Your wireless earbuds probably spend a lot of time stuffed inside your ears, and no offence, but your ears aren’t always the nicest place to be. You can practice good hygiene, keep your earbuds lasting longer, and avoid grossing out anyone else who might catch sight of them by making sure you clean them regularly.
We’re focusing on the AirPods, Galaxy Buds, and Pixel Buds here specifically because they’re three of the most popular, and because Apple, Samsung, and Google have all published official guides to keep them clean. If you have other wireless earbuds, a lot of the same techniques and instructions should apply.
How to Clean Your AirPods
The official Apple advice on cleaning your AirPods (and AirPods Pro) is to avoid running water over them. Instead, use a cloth that’s slightly dampened with fresh water, followed by a soft, dry, lint-free cloth so ensure none of the moisture stays around. Make sure your AirPods are completely dry before putting them back in their charging case.
You can use 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipes, 75 per cent ethyl alcohol wipes, or Clorox wipes to clean your Apple earbuds. Wipe gently, avoid the speaker meshes, and don’t use anything with bleach or hydrogen peroxide in it. Again, keep moisture to a minimum and well away from the openings of the AirPods.
A dry cotton swab is the best tool to use for cleaning the microphone and speaker meshes, according to Apple — sharp objects that can cause damage should be avoided. When it comes to the eartips, these can be rinsed with water once they’re removed from the AirPods, but avoid soap and household cleaners and dry them immediately afterwards (and make sure they’re dry before reattaching them).
When it comes to the charging case for your AirPods, the same soft, dry, lint-free cloth that we mentioned before is best. You can, if you want, dampen it slightly with isopropyl alcohol, but don’t allow any liquid to get into the charging ports, as they can become corroded. A clean, dry, soft-bristled brush can be used on the Lightning connector port, and make sure the case is fully dry before popping the AirPods back in.
How to Clean Your Galaxy Buds
The Samsung guide to keeping your Galaxy Buds clean is a fairly comprehensive one. Like with AirPods, Samsung advises to wipe the charging contacts on your earbuds with a clean and soft cloth, whenever they get sweat or any other liquid on them — if moisture is allowed to build up on the charging contacts, it could lead to corrosion.
Samsung makes a variety of Galaxy Buds, but they’re all cleaned in more or less the same way. First comes the disassembly: Take off the earbud tip by carefully sliding it, not forcing it. If you’ve got a pair of Galaxy Buds Live earbuds, then you need to remove the wingtips (the little rubber bands around the charging contacts).
Then you need to go over your earbuds and earbud tips (or wingtips) with a cotton swab and a dry brush, slowly and carefully making sure all debris, earwax, oil and any other dirt is removed. Samsung cautions against using metal or wire brushes, as the bristles could cause damage. If your earbuds have air ducts, clean these too.
You can use a soft and dry cloth to clean the inner parts of the earbud tips, and again you need to be methodical and gentle — the aim is to clean out what’s in there, not to add anything in. Don’t forget the charging case and the charging case contacts as well. Finally, you can reassemble your freshly cleaned Galaxy Buds, and carry on listening.
How to Clean Your Pixel Buds
Google has some official pointers for cleaning your Pixel Buds (or Pixel Buds A) and getting them looking as fresh and clean as the day you bought them. While they are water and sweat resistant, you should avoid putting the earbuds in liquid or holding them under running water, as this can damage the hardware. Chemical detergents, powder, and other chemical agents (such as alcohol or benzene) should be avoided too.
Instead, Google recommends a soft, dry, lint-free cloth to clean the earbuds and the charging case they come in. For scuffs and built-up dirt, you can dampen the cloth or use a slightly damp cotton swab, but it’s important not to apply too much moisture, especially near the openings of the earbuds.
A soft-bristled toothbrush is another tool Google recommends, which you can put to work on the microphone holes and speaker vents. Move the bristles in and out rather than side to side though, to make sure you’re pulling material out of the holes rather than just spreading it around.
Again, make sure everything is fully dried off before putting the earbuds back in the charging case. In the case of the Google Pixel Buds, there’s a short video you can watch to make sure you get it right.
This article has been updated since it was first published.