My Apple AirPods started to lose their bright, white luster recently. A bit of grime and, yes, ear wax began to build up on them. I went hunting for the best way to clean my AirPods ($100 at Back Market). Here's what I found. And after cleaning your AirPods, here are and something to look forward to with iOS 12 for your AirPods.
Apple's AirPod-cleaning instructions
Apple instructs you to use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth and cautions you against employing liquids in your cleaning efforts. For digging out the nasty bits in the microphone and speaker meshes, Apple recommends using a dry cotton swab and a soft-bristled brush.
I put Apple's methods to the test. I tried using a Q-tip but ended up just smushing the wax and dirt in further. I then used an old toothbrush to attempt to remove the grossness but didn't have any better results.
Fun-Tak and a wooden toothpick
I was fine with wiping the exterior of my AirPods (and their case) with a dry cloth to rub off the grime, but I needed a better way to get the wax and dirt out of the mesh and hollow of the speakers. I looked to the internet for help (like you are doing now). This Cult of Mac article pointed me to the solution. More accurately stated, the article's reader comments provided the fix. And it involved two items I already had in my house: Fun-Tak (because I have kids, and my kids have posters hanging in their rooms) and wooden toothpicks (because my wife bakes and tests the doneness of cakes and brownies with a toothpick).
To remove the wax and dirt that's stuck inside the hollow of your AirPod speakers, just grab a small piece of Fun-Tak and stretch and knead it a bit to warm it up. Then press it against the speaker and few times and it'll pick up the wax and dirt.
The wooden toothpick can then be used to gently remove the stubborn bits that are struck to the sides of the speaker hollow. A wooden toothpick is pointy enough to pick out individual specs of gross, waxy dirt, and it's much safer than a sharp metal object that can scratch the plastic or tear the wire speaker mesh.