You’ve had your AirPods for a while and they’re great, but you’ve noticed one issue: they’re, well, looking a bit used. That probably means it’s time to give the earbuds a proper clean, but as with any delicate hardware, you have to do this the right way, otherwise you may void any warranty you still have and potentially make the devices unusable.
Apple anticipated questions about how to properly clean a pair of AirPods, as it is an entirely reasonable question to have. The good news is that, yes, you can safely clean these earbuds and headphones, and the same official instructions generally apply to all AirPods versions, including the Pro and Max (and they can even be used to clean your old wired EarPods).
According to Apple, there are some disinfectants that are safe to use for cleaning AirPods: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, isopropyl alcohol wipes, and 75-percent ethyl alcohol wipes. These products can be used to “gently wipe the exterior surfaces” of AirPods products, the company says.
In the same way, Apple also lists some cleaning agents that should not be used with its audio products, including anything that contains bleach and hydrogen peroxide.
Things to avoid
There are some things to be mindful of, per Apple’s support document, including that these products should not be used to wipe the AirPods Max’s ear cushions and knit mesh canopy, nor should they be used on the speaker mesh found on the three AirPods models and the EarPods. The company also says users need to be careful not to get moisture from the wipes into the products’ openings, plus the earbuds and headphones cannot be submerged into any sort of cleaning product.
AirPods Max cushions and headband
Apple goes on to provide specific steps for cleaning each audio product. Owners of the AirPods Max headphones who want to clean the headband and cushions are advised to mix a cup of water with 5ml (a teaspoon) of liquid laundry detergent, for example.
The mixture can be used with a lint-free cloth to “gently” rub the cushions and headband for a minute each, then they’ll need to be wiped down with a cloth and water. Apple notes that when using a cloth, it needs to be wrung out; don’t use a sopping wet rag to clean the headphones, as it may cause water to get into the sensitive components and ruin them.
There are some other things to keep in mind, including that when cleaning the headband, Apple says to hold the headphones upside down so that the cleaning solution doesn’t run down the band into the components. The Max should also be left to dry flat for a full day before reattaching the cushions, according to Apple.
The product’s case can likewise be cleaned, which the company says can be done with a “soft, dry, lint-free cloth.” If that’s not enough to deal with a stain, Apple notes isopropyl alcohol can be used to “slightly dampen” the cloth, but that users need to be sure to let the case dry afterward and to avoid using anything abrasive on the Smart Case.
AirPods and AirPods Pro cases and mesh
As mentioned above, disinfectant wipes shouldn’t be used to clean the AirPods’ speaker meshes. If they need to be cleaned, however, there is an option, with Apple saying it’s safe to use a dry cotton swab, which can also be used on the microphones. When it comes to the AirPods Pro, it is also possible to pull off the ear tips and rinse them with water, Apple notes, also warning against the use of cleaners and soap when doing this.
As for the charging cases, Apple advises using a “clean, dry, soft-bristled brush” on the Lightning connector, but to avoid putting anything in the actual charging ports, as this may damage the metal contacts inside.
Generally speaking, the cases can be simply cleaned using a dry lint-free cloth, though, in more extreme instances, Apple says it’s okay to use rubbing alcohol to “slightly dampen” the cloth. If a damp cloth is used, the case must be left to dry before using it and, as expected, Apple warns against getting any liquid in the charging ports.