Your AirPods Are Gross!

Clean your ears!

George “Ace” Acevedo
4 min readMay 17, 2020
Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash

You may be wearing your headphones more now than ever. Maybe you’re trying to drown out someone you’re stuck at home with, or it’s how you listen to your video calls. But over time they get downright disgusting.

Some people naturally produce copious amounts of ear wax.

Chances are that if you do, someone has told you. And most women believe men produce far more than they do. Is this true? Maybe it just seems that way because men seem less likely to clean their ears (just ask any woman).

How many times have you been asked by a woman to do so?

I never thought about this growing up because my mother only shouted at me to clean BEHIND my ears. But as an adult, I once had a partner who complained about my ears all the time. She had an ear fetish and loved to kiss and lick my ears at romantic moments. I told her I didn’t understand the problem, and didn’t think my ears were that bad. She responded by taking a picture of my head from the side. Yuck! I immediately saw her point, and I instantly added regular ear cleaning to my hygiene regimen.

But even with the cleanest ears, over time there will still be a buildup of ear wax on your in-ear headphones.

When was the last time you cleaned them?

When was the last time you even looked closely at them? I have friends who work with people’s headphones all day, and all of them say they hate it because no one seems to pay attention to their cleanliness. If you have AirPods, Galaxy Buds, PowerBeats, or any other brand you insert into your ears, they all have the same problem. Ear wax gets into the little speaker holes, it accumulates in the charging case and on the tips, and it just gets gross all over. There’s a reason why people recoil when you try to hand them one and say “want to hear something interesting?” To take things further, over time the buildup can even muffle the sound. So how do you clean them?

Let’s start with what NOT to do.

I can’t believe I have to say this (but my friends who handle headphones say I need to), but DO NOT hold your headphones under water. Don’t put anything in the charging ports. Don’t use sharp objects or abrasive materials. Don’t use soap or other household cleaners.

What should you do?

Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. You can use a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, but don’t use it in the speaker mesh. You can also wipe them with a bit of water on a cloth, but again, make sure no liquid gets into the openings.

I use a Q-Tip to get into those hard to reach areas, like the hinge of the case.

If it’s a bit dusty in there, I use a paintbrush or a makeup brush (which are also great for your computer keyboard). You’ll want to get one of your own, though, just for that purpose. Borrowing your partner’s makeup brush to clean your headphones without asking is a sure way to spend a night on the couch. And there’s a special place in hell for you if you’re the type to use it when she’s not around and then put it back unnoticed.

Also, use the swabs in the speaker mesh areas, but if you do, make sure they are dry! You do not want liquids in any openings. Sometimes, though, the tip of the swab is not firm enough to get all the debris out, so I will pinch off some of the cotton (not all of it), so the firmness of the stick beneath it will help.
The ear tips are a little trickier. You can use the wipes, but don’t use any other kind of household cleaners, including soap, as some products will cause the rubber to deteriorate. If the tips can come off, then water is ok. Feel free to remove them and run them under water. Wait for everything to dry though, before reattaching them.

Want to know more? If you have AirPods, here’s the official article from Apple: How to Clean Your AirPods

Sony Earbuds? Click here.

And after you’ve cleaned them, remember to clean your ears! (And behind them too. Your mom will thank you.)




George “Ace” Acevedo

Writer. Noisemaker. Visual Artist. Former radio guy who knows a little about a lot.