How to Clean AirPods

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
Use a dry cotton swab to gently clean AirPod speaker meshes and microphone. DBenitostock/Getty Images

Everyone enjoys a good podcast or playlist delivered by way of AirPods. What we don't love is the icky-sticky gunk that builds up over time on these tiny wonders. It's not just an issue of aesthetics, either. Earwax, dirt and grease left to accumulate on AirPods put the ear canal at risk of infection.

Fortunately, AirPods have been around long enough now that sanitizing methods have been effectively fine-tuned. That includes the case! The following instructions from Apple apply to AirPods and AirPods Pro.


First, the list of things NOT to do:

  • Never submerge or run any part of the device in water.
  • Don't use any sharp objects or abrasive materials to clean AirPods.
  • Don't use a disinfecting wipe on the speaker mesh area. It's fine to use these carefully on exterior surfaces.
  • Never put anything in the charging ports, as this could damage the metal charging contacts.

Cleaning Items: You'll need a dry cotton swab, a soft lint-free cloth (like a microfiber cloth) and a bottle of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol), available at any drugstore.


How to Clean AirPods:

  • Use the cotton swab to gently clean the speaker meshes and microphone. Some sources say to use a fine-edged tool, like a toothpick or pin, but Apple discourages this. Whether you choose a swab or tool, gently dig out any earwax around the edge of the speaker. Do not puncture the speaker with a tool. That would be a bummer.
  • Use the cloth to gently remove dirt and grime from the rest of the AirPod surface area.
  • In the event that the AirPods are contaminated with something that could stain or damage them (like shampoos, perfumes, detergent or acidic foods), it's necessary to go one step further. Carefully dampen a clean cloth with water and gently wipe the affected areas. Then, dry them with a dry cloth.
  • Do not use the AirPods or place them in the charging case until they are completely dry.
  • AirPods Pro also features silicone tips that cover the earbuds, which need to be cleaned, as well. Remove them, then rinse the tips in water. Do NOT use any type of cleaner or soap. Wipe them dry, then reattach only after they're completely dry.


How to Clean the AirPod Case:

  • Using a dry cloth again, gently wipe down the charging case. If it really needs some extra oomph, add a very small amount of the isopropyl alcohol to the cloth, then clean. Or use a disinfecting wipe. Do NOT get any liquid anywhere in the charging ports.
  • Don't place AirPods in the case until they're completely dry.
  • If the Lightning connector contains any type of debris, use a soft-bristled brush, like an old toothbrush, that's both clean and dry to gently scrub it out.

After a time or two, this cleaning method will be second nature!