I wasn’t really going to find out, to be honest. Or maybe it was my subconscious because I found out pretty unexpectedly what can happen if you accidentally leave a set of Apple’s expensive AirPods Pro in your washing machine.
AirPods versus washing machine
I’m an idiot.
If you look around you will find more than a few people willing to say this, some of whom are even friends of mine.
In this case, I’m a very specific idiot.
I was recently hanging out on the line for some laundry when I grabbed one of my favorite and rather faded red hoodies.
There was a lump in the pocket that I initially suspected was a stray sock, or, if I was unlucky, a handkerchief I̵
It turned out that I was even less lucky because out of the bag came my AirPods Pro headphones that I had left in my bag, and with them my laundry basket. As a result, my AirPods Pro had made an unscheduled ride through my washing machine. Not that there’s a planned trip through a washing machine for AirPods, but you know what I’m talking about.
Aware that my neighbor’s six-year-old was playing outside in their garden, I left my strongest explosives unsaid until I got back inside. At this point I preferred to let my own stupidity tear me apart.
Since I’m such an idiot, I also went on the internet to arouse sympathy:
Things you don’t want to find in a jacket pocket that you’ve just washed: these. To find out whether the Pro-Bit of AirPods Pro stands for “professionally sealed against water and cleaning agents”. pic.twitter.com/ElnpkqeCl5
– Alex Kidman (@alexkidman) September 17, 2020
The internet, the classically friendly and empathetic interplay of fine personalities, did not disappoint:
Alex listens to his Airpods as he does some handy work. pic.twitter.com/9Uh2Kg27An
-… SINCE SPACIES (@sincespacies) September 18, 2020
At least they got my hairstyle right. What was particularly annoying here is that I’m in shape to stick things through my washing machine through negligence after accidentally washing my own wallet a few years ago. At least there I have to write about how great Australian banknotes are. Even so, on the stupid scale, it’s far worse than taking your Nintendo Switch to the bathroom, for example. Because I’m an idiot again.
After getting the swearing out of my system, I carefully approached my AirPods Pro and opened the case.
To my great surprise, the light on the front of the case actually went on. The AirPods Pro use silicone tips on each real radio bud and were slightly damp, but that was light enough to dry off with a tissue.
I put them in my ears for a trial, put a little prince up – it is best to test headphones with music that you are very familiar with because you can spot problems – and ready to hear what Purple Rain may sound like underwater.
Again I was surprised because I couldn’t find any distortion. At my age my own audio frequency response is sure to be a little boring, but I’ve heard this track a lot so I’m very used to it.
Had I avoided an extremely expensive and moistened ball?
It had to be overcome some challenges, not least the fact that a AirPod reported Pro about 40% battery and the other 5%. That’s weird because I almost never use them as solo earbuds. To make matters worse, while the light was on to indicate pairing readiness, reading the battery widget on iOS 14 indicated that the AirPods Pro battery case had a battery rating of … 0%.
From what the internet told me, this wasn’t a good sign:
They were still working, but the charger was boiled and barely charged them
– The Wear A Mask Chocobo (@noreasonspec) September 17, 2020
Damp damp damp
The charging case also felt heavier than I expected, which suggested to me that it was most likely soaked. Not exactly a shock what with the whole trip through my washing machine aspect. At least I was grateful that I have a tendency to wash cold because I totally imagine that a hot wash would be even worse for her.
However, I couldn’t remember the last time I had the case fully charged, so there was always the chance they could just run flat and the buds stayed charged instead of being a sodden and fused mess of plastic and silicon and Lithium ions. At least that’s where I put my hopes.
What I had to do was determine if the case could be charged, hold a charge, and safely transfer that charge to one or preferably both of my AirPods Pro buds.
Although I’m not a qualified electrician, I remember that the whole business of water and electricity on a safety level is way too friendly than I’d like it to be. So I laid out the suitcase and the buds on my kitchen window sill to soak, apply some sunlight and hopefully a touch dry it out.
Rice rice baby
If you’re wondering why they weren’t resting in a bag of rice, as general internet wisdom would tell you, every time a technology gets wet, the internet is the solution. Well, the internet is most likely wrong in that regard.
