The Complete Guide to Cleaning and Caring for Your AirPods

By Nina Roman

In our ever-advancing digital age, AirPods have become synonymous with our daily routines. Whether you’re listening to your favorite podcast, taking important business calls, or using them to shut out the world with some soothing music, these small devices have transformed the way we consume audio content.

Yet, despite their frequent use, maintaining and cleaning our AirPods is an aspect that’s often overlooked. The importance of clean AirPods cannot be overstated. Not only can the build-up of wax, debris, and grime affect the sound quality, but it can also shorten the lifespan of these expensive devices.

Consequently, this may lead to unnecessary expenditures, all due to a lack of routine cleaning. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand how to effectively and safely clean your AirPods.

The objective of this article is to guide you through a comprehensive, step-by-step process to ensure that your AirPods are kept in pristine condition, ultimately ensuring optimal performance and longevity. Let’s delve in and learn how to clean your AirPods and sounding great!

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Understanding Your AirPods

It’s important to have a basic understanding of your AirPods. Designed by Apple, AirPods are wireless Bluetooth earbuds that have redefined the way we interact with audio devices.

Apple AirPods (2nd Generation) Wireless Ear Buds, Bluetooth Headphones with Lightning Charging Case Included, Over 24 Hours of Battery Life, Effortless Setup for iPhone
  • HIGH-QUALITY SOUND — Powered by the Apple H1 headphone chip, AirPods (2nd generation) deliver rich, vivid sound.
  • EFFORTLESS SETUP — After a simple one-tap setup, AirPods are automatically on and always connected. They sense when they’re in your ears and pause when you take them out. And sound seamlessly switches between your iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, iPad, and Apple TV.
  • VOICE CONTROL WITH SIRI — Just say “Hey Siri” for assistance without having to reach for your iPhone.

The individual earbuds are composed of a number of key components: the outer shell made of a tough, glossy plastic, the inner part housing the technical elements, and the speaker meshes that deliver the sound directly into your ears.

Each AirPod is fitted with sensors, like an optical sensor to detect when they are in your ears, and an accelerometer to determine if you are speaking. The stem of the AirPod contains a microphone for taking calls or interacting with Siri.

At the bottom of the stem, there’s a chrome ring which helps your AirPods to charge when placed in the charging case.

Now, why is it important to clean your AirPods regularly? When we use our AirPods, they are exposed to earwax, dust, sweat, and other types of debris.

These materials can accumulate over time and clog the speaker meshes, impairing the sound quality of your device. Furthermore, they can make the AirPods less comfortable to wear and can potentially damage the delicate internal components if left unchecked.

If your AirPods are used frequently and shared among others, they could also become a vehicle for transmitting germs. Therefore, keeping your AirPods clean is not just about maintaining their performance, but also about ensuring your own hygiene and health.

Knowing these details, it becomes clear that cleaning our AirPods is an essential routine. 

Necessary Cleaning Tools

Cleaning your AirPods doesn’t require any expensive or hard-to-find tools; in fact, most of them are likely already in your home. Here is a list of the necessary cleaning tools and their purposes:

Soft, Lint-Free Cloth

This will be your primary cleaning tool. A microfiber cloth often used for cleaning glasses or screens is an excellent option as it is designed to be gentle on surfaces and effectively removes dirt and grime.

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Soft-Bristled Brush

A soft, clean toothbrush or a camera lens brush is perfect for this. The bristles can gently loosen any stubborn debris stuck in the nooks and crannies without damaging the components.

It’s crucial that the brush is completely dry to prevent any water damage.

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Isopropyl Alcohol

For disinfection and deeper cleaning, you’ll need some isopropyl alcohol. It evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave residue behind, making it safe for electronics. However, it should never be applied directly to the AirPods; instead, use it sparingly on a cloth or cotton swab.

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  • First aid to help prevent risk of infection from minor cuts, scrapes and burns
  • Active ingredient: 91% isopropyl alcohol

Cotton Swabs

Cotton swabs can reach areas that are difficult to clean with a cloth, such as the microphone and speaker meshes. Make sure they are only slightly damp when using them to avoid getting excess moisture into your AirPods.

