Many of us grew up when you would be laughed at for wondering if any technological device was waterproof. Water meant death unless you slapped a case the size of a small city on your phone. However, the tech landscape looks completely different these days, and asking if Apple’s Airpods are waterproof is a valid question that could affect your purchase decision.
Unfortunately, AirPods are not waterproof. However, third-generation AirPods, as well as AirPods Pro, are rated IPX4 water resistant. This means they can handle sweat and light splashes but should still be dried off properly afterward. They also shouldn’t be exposed to dust.
Before you go and wallow in disappointment, you should understand the distinction between waterproof and water-resistant. You may be surprised to find out that AirPods could still be the best product for you. Or perhaps you’re reading this because you accidentally dropped your AirPods in the bath. Stick around for a few tips on what you can do to prevent damage.
Some AirPods Are Water Resistant
For something to be waterproof, it must be fully submersible without water finding its destructive way into the device. For example, most modern action cameras are waterproof, at least up to a point.
You see, the deeper you submerge an object, the more the water presses onto that object. This means that even devices that are technically waterproof have a limited depth rating.
In the case of AirPods, they are not waterproof in the sense that they can be submerged, but some versions do have a water resistance rating.
Ingress Proof Ratings Explained
Chances are that you have seen ingress proof, or “IP” ratings on several devices, from your smartphone to your Bluetooth speakers, but, like many, you aren’t exactly sure what this rating means.
In simple terms, this rating is the result of extensive, controlled exposure testing on a device. The end rating shows you to what extent the device is resistant to liquids or dust getting inside and breaking it.
Typically, the letters “IP” are followed by two digits. The first digit indicates the resistance of the device to solids, like dust and debris, and the second is its resistance to liquids, like water. As you can probably guess, the higher the number, the better its resistance.
However, if there is an “X” instead of a number, it means that that particular device doesn’t have any resistance. So, for example, a device with a rating of IP5X would be protected against dust for up to eight hours but would not have any protection against water.
For something to be considered waterproof, it needs to have a second number of at least 7.
First And Second Generation AirPods Don’t Have Any Resistance
Before we look at the specific IP ratings for AirPods, you should understand that it does not apply to AirPods 1 or 2. Both of these first generations don’t have any water resistance, be it splashing, rain, or sweat. Nor are they protected from dust and small particles.
While they may survive a brief encounter with rain, chances are that it will cause irreversible damage to some degree.
So, if you are in the market for AirPods so that you can take Enya with you on long trail runs in the misty mountains, then you need to look further than these two options.
AirPods Max Aren’t Resistant At All
Much like the first generations of AirPods, AirPods Max doesn’t have any official IP rating either. This means that dust, sweat, and water can make their way inside and possibly ruin a very expensive headset. The “Smart Case” also doesn’t offer any genuine protection against the environment.
So, if you have a set of AirPods Max, it’s best to reserve them for the comfort and safety of your living room.
AirPods 3 And AirPods Pro Have IPX4 Ratings
The rest of the AirPods lineup, namely generation 3 and all AirPods Pro sport IPX4 ratings. This applies to the charging case as well. And if you were paying attention to our earlier IP rating guide, then you can guess the exact meaning of that.
Because the first number is an “X,” it means that they aren’t protected against physical objects ranging from screwdrivers and nails to dust. In other words, if you work construction where there is constant dust, then these probably aren’t the best fit for you.
The second number means that AirPods have a resistance to liquid ingress of 4. In plain English, this means that they can handle light spraying from all angles and are resistant to sweat.
This means that you can exercise with them, and you should even be OK if you are caught by some light rain.
IP Ratings Don’t Always Last Forever
One important thing to keep in mind is that IP ratings aren’t necessarily a perpetual fact. Instead, it’s entirely possible for a device’s defenses to deteriorate over time.
For example, suppose you continuously exercise in the rain (sorry, UK). In that case, there is a higher chance of corrosion build-up, eventually allowing water into the AirPods. The same applies to continuous exposure to sweat or even sunlight, which can degrade the AirPods over time.
This shouldn’t be off-putting, or surprising for that matter. But it should serve as motivation to care for and maintain your AirPods and not see how far you can push the integration of the IP rating.
Even though your AirPods are built to be a good exercise partner and handle your sweaty ears, don’t expect them to last forever if you aren’t cleaning them. Instead, after a workout, take a clean microfiber cloth and dry them off before you put them in their case. Ideally, you don’t want to get any moisture inside the case, which can cause long-term issues.
YouTube Says AirPods Are Waterproof
You may have seen a few videos floating around on YouTube where people torture, test, and completely submerge their AirPods, only for the AirPods to survive. In fact, some of these videos might lead you to believe that Apple is underselling the waterproof resistance of its AirPods, but that is definitely not the case.
The intention behind making AirPods with an IPX4 rating is for them to be a little more “life-proof.” Remember, it used to be that if you dropped a pair of headphones in water, it would be the end of the story, and they would need to be replaced.
With a water-resistant rating, there is at least a chance that your AirPods could survive. But that doesn’t mean you can be careless about it. Even in Russian Roulette, there is only a very small chance of failure, but the failure will be painful.
In the case of submerging your AirPods, even if they survive, there is a good chance that they will be left with a scar or two in the form of corrosion. So, it absolutely isn’t worth the risk.
Can You Shower With AirPods?
A surprisingly common question is whether you can wear your AirPods in the shower. You may think that it should be perfectly fine, seeing as how they are rated against splashing from all angles.
But therein lies the small details. There is a difference between splashing water and flowing water, and showers fall into the latter category. In fact, Apple specifically states on their website that you shouldn’t wear your AirPods in the shows.
The same goes for leaving them in the washing machine or wearing them in a sauna. All of these actions will only reward you with a canceled warranty.
What To Do If Your AirPods Get Wet?
We all have our clumsy moments where we watch in surreal slow-motion devastation as our smartphone drops to the ground. And what if that happens with your AirPods? What if you accidentally knock them from your ear as you reach to top up your wine glass in the bath? Here’s a step-by-step to help you save them.
- Step 1: Remove them from the problem. This could be the bath, sink, or rain; whatever the cause of the moisture, just remove them from it.
- Step 2: Pack away the rice. Rice isn’t going to save you. It’s not that great at absorbing moisture, and it’s covered with starch dust that could probably just make things worse.
- Step 3: Dry them off. Use a clean, microfiber or soft cloth to dry them as much as possible. Avoid towels and materials that can leave lint particles.
- Step 4: Pack away the hairdryer. Using a hairdryer is often not a good idea. If you heat up the AirPods too much, you can compromise the little bits of sealant that made them resistant in the first place or even cause electrical damage. If the hairdryer is too strong, you can potentially force water droplets deeper into the places where it can do real damage.
- Step 5: Let them dry. Before you use them, set them in a nice open, ventilated area and let them dry off naturally for a few hours.
- Step 6: Charge them up and see if they still work. If you managed to get them out of the water quickly, then they should still be OK.
AirPods are not waterproof, but some models, including AirPods Pro and standard third-generation AirPods, are water-resistant against splashes and sweat. This means you can exercise with them but not shower with them. However, AirPods Max doesn’t have any resistance at all. Unlike waterproof devices, they cannot handle high-pressure water exposure or full submersion.