Displacing the water when you can is ideal (just ask iFixit), but the last thing I wanted was tiny particles of rice that ended up in my suitcase, headphones, or ultimately my ears.
After the sun went down, I experimentally picked up the suitcase and noticed that it felt lighter. Had I not been so moody I might have done a few before and after weight comparisons, but you have to go with my gut on this one. Feeling a little brave, I plugged in a surge protected power supply board that was connected to a separate board, charger, and cable, and plugged in the case.
Except that didn’t happen. The AirPods case lit briefly to indicate a charge was being picked up, and I watched it like a hawk for about 30 minutes for any signs of sparking, swelling, or the like.
So far, so good; was the case maybe a bit warm, but then I can’t say I’ve ever paid too much attention to the relative temperature before. I opened it and the case reported a charge of around 20%, with the buds – which had flattened completely and sat outside the case all day – at 50%.
Amazingly, they still worked fine. Feeling a little bolder, I fully charged both the suitcase and the buds and used them over the weekend to see if they would hold a charge.
So far again … so good. It’s a tiny anecdotal test, and it’s entirely possible that I cut the overall battery life on this particular AirPods Pro pair. We will see.
TLDR version: Airpods Pro aren’t the type of pads to put in your washing machine, but if you’re lucky, you’re in luck Power come through the journey unscathed.
Would Apple cover such things under warranty?
In a word, no.
In two words: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE.
This is completely self-induced, and while Apple sells devices with IP-certified water resistance, the AirPods Pro are only IPX4-certified, which means you can sweat in clean laboratory water and not much more. If you sweat clean laboratory water, please contact us, because you are a true and wonderful nature freak.
Apart from that, the warranty also applies to products that Apple has higher water resistance, such as the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max expressly excludes Damage from ingress of water, typically indicated by a water sensor in most devices. Inserting AirPods into a washing machine is definitely not a guaranteed situation.
In my case, I admitted this on social media. That would be all Apple would need to roll back a warranty claim.
I think technically you could try to get this type of damage under your household goods insurance, but you want a zero excess policy so it really pays off.
What if you weren’t so lucky and your AirPods were dead?
I’ve been thinking about it, and while my own situation is a bit unusual because, among other things, I check headphones so I have a few spares, the tough truth for most people is that when they’re going through their AirPods, you’ll need to look at a replacement pair sent the washing machine.
Apple, of course, sells you a bunch of AirPods Pro for $ 399 if you want to go that route, and I’ve had a couple of helpful people online suggesting other places I might rate them for less points, including one online Dealer that I don’t use at all.
For what it’s worth, you could get a pair on Amazon for around $ 340 at the time of writing.
The problem with discount AirPods is that they almost always come from overseas, where they are sold a little cheaper than here. That’s the margin that direct importers rely on, but the complicating factor in 2020 is that while you can save a few dollars, shipping times can be incredibly long.
So I thought about it; If I had to buy a cheaper replacement kit for AirPods Pro from a direct importer, how cheaply could I use a set of basic real radio buds to upgrade if I had to?
There’s no way in the world that they will sound anywhere near this good, but as a last resort, how cheap could I go? Yes, I wonder about weird things from time to time, but I’ve been puzzling most of the time while waiting to see if my AirPods Pro are actually moving to e-waste recycling quickly anyway.
The answer to how cheap you can go surprised me. The cheapest pair I could find on Amazon only costs $ 4.32 plus shipping costs.
That’s literally a pair of real funk buds for less than the cost of a Big Mac.
To keep up that comparison, I suspect Purple Rain may sound like it was played while listening on a Big Mac.
There are a lot of cheap kits to have if you don’t care about the audio quality. Here’s a set that looks like it was developed by GlaDOS for just $ 5.69 plus shipping, and here’s a pair for $ 9.99 for practice purposes.
Great audio headsets? It’s pretty unlikely to be put to good use, but if you wanted something that would keep you going while you waited for a quality replacement, you might be doing just right.
Editor’s note: descriptions and features come from manufacturer / seller claims and user reviews on Amazon.
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