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How to clean your AirPods case

Sometimes charging cases need a little TLC, too.

Published onMay 24, 2023

A photo of an Apple AirPods charging case getting cleaned, with the text "how to clean your AirPods charging case" overlaid.

So you’ve owned Apple AirPods or Apple AirPods Pro for quite a while now and it’s time to clean the case. Maybe it’s caked with pocket dirt, or maybe the charge port is having problems. Here’s a guide to make sure you’re getting rid of the grime as best as possible.

Why you should clean you AirPods case

If you don’t care so much about what your case looks like but you still need a push to clean it, consider this: the dirtiest, most germ-infested things we come into contact with aren’t the toilets in our lives, it’s the things that touch our hands the most. If you touch your charging case to your AirPods as often as we think you do, that means that you could probably stand to do a little sanitizing.

Cleaning the case has a number of benefits as well, such as more efficient charging, less risk of the buds not fitting, and maintaining proper function of the lid. When you consider that this is pretty much everything a charging case actually does, the decision to clean or not clean becomes a no-brainer.

Prepare your cleaning materials

A photo of AirPods Pro, alcohol, and q-tips on a wooden desk.
Pictured: your main tools for AirPods cleaning.

Since the cleaning supplies you need to clean your AirPods case are the same as the ones needed for when you clean your AirPods or headphones, you should probably just double up and hit them both at the same time. Clean off the kitchen table or your desk, and make sure you have some room to tinker. This is what you’re going to need:

  1. Rubbing alcohol, 70% or above
  2. Cotton swabs
  3. Paper towels or a dry cloth
  4. A soft toothbrush you aren’t using for something else
  5. Adhesive putty
  6. a non-metallic toothpick

While not all of these are mandatory, they really help get into tiny crevices that aren’t able to be cleaned through normal means. Sure, it’s expensive and annoying to have a toothbrush around for nothing but cleaning electronics, but you definitely don’t want to brush your teeth with pocket gunk. If you’re not planning on digging out the pocket lint from the charge port, you can skip the toothpick.

In the cap to the alcohol bottle, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Place this to the side of your work area. Lay out a couple squares of paper towels, or your dry cloth in the center of where you’re going to be cleaning your AirPods case.

How to clean an AirPods case

A photo of a cotton swab cleaning the carrying/battery case of the AirPods Pro

Remove the earbuds and set them in a safe place — preferably where any sticky-fingered housemates can’t get to. Then place the charging case at the center of the dry towel area you’ve got going, and pick up a cotton swab. Now it’s time to clean.

  1. Take the toothbrush and scrub crevices with buildup. Deposits should be easy to remove this way.
  2. Soak an end of a cotton swab in alcohol, and rub any crevices (mainly the lid and body edge) or problem areas you can see with gunk. It’s okay if it doesn’t come out, we’re looking to break up deposits.
  3. Once the buildups are gone, rub the dry end of the cotton swab along the crevices to push off the detritus that was dislodged but not taken off the case.
  4. If there are still deposits that just won’t come out, mash the putty into the crevice and then pull it off. That should take care of it.
  5. Using the non-metallic pin, remove lint and other gunk from the charging port.
  6. Give the Lightning port a quick, hard blow to dislodge any more pocket lint the pin missed.
  7. If necessary, allow the case to dry on the paper towel or dish cloth.
A photo of the AirPods Pro, about to be cleaned with a Q-tip (foreground) and alcohol.
A capful of alcohol is more than enough.

Once the case is dry and clean, replace the earbuds and make sure they’re charging properly. The case should open and shut without issue, and the charging port also shouldn’t have any issues with normal use. Once this is all checked, it’s time to clean up your workspace.

Things to watch out for

Though the above should take care of most of the dirt you can see and even some that you can’t — it’s possible that you won’t be able to get rid of everything. Should you find that there’s any persistent soil marks, it’s possible that the plastic has stained, or the discoloration is caused by something you can’t clean. If that’s the case, then you may be out of luck.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
H1 chip • Easy for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $195.00
These work with Android, but iPhone users will see the best results
The Apple AirPods (3rd gen) are just a slight upgrade over the second-generation models, but iPhone users will be quite happy with the deep integration and ease of use these earbuds provide.

Additionally, if the hinge doesn’t shut and cleaning the gunk out from around it doesn’t work: something may be broken that cleaning won’t fix. There are a number of issues that cleaning should solve, but often you’ll find some problems just don’t go away. So if your case is pristine, there’s no lint in the charging port, and your earbuds still won’t charge: it’s time to head to the Apple Store for a repair. If the staff refuse to touch your AirPods, please consider recycling them.

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