Your AirPods are probably disgusting — here's how to clean them

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
  • If you wear your Apple AirPods on a regular basis, chances are they’re long overdue for a cleaning.
  • You can clean your AirPods using rubbing alcohol and some household items as long as you’re careful.

You probably wouldn’t wear the same outfit day after day without tossing it in the laundry, just like you wouldn’t eat off of the same fork without washing it. But most people probably can’t say the same for their earbuds.

When Business Insider swabbed 22 pairs of earbuds last year to see what types of germs might be residing on them, Columbia’s microbiology lab found that two samples had grown yeast and one sample had grown a type of bacteria associated with dirt. While that test did not include Apple’sAirPods, it’s still in your best interest to keep yours clean.

See below for tips and tricks on how to clean your AirPods. Be careful to avoid getting liquid in any of the AirPods’ openings, especially the charging ports, since they’re not water resistant.


First let’s start with the individual AirPods. We’ll get to the case later.

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Apple suggests using a dry, soft, lint-free cloth to clean your AirPods. To clean the microphone and speaker meshes, which is probably where most of the wax accumulates, the company advises using a dry cotton swab. Apple also says you can remove debris from the meshes with a clean and dry soft-bristled brush and warns not to use sharp or abrasive objects.


In my own experience, I found that wiping down the earbuds with a microfiber cloth like the ones typically used to clean eyeglass lenses worked well.

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To dig out debris and earwax from the mesh speakers, I used a the pointed end of a dental floss stick. If you use a pointed item like this, be careful not to accidentally push the dirt into the speaker when trying to scrape the gunk out.


There are other household items that could work, too.

MIKI Yoshihito/Flickr

Cult of Mac suggests a bunch of common accessories that could be used for cleaning your AirPods’ mesh speakers, including a lock-pick tool, a SIM removal tool (pictured above), one side of a pair of tweezers, or a small flat-head screwdriver.


Now, moving on to the AirPods case…

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Even though the AirPods charging case doesn’t come into contact with your ears, mine somehow accumulates more dirt, grime, and earwax than both of my AirPods combined. Apple suggests wiping down the case with a microfiber cloth and dampening it with 70% isopropyl alcohol, which can easily be found at drugstores like CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens as well as on Amazon.

Again, just make sure no liquid gets in the charging ports.


If you need to remove dirt or debris from the Lightning connector, use a clean and dry soft-bristled brush.

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Apple advises against putting anything into the charging ports inside the case to avoid damaging the metal contacts that power up your AirPods.


A microfiber cloth will work just fine for wiping away newly settled dust and dirt. But if your AirPod case is covered in earwax and dirt that’s been sitting there for a prolonged period of time, you might need to try something else.

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I alternated between using a Q-tip and a toothbrush to scrub away persistent grime and debris.

Flickr

Since the bristles on a toothbrush are designed to clean the nooks and crannies of your teeth, I found this to be a particularly useful tool for getting the crud out of the corners and edges of my AirPods case. I dipped the Q-tip and toothbrush in 70% isopropyl alcohol when scrubbing to speed up the process.

Be very careful not to get any moisture or liquid into the charging contacts inside the case or the Lightning port when doing so.


Here’s what a friend’s AirPods looked like before I scrubbed them down with a Q-tip and toothbrush dipped in 70% isopropyl alcohol.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

And here’s what they looked like after.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

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