Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Surprise! Those AirPods that you stick in your ears on a regular basis, sometimes for hours on end, often when you're sweating in the gym, need occasional cleaning.
Some people just give them a wipe off and get on with their day, while others want to go all the way and fully clean and sanitize their AirPods.
Well, my AirPods Pro have seen a lot of use, and they could do with a clean, so I thought that I'd bring you along for the ride.
How to clean and sanitize your AirPods
Note that while I'm cleaning AirPods Pro here, the process is similar for the AirPods too. Apple offers its official guidance on how to clean AirPods here.
I see people overcomplicating the cleaning process. I like to keep it simple.
A couple of Q-tips
A couple of lens wipes
A disposable surface for the cleaning process like a paper towel (so everything doesn't get covered in earwax)
I've come across people who use isopropyl alcohol for cleaning but I'm reluctant to drench AirPods in a solvent. I don't think that dissolving earwax and pushing it deeper into the earbuds is all that good for them in the long run. Then there's the possibility of damaging plastics.
These Lens Wipes are inexpensive and only contain 40-50% alcohol, so they're less abrasive and fit for cleaning glasses, camera lenses, screens, and, in this case, AirPods.
Step 1: Assess the damage
First, I assessed just how bad things are. Apple replaced my AirPods Pro earbuds a few months ago because they suffered from the crackling issue. They look quite new. The case on the other hand is over two years old, and it looks it. It's scratched, and there are chips that came off. No amount of cleaning or buffing it out is going to make it look new.
I notice that there's also a fair bit of muck trapped in the Lightning port.
Step 2: Clean the case
I started with the case. There are a lot of nooks and crannies in this design, and they trap a lot of debris. Around the hinge area, where the AirPods sit, and the connectors at the bottom that supply power to charge up the earbuds all seem to be muck magnets.
However, it's nothing that a lens wipe (you could use a screen cleaner too) and a Q-tip can't solve. I was actually surprised how easily it lifted off. The Q-tip was particularly handy for cleaning around the charge connectors.
Step 3: Clean the AirPods
As I said, the AirPods earbuds themselves were quite clean. However, they did benefit from removing the silicone earbud tips and a general cleaning.
Step 4: Clean the Lightning port
To clean the Lighting port, I used -- gently, with a lot of caution -- the bamboo stick of the Q-tip. Be careful, don't go full gorilla on it, and you should be fine. If you have a can of compressed air, then this might work, too.
My AirPods Pro definitely don't look like new, but they do look a lot cleaner, and are a lot more hygienic.
How often should you clean your AirPods?
It really depends. Probably every few months would help to keep the AirPods looking fresh. However, It's probably been over a year since I cleaned my AirPods Pro case, so to each their own!
Why do my AirPods sound muffled?
Buildup of debris or earwax can affect the sound output quality of your AirPods, so giving them a thorough cleaning to see if dirt is interfering with sound may save you a trip to the Apple store.
Can I use hydrogen peroxide to clean AirPods?
Never use hydrogen peroxide, solvents or any abrasive cleaners to clean your AirPods as this can damage them. This includes household cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. You should also never submerge your case or AirPods in any cleaning solutions or in water. A q-tip, lens wipe, and some meticulous cleaning is all it takes to get them in top shape.