How to clean your Apple AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max

How to clean your Apple AirPods (2019)
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Worried about keeping your Apple AirPods clean? Apple's true wireless earbuds are designed as a handy everyday companion – whether you're using  them in the gym, on your commute, or just to dull the noise of your coworkers – but if you're keeping them in your ears on the daily and taking them to all sorts of public places, it's not surprising that they might be picking up some dirt alone the way.

The downside to the AirPods' white coloring is that they can start to look shabby pretty quickly if you don't keep up a cleaning schedule – though the upside is you can spot any build-up of dirt a bit quicker than on other wireless earbuds.

It can be difficult to know the best way to clean your AirPods, AirPods 3, and AirPods Pro - after all, while they are water-resistant, they aren't completely waterproof. They aren't cheap either, with the AirPods 2019 costing $129 / £119 / AU$219, the AirPods 3 costing $179 / £169 / AU$279, and the AirPods Pro coming in at $249 / £249 / AU$399. The AirPods Max are even more expensive at $549 / £549 / AU$899.

At those prices, it's worth learning how to take care of the hardware – especially if you've decided to reset your AirPods and sell them ahead of the rumored 2022 AirPods Pro 2 release date.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to cleaning your AirPods and charging case without damaging your precious wireless earbuds. 

What’s the best way to clean my AirPods?

Apple says that you should use a “soft, dry, lint free cloth” to clean the exterior housing and stems of your AirPods, and that you must “make sure not get any liquid in the openings”. 

You should be able to remove any day-to-day dirt without any cleaning agents or water, and it’s important not to use any abrasive materials to buff away grime. 

To clean the microphone and speaker meshes, Apple recommends using a “dry cotton swab” to gently sweep away dirt. 

If there’s any debris stuck in the speaker meshes, you can also use a clean, dry, soft-bristled brush to remove it; a small silicone pastry brush should work well enough (just make sure it hasn’t been used for cooking in the past in case you inadvertently introduce any damaging substances to your earbuds).

Apple says that you shouldn’t use sharp objects to clean the speaker grilles, otherwise you could risk damaging them.

the airpods 3 inside their charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

How do I clean my AirPods’ charging case?

The best way to clean your charging case is with a microfiber cloth. Although you should try to remove most of the dirt with the cloth alone, Apple says you can “slightly dampen the cloth with 70% isopropyl alcohol” (rubbing alcohol, to you and me) if you’re struggling with stubborn stains, but it’s important not to get any liquid in the charging ports at the bottom of your case.

You also shouldn’t place anything inside the charging ports; if there’s debris inside, you could try spraying compressed air into the opening to dislodge it. 

Like the AirPods themselves, you can clean the Lightning connector using a soft bristled brush. 

When should I clean my AirPods?

Any debris blocking the speaker grilles could reduce the sound quality of your buds, so it’s worth giving your AirPods a quick sweep with a cotton bud once a week. 

You should also wipe them down with a microfibre cloth any time they come into contact with moisture (although you should try to avoid this anyway). 

This includes if you use them for working out and they come into contact with sweat, so it may be worth looking into a pair of running headphones to use for working out, and save your AirPods for casual listening sessions.

If you’re a fan of the Apple AirPods’ (2019) fast connection times and “Hey Siri” functionality, you may be interested in the Beats Powerbeats Pro. These true wireless earbuds use the same H1 headphone chip as the AirPods, but have a workout-friendly design, with water-resistance, silicone eartips, and ear fins that hold the buds in place while you run. 

AirPods Max

How do I clean the AirPods Max?

If you need to clean the over-ear AirPod Max, you shouldn't run them under water - instead, use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth to gently wipe them. You can do the same for their Smart Case. 

Apple says that, if your AirPods Max have been exposed to anything that might cause a stain, use a slightly damp cloth to wipe them clean, and then don't attempt to use them until they're completely dry.

You can go a little further with the AirPods Max headband and ear cushions. Mix 5ml of liquid laundry detergent with 250ml of water - dip a cloth into the solution and rub the cloth on the cushions and headband for one minute each. Be careful not to let any water flow into the headband attachment point - you can hold the headphones upside down to prevent this.

Then, wipe the cushions and headband clean with a separate cloth that's been slightly dampened with water. Finally, dry them with a dry cloth, being careful to remove any excess moisture.

You should then lay the AirPods Max flat to dry before you reattach the cushions and use them again.

Can I use disinfectant on my AirPods?

You can - a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or a 75% ethyl alcohol wipe is fine to use on the exterior surfaces of the AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max. Just don't use them on the speaker mesh inside the true wireless earbuds, or on the knit mesh headband or ear cushions on the AirPods Max.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.