How To Clean Your AirPods Max Headphones

Apple's AirPods Max headphones are its most expensive set at $549. If you've purchased a pair for yourself, you're likely wondering how to keep them clean. The frame is made of stainless steel and anodized aluminum and is fairly easy to surface clean, but the rest has parts made from breathable knit mesh and memory foam as well, which take a bit more care.

First, let's talk about the things you shouldn't do. According to Apple

  • Never submerge any part of your AirPods Max in water or in cleaning mixtures. 
  • Do not let liquids or moisture enter the headphones. 
  • Never use cleaning products that contain bleach or hydrogen peroxide. 
  • Don't use harsh cleaning implements like metal tools or heavy-duty scrubbers. These might seriously damage your headphones. 
  • Lastly, do not attempt to put the headphones back together until completely dry — you might need to wait at least a day before you can actually use them.

Before you get started, make sure you have mild liquid laundry detergent, a clean container, and at least three pieces of lint-free, soft cloth. You will need to keep one dry, one wet with water, and one wet with a cleaning solution. For cleaning the outer portions of the headphones, you will need some alcohol or disinfecting wipes. Lastly, if you have the pin tool used to extract SIM cards on phones, keep it handy so you can detach the ear cups and clean them separately.

Start with the AirPods Max headband

When cleaning the  AirPods Max — particularly the headband and the ear cushions — be prepared to only do light spot cleaning. Don't use alcohol or disinfecting wipes on the knit mesh canopy or ear cushions of the AirPods Max. Here's how to get started (per Apple):

  1. Mix a teaspoon (5 ml) of mild liquid laundry detergent with a cup (250 ml) of water in a clean container. This will be your main cleaning agent, so make sure nothing but your cleaning cloth touches it.
  2. Remove the magnetic ear cushions. A gentle pull should do it.
  3. If you have a SIM tool, you can detach the ear cups. Push the pin into the small hole in each cup while pulling out the headband end. If you don't have one, it's okay to leave the ear cups attached.
  4. Hold the AirPods Max upside-down so that liquid does not get into the cups (if they are still attached) or the headband attachment point.
  5. Dip a lint-free cloth into your cleaning solution.
  6. Gently rub the cleaning solution on the headband cushion for one minute. Avoid applying too much pressure on the foam.
  7. Dampen another cloth with water and use it to wipe the detergent off the headband. Repeat as needed, wringing it out each time to ensure you're only using water.
  8. Gently wipe the water off the headband using your dry cloth.

Place the AirPods Max headband somewhere flat to dry for at least a day.

Don't forget the ear cushions, ear cups, and smart case

When you've finished working on the AirPods Max headband, follow steps 5-8 for the magnetic ear cushions as well. Do not use alcohol or disinfecting wipes to clean the ear cushions. When you're done spot-cleaning, place the ear cushions somewhere flat to dry. Do not reassemble all the just-cleaned pieces of the AirPods Max headphones or attempt to use them for at least 24 hours while they dry. You could damage your headphones.

According to Apple, you can use 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipes, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to sanitize outside of the AirPods Max ear cups — which you either previously detached using the SIM tool or left connected to the headband — and the headphones' Smart Case. Alternatively, you can also use a cloth slightly dampened with isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the ear cups and case and get rid of any prints, stains, or dirt on them. Use your cleaning wipe or cloth to gently clean the case and the surface of the ear cups. Leave them out to dry along with everything else.

After a full day, you can reassemble the AirPods Max and start using the now-clean headphones.

Don't want to keep cleaning your AirPods Max? There are options

Using cleaning products on electronics can be a harrowing endeavor for those who aren't experienced in handling device parts that are sensitive to liquid and moisture. If you prefer to get your AirPods Max headphones professionally serviced, you can pay extra for AppleCare+ coverage, which extends protection to two years and "includes unlimited incidents of accidental damage protection, each subject to a service fee." Make sure to check with Apple Support if you're not sure if AppleCare+ covers your particular issue. Some customers have been able to walk into an Apple Store to get their headphones cleaned (per Reddit).

You can also get a protective casing for your AirPods Max headphones if you don't want to regularly clean the device. Although the Apple Store has limited accessories available for the AirPods Max — you can get a set of replacement ear cushions as a backup — you can purchase ear cup covers, casings, skins, or protectors on third-party websites like Amazon. Some even have an attachment that covers the headband portion of the AirPods Max.