Your Dirty AirPods Are Grosser Than You Think
Here’s what lives on your grimy earbuds — and how to clean them
In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today, to give you a better tomorrow.
Take a good look at your earbuds. Is the mesh clogged with earwax? Is there a strip of dirt or lint lining the plastic seams? Maybe there’s even an oddly intense and dark dust clinging to the interior edges of your AirPods case.
If your earbuds are disgusting, know this first: no shame. This is an obscenely common issue, an element of high-tech hygiene that is, oddly, overlooked, given how ubiquitous buds have become since the introduction of the iPod in 2001. But these little hunks of plastic, mesh, and rubber collect particles of dust, lint, earwax, metal, dirt, and pollution, all of which is in turn infested with bacteria and even fungi, which we then insert into our ears, sometimes for hours at a time. You wouldn’t stick something so filthy up your nose, but somehow into the ear doesn’t seem quite as gross.
I received at least 50 images of people’s gunked-up earbuds, and while I have no intention to shame anyone, I have to admit that some of the pictures were alarming.
How dangerous is all that crap on your earbuds? The answer is complicated, but at the very least, you’re unlikely to get ill from the months-old gunk left to build on the plastic and mesh. But there are certain circumstances in which you could be at some risk, so while there’s no need to panic — or, God forbid, remove the buds from your ears, which might mean you have to talk to someone — it’s never too late to start a healthy earbud-cleaning regimen.
It’s obvious a lot of us could benefit from such direction. I received at least 50 images this week of people’s gunked-up earbuds, and while I have truly no intention to shame anyone, I have to admit that some of the pictures were alarming.