Headphones

Your AirPods are full of bacteria and earwax—here’s how to clean them

What's really lurking inside your earbuds?

AirPods Credit: Reviewed/TJ Donegan

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You probably wear your AirPods every day (or close to it). But how often do you clean them? Chances are nowhere near that often—if at all.

But regularly cleaning your AirPods is important. First, because you spent a lot of money on those tiny white earbuds, money that you don't want to go to waste just because you didn't take care of them. And second, more importantly, because your AirPods can get clogged with earwax from sitting inside your ears for hours on end. "Aside from carrying dirt and bacteria, earbuds can also increase ear wax build-up," Whittier Hospital explains on its website. "Since our ears are designed to clean themselves, wearing earbuds can trap the ear wax that is supposed to be carried out." Yuck.

So how do you clean your AirPods (or AirPods Pro) without damaging them? And how often should you really be doing it? We asked our executive editor—and AirPods savant—TJ Donegan for his top tips below.

How to clean AirPods and AirPods Pro

AirPod Pro
Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

Just like new.

TJ says that cleaning your AirPods is actually pretty easy—as long as you're careful. "Your best bet is to use a cotton swab and some 99% isopropyl alcohol, which will evaporate almost immediately," he recommends. "That will work great for both the AirPods Pro (remove the tips and clean them separately) and the all-plastic AirPods—as well as most of your other electronics." On its website, Apple also suggests wiping down your AirPods with a "soft, dry, lint-free cloth."

And as for what not to do? Never (and we mean never) use water. "Water can easily get inside and short out the electronics, especially since each 'bud includes its own battery (even the water-resistant AirPods Pro should be handled with care)," TJ cautions.

How to clean your AirPods case

AirPods Case
Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

Don't forget to clean the case, too.

It doesn't matter how clean your AirPods are if the case where you store them is dirty. And yes, it needs to be cleaned, too. Because while your case might not have earwax, it does have bacteria and dirt from everyday use. To clean it, Apple recommends using a soft cloth along with isopropyl alcohol if necessary. However, be careful not to get any liquid in the charging ports and never use anything abrasive that could damage any of the parts.

How often you should clean your AirPods

Like with most things, it all depends on how often you use them and how dirty they get. However, a good rule of thumb is every week or two. "If your ears are pretty clean and you store them in the charging case, you should only have to clean them once a week at most," TJ says.

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