Tempting, isn’t it?
Everyone knows that the AirPods listening experience is superior to every Bluetooth speaker on the market. (Change my mind.) And trying to listen to your jams on an external speaker while showering is … disappointing at best, and soul-crushing at worst.
All kidding aside, the ability to drown out shower noise by having music playing directly in your ears makes a lot of sense, and our desire to do so is undeniable.
Alas, the technology just isn’t there yet.
The bottom line is that your AirPods may survive the shower to broadcast another day — anecdotes abound from people who have tried it with no consequences to, in addition to anecdotes to the contrary.
But the imperceptible beating they’re taking in the shower is only serving to decrease their lifespan. For the price, it hardly seems worth it.
To understand why, let’s break down AirPods specs in practical terms …
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Not a Permanent Condition
There’s a huge difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Fully waterproof materials are impervious to water. They are sealed or protected in such a way that water cannot penetrate them. Wetsuits and rain boots or wellies are prime examples of common waterproof items.
Water-resistant materials, in contrast, can repel some water, but not completely and not forever. Daypacks and patio cushions — and your 3rd generation AirPods or AirPods Pro — are examples of common water-resistant items.
Indeed, Apple makes this distinction very clear in their specs by describing the water resistance of certain AirPods as an impermanent condition. That is, whatever proprietary technology Apple uses to repel moisture decreases with exposure.
So, while 3rd generation AirPods and AirPods Pro can withstand a degree of sweat and splashes, their ability to do so will only last so long. Less long the more often they get wet.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that 1st and 2nd generation AirPods, as well as AirPods Max, are not at all water resistant.
So, even though your 3rd generation AirPods and AirPods Pro continue to perform well after intense gym sessions and the occasional rainy day, every sweat-fest and raindrop wears them down a bit more.
Finally, where waterproof materials can withstand full submersion and extreme water exposure, water-resistant materials cannot. It’s the difference between stepping in a deep puddle in your wellies versus stepping in a deep puddle in your hiking boots.
In your hiking boots, your feet got a bit wet. Imagine doing that to the inner workings of your AirPods. <shudder>
Water isn’t the Only Foe
Returning to the original question about wearing AirPods in the shower, we find that the shower environment is replete with additional menaces, aside from just the water.
It’s one thing to expect your AirPods to withstand some sweat and water; they’re expertly designed for that.
It’s another thing entirely to expect them to survive soap and steam. This is way out of their capabilities.
In fact, Apple’s specs contain a long list of water-adjacent substances that can outright damage your AirPods.
In the shower, this list includes shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Outside the shower, you will want to keep your AirPods out of contact with lotion, sunscreen, detergent, acids (even acidic foods), solvents, insect repellants, perfume, oil, and hair dye.
Which brings up another question: if I can’t wear my AirPods in the shower, can I wear them in a sauna?
Sadly, the answer, again, is no. Introducing heat to the aforementioned water problem is a recipe for complete AirPod annihilation.
Wet AirPods: Now What?
We’ve learned that your 3rd generation AirPods and AirPods Pro are perfectly capable of sustaining a little dampness. (Or, let’s say, hypothetically, that, despite all the warnings, your AirPods did in fact find themselves somehow completely doused.)
Turns out, there is a right way and a wrong way to dry them.
According to Apple, the correct and absolute best way to dry your AirPods is by using a soft, dry, lint-free cloth to remove any surface moisture. You can tap your AirPod Pro gently on the dry cloth to remove any excess water from the ear tip.
If they’ve been exposed to soap, detergent, or anything else on the list of forbidden substances, dampen a soft cloth very lightly to remove the substance before drying them using the method above.
The wrong and absolute worst way to dry your AirPods is by applying heat or compressed air. So, do not blow them dry with a hairdryer. Do not apply DustOff. Do not place them under your reptile’s heating lamp. (You get the idea.)
In addition, there’s no substitute for time. Let your AirPods simply air dry completely before returning them to their case to charge. This applies to all styles and generations of AirPods.
Keeping AirPods Clean Without Water
Anything that hangs out in your ear as much as your AirPods do is bound to get dirty. Between earwax and sweat, you may want to give them a thorough cleaning from time to time.
For all of the reasons stated in this article, resist the urge to wash them in soapy water.
To clean your AirPods safely, all you need is a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution and a few cotton swabs.
Begin by gently removing surface debris with a dry cotton swab. Then, very lightly dampen another cotton swab with the alcohol and dab your AirPods all over.
If you have AirPods Pro, you can remove the silicone tip and use the alcohol-damp cotton swab on it separately for an extra detailed cleaning.
As always, allow them to air dry completely before resuming use.
The Verdict: AirPods in the Shower
While AirPods features some pretty advanced Apple technology, they remain merely water resistant, not waterproof. And even then, water resistance lasts only for a limited time.
But AirPod Pros are better quality! Can you shower with AirPods Pro?
Sadly, your AirPod Pros do not feature any extra water resistance compared to regular AirPods.
Ultimately, no technology yet exists for consumer-level waterproof earbuds. We can dream … but in the meantime, it’s probably best to stick with a Bluetooth speaker at shower time.