Why do AirPods get so dirty?

Your AirPods can (and will) get dirty almost anywhere: When you use them, when you charge them in the case, when you let them on the table, and anywhere else.

The issue with AirPods is that they are so white and pristine that all it takes is a little bit of dirt to make it seem like you haven’t cleaned them in ages. Don’t let a little bit of dirt make you feel embarrassed, though!

The main culprit is earwax. The more you use your AirPods, the more contact they have with earwax – and it’s not something you can prevent, because wax naturally builds up in your body.

That’s not the only thing you should be worried about!

If you carry your AirPods in your pockets or backpack, they’re bound to get dirty there too. You might think you can keep them safe from dirt if you carry them in your case – but that won’t help as much as you think!

The AirPods case will get dirty too – and it will make your AirPods get dirty too. Not only do you have to clean your AirPods but you also have to clean the case as well.

As long as you do a little routine maintenance on both your AirPods and the case, there isn’t much to worry about. On the other hand, if you let them accumulate filth, your white and pristine AirPods can turn gray and filthy rather quickly!

My AirPods are always dirty, is this normal?

Yes, it’s completely normal. The more you use your AirPods, the dirtier they will get from earwax. And not using them won’t prevent them from getting dirty – they will get dirty from sitting in the case too.

There’s no escaping dirt when it comes to AirPods. As long as you take five minutes and clean them up, there’s nothing to worry about. The real problem happens when you lose your cleaning habits and dirt starts to build up. That’s when things get nasty!

How to clean AirPods effectively?

If you want to clean your AirPods, you need a few household items. You don’t need to have surgical precision to deal with a little dirt, but you sure need the patience to do this right.

Remember, you’re dealing with expensive earbuds – be gentle with them!

What you need to clean your AirPods

  • Cotton swabs
  • A dry microfiber cloth
  • A damp microfiber cloth
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes (this is recommended by Apple itself)
  • A soft-bristled brush

How to clean inside the AirPods

To deal with the earwax buildup, grab a cotton swab and gently remove all the nastiness off your AirPods. Be patient with it, as it might take a little time to remove it all.

If there’s a stubborn piece of earwax there, you can use a toothpick to remove it. Never use a toothpick to clean the speaker mesh, though. This is only for the plastic part.

If neither a cotton swab nor a toothpick is enough to clean the earwax off, cleaning putty can be a miracle worker. You can find one online for cheap.

It cannot be stressed enough that you should treat the speaker mesh with extra care. Don’t poke at it directly and don’t rub anything on it (not water, not alcohol, nothing at all). If you find earwax or dirt there, use the cleaning putty and be patient with it.

How to clean the AirPods exterior

For the AirPods exterior, use the damp cloth to try and remove the dirt. If it’s harder to remove than usual, use the alcohol wipes.

Once you’re done with the alcohol wipes, use the damp cloth again and finish up with the dry cloth. It’s that simple!

Don’t use bleach or any other type of alcohol not recommended by Apple. Don’t soak the AirPods in water nor put them under running water. Always use a lightly damp cloth and alcohol wipes. Otherwise, you might ruin your AirPods.

How to clean the AirPods case

Before you clean the case, put your AirPods in a place where they won’t get any dirt on them. A sealed container is great for this, such as a little box or a Ziploc bag.

Cleaning the case is even easier than dealing with the AirPods. The very first thing you should do is clean the case exterior with a damp cloth. Once again, if the dirt is more stubborn than usual, use alcohol wipes to deal with it. Make sure you finish up with a dry cloth.

When the outside part is good and clean, it’s time to deal with the inside of the case. Use a lightly damp cotton swab to clean there and quickly follow up with a dry cotton swab to finish it up.

Don’t put anything damp on the USB port. Use the brush instead. Brush the USB port as gently as you can.

If the edges are looking nasty too, you can use a toothpick to bring the dirt out and then finish the job with another cotton swab.

Should you disinfect your AirPods?

You must disinfect your AirPods, especially if you share them with someone else. And, even if you don’t share them, disinfect them every once in a while. You never know where nasty bacteria are lingering around!

To disinfect anything but the AirPods speakers, use the isopropyl alcohol wipes and a damp cloth.

For the speakers themselves, you’ll need to buy lens wipes and gently wipe the mesh to disinfect it. Don’t use alcohol wipes or damp cotton swabs using alcohol for this part. You can ruin your AirPods if you do.

What you should never do when cleaning your AirPods

A couple of things are against the rules when you’re cleaning your AirPods. The first one is to never soak or rinse the AirPods or the case. Water can and will ruin them.

Don’t use bleach or any alcohol other than 70% isopropyl. If Apple recommends that one alone, there’s a reason for it.

Never use anything other than the lens wipes (not the alcohol wipes!) to clean the speaker mesh. You’re one wrong move away from ruining your AirPods, especially if you end up stabbing it with a cotton swab or, even worse, a toothpick.

Don’t get too creative and try new things. Keep it safe and keep it clean.

How to keep your AirPods clean

There’s not much you can do other than cleaning your AirPods. It might seem like the obvious thing to do, but a lot of people haven’t realized it yet. And most of them get surprised when their AirPods look nasty!

Both earwax and dirt tend to build up. If you proactively act against that buildup, you won’t have any issues when it comes to keeping your AirPods clean. If you let it build up, it’s going to be harder and harder to get them back to their original state.

Simply put, if you want to keep your AirPods clean, clean them!

How do I prevent my AirPods from getting dirty?

Dirt is a constant issue for AirPods, but it’s one you can prevent if you’re smart about things. There are two key places where they will get dirty: your ears and where you store them.

The first thing you have to do is pretty straightforward: keep your ears clean! Good hygiene will play a big part when it comes to earwax buildup in your AirPods. Everyone has some level of earwax in them – but with good ear hygiene, you can keep it under control.

You should also store your AirPods somewhere clean. The best way to do this is to keep the AirPods case clean. But if for some reason that’s not possible, store your AirPods inside a sealed box or bag.

Other than that, don’t carry your AirPods around in your backpack or pockets. They get dirt from there too!

What happens if I don’t clean my AirPods?

Two things will happen if you don’t clean your AirPods.

The first is rather obvious: they will look incredibly nasty. The less you clean them, the more earwax and dirt there will be in them. And before you know it, it’ll be downright disgusting. Fortunately, AirPods are easy to clean!

If you don’t care about the first one, the second one will raise an alarm. AirPods can stop working if they get too dirty. Dirt can compromise the speaker mesh (something rather delicate) and kill your AirPods. Good AirPods hygiene will prevent this!

Is it dangerous to use dirty AirPods?

Calling it dangerous would be a little bit of a stretch, but it could prove harmful to do so. Dirty AirPods could carry all sorts of bacteria that will get inside your body through your ears – and that’s not something you want to happen!

The best way to avoid any issues coming from dirty AirPods is to keep them clean. Luckily for you, you now know how to do that!

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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