We love our set of Apple AirPods. The battery could last a little longer, but overall, there's only one gripe we really have: the dirt that builds up inside the case. Whether you stick it in your pocket, a backpack, or your purse, the inside of the case's lid and main base will get dirty in a week, give or take. But there's a way to stop that from happening.
First, if you don't believe us, here's a picture of our second-gen AirPods with Wireless Charging Case. It's been in and out of jeans pockets for about a week, and there is a decent amount of lint, hair, fuzz, and other debris inside of the case — right on top of all the surfaces and jammed into tiny crevices at the edges.
To prevent that from happening, well, leave your AirPods or AirPods Pro case out on a desk or somewhere else dirt and grime are unlikely to build up inside over a short period. The reason it happens so quickly in pockets, bags, suitcases, and other places you may carry it in is because the case lid is likely to open unintentionally.
Put your hands in your pockets? You'll probably open and close the lid without thinking. Otherwise, the top isn't locked on tight, so any movement could potentially open the lid for even a brief moment, enough to get it filthy inside.
But leaving your AirPods or AirPods Pro case somewhere where it wouldn't open up on its own or when you're feeling fidgety is not a solution for the vast majority of us. AirPods are meant to be on the go, so you're going to take them with you to listen to music, make calls, talk to Siri, hear things better, and so on. So how do you keep the dirt out?
With a protective sleeve for the case. While we don't ever really get the AirPods case wet at all, even if it's just raining, the waterproof seal these types of cases provide is more than enough to keep the lint and dirt out of the inside of the case. Sure, that dirt will stick to the sleeve's edges, but it's a lot easier to clean a protective cover than it is to clean the inside of Apple's hard-shell case.
Our favorite protective covers are the Catalyst models. They come in a wide variety of colors for AirPods — blue, green, gray, purple, red, teal, coral, glow (a glow-in-the-dark green), sunset, and translucent clear — and they're made of flexible silicone that keeps them wrapped around the case snug while also being easy to pull off.
Catalyst sleeves are IP67 rated, so they're dust-tight for complete protection against outside debris and water-resistant up to one meter (3.3 feet) of submersion for 30 minutes. If that wasn't enough, Catalyst is one of the few, if not only, sleeve brands that have MIL-STD-810G impact protection. That means it meets the guidelines for four-foot drops in the US military standard (see page 516.6-29), so your AirPods should remain ding-free and totally functional if you drop it occasionally.
These sleeves also work with any wired Lightning chargers you have since there's an access point to plug into the port when you need to. Also, they'll still work with any wireless charging pads you may have, and some, like the coral, glow, sunset, and translucent clear versions, will let you see the AirPods case's charging light even with the sleeve on all the way. On the other colored models, you need to peel back the cover to see the light.
There's also an aluminum carabiner in case you want to snap them onto the outside of a backpack or purse or clip them to a belt loop on your pants. You can also take the carabiner off and use something more pliable like 550 cord. If you're sticking it inside your pocket, you can also just take the coupling off entirely.
Most colors for $24.99, a steep price for a silicon AirPods case sleeve, but it's worth it with all the features and protections Catalyst offers. Each cover works with both the first-gen and second-gen AirPods with and without the Wireless Charging Case.
- Blue Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Green Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Gray Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Purple Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Red Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Teal Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Coral Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Glow Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $29.99
- Sunset Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
- Translucent Clear Catalyst AirPods Case Sleeve - $24.99
If you can't justify spending that much on a protective sleeve, there are cheaper brands that haven't done all of the tests that Catalyst has. Camyse has 10 different color options from $7.99 to $11.99. MICOK has six different colors from $11.99 to 12.99. And Linklike has three colors for $9.99 each. We've tried some of the cheaper ones and found that it's hard to roll down the silicone to access the AirPods. So if you use your 'Pods enough, Catalyst may be best.
Catalyst does have AirPods Pro case covers (regular and premium editions), but they are for preorder right now, shipping at the end of January. The regular one goes for $29.99, while the premium hits $34.99. Right now, the majority of AirPods Pro case covers available from other brands are ones that don't roll up around the case's lid, so you won't get that dust-tight or water-resistant seal that the Catalyst sleeve offers. So we recommend waiting for the Catalyst models.