Your AirPods Are More Dirty Than You Ever Thought

What's really lurking in your AirPods and in your ears?
Fabienne Lang

"Hey, there's this great song you should listen to." "Fantastic, let me hear it!" Then all of a sudden your friend proceeds to pluck their AirPods out of their ears and starts handing them over to you.

As this is happening, you notice the earbuds are covered in some sticky yellow-brown gunk — yikes! As they slowly get closer to you the theme tune for Jaws starts to slowly play in your head...What do you do? Should you put the nasty AirPods into your ears anyways, as you don't want to offend your friend? Or do you mention something?


In order to avoid such irksome and awkward instances, here's a bit of information on why your AirPods are, in fact, so dirty, how to stop them from getting so dirty to begin with, and then how to clean them until they're as good as new.

Why are my AirPods so dirty?

Well, ear wax is the most obvious culprit. Gunky, sticky, yellow in color, no one particularly likes to see ear wax let alone share someone else's via an AirPod exchange. However, it's not just wax that you'll find adorning your snug little white earbuds. There's also dust, dirt, pollution, lint, and metal, all of which work together to create bacteria, and even in some cases, fungi. 

You most likely wear your earbuds for hours at a time, either on your commute to work, while working out, or for a calming walk — all perfect moments for your AirPods to gather as much of your ear wax as possible. And when you're not using them, you're probably chucking them into your bag, pocket, or protective case (that's probably not been cleaned since you bought the earbuds), where they collect dirt, dust, lint, and whatnot. 

Completing this routine day in and day out, weeks on end, or even over a number of years, you can see how easily your earpieces get dirty, all the way into the earbud's mesh wiring.

Do your AirPods get dirty?

Let's face the above facts straight in the, well, face. If you're human you have ears, and if you have ears you most probably have ear wax. However regularly you may use Q tips, there will inevitably still be some wax lurking around in your ear.

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AirPods have a habit of snuggling deeper into your ear canal, picking up more ear wax. Maybe these could replace Q tips...just a thought. 

But yes, your AirPods most likely get dirty. A number of people shared their dirtiest AirPods on a post here. If you're a bit squeamish, maybe don't look at those.

What are the dangers of having dirty AirPods?

Even though it's not pleasant looking at dirty AirPods, it's also not all that harmful for your health. That said, there are a few little points to make here.

"Bacteria such as staph aureus or pseudomonas, as well as fungus such as aspergillus, can cause outer ear infections if these germs are on the earbud and then the earbud is placed into the ear," said Erich Voigt, an otolaryngologist at New York University Langone Health. 

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You can also contract swimmer's ear from dirty AirPods. It happens when there is broken or inflamed skin in the ear that comes into contact with bacteria or fungus, which coincidentally can be transported from your dirty AirPods. 

Luckily for you, these aren't all that dangerous to your health, and there are solutions to clean your AirPods easily.

How do I clean ear wax out of AirPods, and can I do it from home?

To stop your AirPods from getting too dirty here are a few tried and tested methods for removing ear wax, and any other particles that don't belong in your earbuds. You'll most likely have all, or at least some, of these articles in your home. 

Apple suggests using a "dry, and lint-free" cloth to wipe the main part of the AirPod or AirPod pro, and then using a Q tip for the interior and the mesh parts.

Some say these methods aren't all that great and go so far as to suggest sucking out the wax with your mouth. We're not sure about you, but undertaking mouth to mouth with your foul AirPods or AirPod Pros does not sound appealing. Not one bit.

Moving back to more reasonable methods, others suggest using a soft brush to gently scrub at the mesh wiring and inner section. You can even use a soft toothbrush here or an anti-static brush. If the soft brush doesn't quite do the trick for more sticky ear wax, opt for a slightly firmer brush and that should do the trick. You can even use a sponge, as per iFixit tech repair site's founder, Kyle Wiens, suggests.

To go even further dab some alcohol or vinegar onto the toothbrush, brush or cloth before wiping your earbuds. But watch out not to dose them too much, as AirPods aren't waterproof.

Another handy tool that most people have at home is waxy Blu-Tack. Sticky itself, it's a great way to pull out any stubborn bits of ear wax sticking to the inner part of your AirPod. Just roll it around between your fingers first to get it nice and soft, and it'll work beautifully. Make sure not to push it too far into the AirPod though, as you'll end up blocking it entirely!

There's no absolute perfect method for cleaning your AirPods or AirPod Pros, however, you'll still manage to remove some of that clingy ear wax if you set your mind to it. The added benefit is that you'll also hear the sound more clearly once again. With ear wax building up in the inner part of your AirPod it ends up blocking the sound you hear. So, try one or all of these methods and see for yourself.