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Apple’s AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro are water-resistant, not waterproof: What that means

The third-generation AirPods have new drivers and mesh covering their microphones to reduce wind noise.

David Carnoy/CNET

Electronics and water don’t mix well, but phones and wearables have grown a bit more durable in recent years. That includes the new third-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro, both of which are water-resistant but not waterproof. That’s an important distinction, and it essentially means you shouldn’t shower or swim with your Apple earbuds in. But don’t panic if you get caught in the rain or happen to wear them during an especially sweaty workout.

See below for everything you need to know about AirPods and water resistance. (And check out our full review of the AirPods 3).

Which AirPods are water-resistant?

Apple currently sells four different AirPod models: AirPods (second generation), AirPods (third generation), AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. But only two are water-resistant: the third-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro. What’s more, the new AirPods 3 earbuds are the only version with a water-resistant case

Read more: Apple AirPods tips: 21 tricks to get the most out of your wireless earbuds

What is water resistance?

Apple’s third-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro are water- and sweat-resistant with an IPX4 rating. That means they’re protected against splashing water and shouldn’t sustain any damage if water splashes against the enclosure from any direction, according to the International Electrotechnical Commission, which developed the rating system.

So what does that actually mean? You can safely wear water-resistant AirPods during a walk in the rain, a heavy workout and other circumstances where you might sweat or get splashed with water — perhaps while washing the car or giving your dog a bath. But you can’t wear them in the shower, while swimming or during other water sports like waterskiing. They’re not designed to withstand water submersion and also shouldn’t be placed under running water. 

Apple also advises against wearing any AirPods, including those that are water-resistant, in a sauna or steam room. You also shouldn’t put them in the washer or dryer. 

How should I care for my AirPods after they get wet?

If your AirPods get wet, even if they only get splashed lightly, you should dry them with a lint-free cloth before placing them back in their case. That’s to avoid any damage that could come from placing them near the charging coils while they’re still wet. 

How should I clean my AirPods?

You can use a disinfectant wipe to clean the exterior surface of your AirPods and a dry cotton swab for the speaker mesh and microphone. To clean the AirPod Pro’s ear tips, remove the silicone tips from the earpiece and soak them in warm soapy water. Check out our full story on the best way to clean your AirPods for more detailed instructions. 

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