to pick up and lift away wax and dust particles.

Step 4: Use a Toothpick Around Edges of Speaker Grill

To tackle areas that a cotton swab or putty are too big for, or if you’re trying to really get into the edges where the speaker grill meets the edge of the earphone, a toothpick may come in handy. Gently swipe the toothpick around the edges of the grill to collect individual specs of dirt. The wooden material of a toothpick is safer against the grill than using a sharp metal object, like a needle.

hand reaching for airpods in case

How to Clean AirPods Pros

In comparison to the standard version, AirPods Pro headphones use silicone ear tips that fit snugly in your ear, which ensures a tight seal for better sound quality. (You can even buy hooked ear tips to help them stay in your ears better!). While AirPods Pros can be cleaned the same way as standard AirPods by wiping the exterior and focusing on the speaker grill, the ear tips require special attention. 

Remove the ear tips from the AirPods, then rinse them with warm water. Avoid soap or other cleaning agents. Then follow the steps listed above for cleaning standard AirPods to clean the exterior of each headphone.

To replace the ear tips (be sure that they are bone dry before replacing), push them back into place until you hear a click.


Avoid Water At All Costs

Although AirPods and AirPods Pro are water- and sweat-resistant, they are not waterproof or sweatproof, and should not be submerged in water.

airpods max

How to Clean AirPods Max Headphones

The AirPods Max are the newest addition to the AirPods fleet. Unlike the standard and pro options, the AirPods Max are over-the-ear headphones. They’re pretty next-level and come with active noise cancellation, spatial audio (like digital surround sound, but for your ears), and adaptive EQ (an equalizer that automatically tunes music to the shape of your ear). 

Although these headphones won’t pull gunk from your ear as pods do, they’re still exposed to sweat, dirt, and oils that can not only make them grimy but eventually shorten their life. Here’s how to clean your Apple AirPods Max headphones to keep them in tip-top shape.

Tools and Materials Needed 

  • 3 dry microfiber cloths
  • Small container
  • 1 teaspoon liquid laundry detergent
  • 1 cup of water

Step 1: Wipe With Microfiber Cloth

Wipe the exterior of the headphones clean from any residue using a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Then dry with another clean microfiber cloth. Avoid using the damp cloth on the speaker grills.

Step 2: Create Cleaning Solution 

Apple recommends cleaning the cushions and headband of the AirPods Max with a DIY cleaning solution. Mix one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent and one cup of water in a small container.

Step 3: Clean the Cushions

Remove the cushions from the ear cups by sliding them with your hands. Dip the microfiber cloth into the soapy water solution. Wring it out. Gently rub the cloth on the cushions. Grab another microfiber cloth and dip it in fresh water. Wring it out then use it to wipe away the soapy solution. Dry completely with a clean microfiber cloth.

Step 4: Clean the Headband

Apple recommends holding the AirPods Max upside down while you clean the headband to prevent liquid from making its way into the headband attachment point. Use the dampened, wrung-out soapy water cloth to gently wipe down the headband. Grab the microfiber cloth you used for fresh water in the previous step. Dip it in fresh water, wring it out, then wipe away the soapy solution. Dry with a clean microfiber cloth. 

Step 5: Wait One Day to Reattach Everything

To ensure everything is fully dry before use, lay all headphone parts on a dry towel for one day before reassembling.

How to Clean AirPods Case

You’ve cleaned your headphones, but what about the case that holds them? Clean your Smart Case of dust and dirty with a dry microfiber cloth. For stuck-on dirt, Apple recommends dampening the cloth slightly with isopropyl alcohol and gently rubbing dirt away.

Get an AirPods Case Cover

Protect your AirPods case from outside elements by putting a case cover like this one on it.

What to Avoid When Cleaning AirPods

Cleaning your AirPods, especially when you’re in a pinch, might have you reaching for whatever cleaning method is convenient. Here are some important tips for cleaning your headphones:

  • When cleaning AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or the Smart Case, avoid using abrasive materials, which can scratch the plastic. Also steer clear of sharp objects, which can tear the speaker grills.
  • Avoid submerging any Apple headphones in water as none are fully waterproof. When using a damp cloth to clean the plastic parts, pay special attention not to get the water into the speaker grills.
  • Don’t use detergents or soaps unless otherwise specified on the cleaning product. Harsh ingredients in cleaning products can damage the protective coatings on your AirPods and its case.
  • Don’t break apart the components of the AirPods. Unless they are meant to be removed (like the silicone covers on AirPods Pros and cushions on AirPods Max), keep everything intact so as not to disturb the integrity of the products or risk getting dirt or water inside.

Tips for Keeping AirPods Clean

AirPods get up close and personal with your ears, so keeping your ears clean of ear wax is a good place to start. When not in use, be sure to keep AirPods in their case—loose pods are susceptible to picking up dirt when stuffed in your pocket, purse, or even a drawer. Keeping the case in a proper spot is also important—avoid tossing the case in a junk drawer or leaving it in a bag.

Have you cleaned your AirPods before? What are your tips?

Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Join the conversation