AirPods Case Turning Yellow? – Common Reasons & Solution!

Author: James Potts | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

We all love our AirPods, that much I’m sure of. They’re the best-selling earbuds in the world, favored for their superior sound quality, functionality when used with other Apple devices, and of course, their look.

Those trusty little white earbuds have become quite the fashion statement. You only have to catch a glimpse of white plastic in someone’s ears to know they’re using AirPods.

So, if your beautiful shiny white charging case starts to turn a dirty shade of yellow, you might be a bit upset.

Don’t worry – the same thing happened to me, and it turns out it’s actually quite a common problem. Let’s take a look!

Why Your AirPods Case is Turning Yellow

Let’s start with the possible causes of why your case is turning yellow.

The first thing you need to know is that your AirPods case (and your AirPods too) is made of polycarbonate plastic, a substance well known for its incredible strength and durability.

But, it does have some downsides. It is susceptible to discoloration from a number of different sources, namely sunlight, cigarette smoke, and sweat.

During the manufacturing process, oxidation can occur due to high temperatures, which can leave the finished product more susceptible to faster discoloration once in use. If your case is turning yellow after only a month or two of use, this may be the cause. As this is a manufacturing error, you may be able to get a replacement – contact Apple to discuss.

Sunlight

Ultraviolet exposure is the number one cause of yellowing polycarbonate plastic. Extended exposure to sunlight will increase the amount of UV radiation that can permeate the plastic and cause discoloration to occur.

As the AirPods charging case is white, the discoloration tends to leave the polycarbonate with a yellowish tinge, as the lighter hues of the plastic are degraded by exposure to UV radiation from sunlight.

However, this is typically only a surface-level problem as UV radiation can only penetrate to a depth of 25 micrometers.

Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke contains numerous different chemicals that can stain things, including human skin, hair, clothing, and even hard materials.

Nicotine, although a colorless substance, when exposed to oxygen can cause yellow and brown stains. The tar in cigarette smoke also causes discoloration and staining.

Plastics like polycarbonate can be stained yellow by cigarette smoke too, so if you’re a smoker, or regularly visiting areas with a lot of cigarette smoke in the air, this could be the reason behind your AirPod case turning yellow.

Sweat

Sweat can also cause staining due to the amount of salt and acids secreted from your body, especially during an intensive workout or a long run.

Sweat carries oils from your skin, along with other dirt and grime that can negatively impact the appearance and lifespan of any plastics you touch, including your AirPods case (and AirPods themselves).

If you leave your AirPods case in your pocket while you’re working out, the sweat from your body will seep through your clothes, possibly carrying dye with it, and seep into the top layers of polycarbonate. Over time, repeated exposure to sweat can cause the degradation of the plastic, resulting in a yellowed look.

How to Fix a Yellowed AirPods Case

Anyway, now you know what might be causing this yellowing, let’s discuss how to get rid of it!

Restoring your AirPod case to its original bright white luster may be tricky if it’s been heavily exposed to intense sunlight. Although the UV penetration is only 25 micrometers or less, that’s still quite a lot of plastic to get through to restore the original color.

With regards to cigarette smoke and sweat, the same thing applies. The longer this discoloration has been present, the more difficult it will be to remove it effectively.

Of course, the best methods are always preventative, so once you’ve restored your case (as best you can), always remember to take steps to avoid this happening again! Keep your AirPods case out of sunlight, away from cigarette smoke, and always clean off any sweat as soon as you can, before it can penetrate the plastic.

There are many AirPod Case wraps available too, which will protect your case from further damage by shielding it from UV light exposure, cigarette smoke, sweat, and all other kinds of dirt and physical damage.

Basic Cleaning Methods

To save yourself some time and money, your first step should be to carry out a basic clean and see what kind of an effect that has on the appearance of your case.

Use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe the outer surface of the case. You can lightly dampen the cloth with isopropyl alcohol for more stubborn stains, but be sure to only use a dry cloth for the interior of the case.

If this hasn’t worked for removing any yellowing, then you may want to try the methods listed below.

RetroBrighting

RetroBrighting is the name given to a process using techniques that restore old, yellowed plastics back to their original color. It’s mostly used on the ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastics commonly found on old tech from the ‘80s and ‘90s (hence the ‘retro’ name), such as computer monitors and old gaming devices.

However, the techniques used can be applied to polycarbonate plastics too, with incredible results.

There are many ways to actually carry out the process, but all of the methods utilize hydrogen peroxide, water, and UV light. I know what you’re thinking: UV light? Isn’t that what causes the yellowing in the first place?

Technically yes, but with the application of peroxide, UV light helps to accelerate the bleaching process, which will in fact turn your AirPods case white again!

As many people will RetroBright sections of removable plastic from their devices, the fastest and most effective method involves submerging the item in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water and then leaving it either out in the sun or under a UV lamp.

As the outer shell of the AirPods case is not removable, you cannot do this! Submerging your case in water will of course damage it irreversibly. This means that the way you apply your RetroBrighting solution must be different.

Note: Always wear gloves when handling hydrogen peroxide, and take care not to look directly or for too long into UV light. Wear protective goggles or shades if possible.

You will need to make a solution using 3% hydrogen peroxide, diluted with some water, and then dab it all over the exterior of your AirPod Case. alternatively, you can soak a paper towel in the solution, squeeze out the excess, then drape it over the case or wrap the case in it.

Place the case in a sandwich bag and leave it in the sun or under a UV lamp for approximately 2 hours. It will probably take longer than this to achieve the desired results, but it’s best to be cautious, as there’s no way of knowing how deep the yellowing extends into the plastic.

Alternatively, you can make a gel from hydrogen peroxide, water, and a thickening agent like xanthan gum or arrowroot powder. This is easier to apply to the case and lessens the chance of any liquid seeping under the lid and damaging the internal components.

Finally, if you don’t like the idea of mixing your own cleaning solutions, you can buy products like this, or even use a generic teeth or hair whitening solution, available in most beauty salons or pharmacies.

Note: RetroBrighting is a homemade process, not perfected or tested on AirPods or AirPods cases by professionals or endorsed by Apple. If left on for too long, or applied too heavily, the solution may cause damage to the outermost layers of plastic on your case, causing them to become brittle. While this is unlikely, it is possible, so take care when mixing and applying solutions or products, and never leave them on for too long.

Final Thoughts

It can be disheartening to see something looking like it’s degrading, or old, or just plain tatty. But the good news is, a yellowing AirPods case will still work exactly the same as a bright shiny white one! This is only a cosmetic issue and is in no way an indicator that your AirPods are going to stop working, or the case is going to fall apart.

This is definitely something worth bearing in mind before you tackle any slightly riskier cleaning methods mentioned in this article. If you’re not worried about looks, then it may be better to just live with the yellow case!

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About James Potts

James is an amateur guitarist and home-recording enthusiast. He loves all things music related - writing songs, playing in a band, and finding the best ways to listen to it. It all interests him, from the history of acoustic guitars, to the latest Bluetooth headphones, to his (ever-growing) collection of vinyl records.

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