When headphones became small enough to fit inside your ears, we were suddenly gifted with a whole new world of portable sounds. Going running with music or podcasts became super convenient; riding the train meant dealing with minimal heft and awkwardness. Unfortunately, earbuds come with a predictable set of problems — namely, the nasty reality of putting tiny textured speakers right up against your ear canal.
If you've despaired of the waxy buildup on your AirPods or other pluggable headphones, you're far from alone. In fact, one set of entrepreneurs went so far as to build a tiny washing machine to save you the trouble of cleaning them out. A group called Cardlax has already raised more than $110,000 in Kickstarter pledges for the miniature marvel, called the EarBuds Washer, which its developers claim can shake loose large particles and fine-clean crevices alike. With a decontaminating mist capping off the process, your earbuds should be good as new.
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There's still time to get the preorder price on the EarBuds Washer, which may ship as early as June, but it's worth considering a few matters before you spring for the gadget. The United Nations reports that our global electronic waste problem is staggering, and the consumer electronics industry tends to fight right to repair laws that would keep those numbers down. Zero-waste advocates suggest the most important thing you can do for the environment is simply to use what you already have. You've already got cheap, effective means at hand for getting rid of earwax in AirPods — and they're decidedly lo-fi.