How to clean Apple AirPods

Easy ways to keep those buds whiter than white

Apple AirPods 3rd Gen held in hands
(Image credit: Future)

Part of the joy of owning Apple AirPods is the fact that every time you put them in your ears, it’s like donning a pair of box fresh white trainers. So pure… The wearable equivalent of driven snow… Or are they? If you’ve noticed some… shall we say… residue sitting on your precious buds or inside the case, it’s time to find out how to clean Apple AirPods. Thinking about giving technology a wash always comes with its own set of fears but there are a number of easy ways to clean your AirPods so you can get that sparkling box fresh-feeling all over again. 

 How to clean Apple AirPods – the Apple way 

The first thing to remember when you want to clean your AirPods is that even if you have the newer AirPods Pro or AirPods 3rd generation, they are only sweat and water resistant, not waterproof. This is an important distinction, which means no running anything under the tap or submerging your AirPods in the sink. As with cleaning all tech, a little caution is required. 

Apple Support’s official recommendation if you want to give your AirPods a spa is to use a lint free cloth. It primarily suggests to only use this in a dry state but if your AirPods have been in contact with anything staining or damaging, Apple suggests wiping clean with a cloth slightly dampened with fresh water. 

Then it’s important to make sure you dry them carefully with another lint-free cloth, making sure no liquid gets into openings. If there are any waxy incursions on the microphone or speaker meshes, Apple suggests cleaning those with a dry cotton swab. And always make sure everything is completely dry before you put the AirPods back into the charging case. 

Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

How to clean Apple AirPods – alternatives 

If you want to rebel gently against Apple’s cloth technique, there are a number of other solutions (literally) to try. There are plenty of AirPod cleaning kits available to buy online, complete with alcohol wipes, anti-static cloths, and soft bristle brushes. As long as you are keeping all moisture to the exterior and making sure you immediately dry it, you can use alcohol wipes to fully disinfect your pods. 

Apple has said that you can use a 70% isopropyl, 75% ethyl alcohol wipe or other disinfectant wipes to “gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max or EarPods.” 

Don’t use these on the speaker mesh, though, or on the cushions of your AirPods Max. Bleach and hydrogen peroxide are a big no no. And, if you don’t want to actually touch anything and just want to make sure there are no bugs, you could always use a UV-C box to disinfect just with light. This won't shift earwax, but it'll kill bugs stone dead.  

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.