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Step-by-step Guide on Cleaning Your AirPods

Cleaning your AirPods carefully and correctly ensures their longevity and optimal performance. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Cleaning the Outer Shell

The outer shell of the AirPods usually collects a good amount of dirt, dust, and fingerprints due to frequent handling. Begin cleaning this part with the soft, lint-free cloth.

Gently wipe the entire surface of the AirPods, paying close attention to the stem and the area around the speaker meshes. This should remove most of the superficial dirt.

2. Cleaning the Speaker Meshes

The speaker meshes can collect earwax and debris, affecting sound quality. To clean these areas, use a dry, soft-bristled brush.

Gently brush the speaker meshes to dislodge any buildup. Be careful not to push too hard as this might push the debris further into the AirPods or damage the mesh.


3. Cleaning the Microphone and Sensors

The microphone hole and sensors on your AirPods can also gather dirt and dust. For these, a slightly dampened cotton swab will be most effective.

Be careful to use only a small amount of moisture. Swab around the microphone hole and sensors gently to remove any residue.

Remember to avoid using sharp objects or excessive force during the cleaning process as these can damage your AirPods. Also, never insert anything into the openings (like the speaker meshes and microphone holes) as you could cause serious damage to the internal components.

After cleaning, give your AirPods a few minutes to air dry before you use them or put them back into their case. In the next section, we’ll look at how to properly clean the AirPods case, a component that is just as crucial to keep clean for the overall functioning of your AirPods.

Cleaning the AirPods Case

Much like the AirPods themselves, the case is also exposed to daily dirt, dust, and grime. Additionally, the case charges your AirPods, making it crucial to keep it clean and functioning well.

External Cleaning

Begin by wiping the outer surface of the case with a soft, lint-free cloth. If the outer case has stubborn stains or sticky spots, you may slightly dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol.

Internal Cleaning

For the interior, use a dry cotton swab to clean around the charging ports where the AirPods sit. A buildup of debris here can interfere with charging. Never use water or insert any metal objects into the charging ports as they can cause damage.

Charging Port

The Lightning port at the bottom of the case can also accumulate debris. Use a dry, soft-bristled brush to gently clean this port.

Safety Measures and Precautions

Cleaning your AirPods and their case, while straightforward, demands certain safety precautions to prevent damaging your devices. One of the most important rules to remember is to avoid any kind of liquid.

Despite the temptation to give them a quick rinse or use a wet cloth, remember that AirPods and their case are not waterproof. Immersing them in water or any cleaning solutions can cause severe damage, impairing their function or rendering them entirely unusable.

Similarly, the cleaning process should be gentle. Refrain from using abrasive materials like paper towels, which can potentially scratch the shiny surface of your AirPods or their case.

Also, avoid applying excessive force while cleaning as this can lead to unnecessary damage. A common cleaning mistake is the urge to ‘poke’ or insert objects into the speaker meshes, microphone holes, or charging ports.

This should be avoided at all costs, as poking can harm the sensitive internal components of the AirPods and obstruct the charging capability of the case. Finally, an essential safety measure often overlooked is ensuring your AirPods and case are completely dry before use or charging.

Even a small amount of moisture can affect the performance and lifespan of your devices. Always allow ample time for your AirPods and case to air dry after the cleaning process.

By adhering to these precautions, you can keep your AirPods and their case in pristine condition, thus ensuring you can enjoy their high-quality audio and convenient features for many years to come. Maintaining the cleanliness of your AirPods and their case is a crucial aspect of ensuring their longevity and performance.

The accumulation of dirt, debris, and earwax can significantly affect not only the sound quality but also the comfort and lifespan of these devices. With the right tools and a gentle approach, you can effectively clean your AirPods and their case without causing any damage.

Remember, the key to preserving your AirPods’ performance and their sleek appearance lies in regular maintenance and careful cleaning. By following this guide, you can enjoy your AirPods to their fullest potential and extend their lifespan, providing you with quality audio for many more years to come.

So, the next time you take out your AirPods, remember, a little care goes a long way!