Well, it finally happened. After years of true wireless headphone ownership, I finally put a pair in my washing machine accidentally. It was my trusty AirPods Pro that bore the brunt of my idiocy – but they survived! Mostly. With a rather significant quirk spoiled by the title.
So it’s very hot here in the UK at the moment. Not just “it’s summer, it should be hot” hot, but “record temperatures far beyond anything we’ve ever had in this country before” hot and also humid. While making a vinegar-tomato bean salad in a heat haze yesterday, I managed to throw some tomato sauce and vinegar on my shorts. I don’t own many pairs of shorts, because the English climate doesn’t require them that often, so I didn’t want this pair to go out of order. I changed quickly and threw them in the washing machine with a few other pieces and proceeded to make lunch.
After the wash cycle ended and I turned the clothes around a few times, I decided to put on my AirPods to listen to a podcast while I hung up the laundry, so I’m going to look around the house for them. In the film version of this dramatic story, this is where you’d zoom in Hitchcock-style on my face as I realized what I’d done.
I take my shorts from the machine and sure enough, there’s the case and an AirPod in my pocket. The other AirPod found its way into a sock, impressively.
The moment I open the lid of the case, the light comes on, so I know that part has survived well, at least – although it’s hardly the most important section. I don’t want to test the headphones while they might still be wet inside, so I go to the closet, take a second to decide whether to put them in a box of basmati rice or jasmine rice, and then bury them among the grains. .
I’m a little hopeful at this point: luckily they only went into a 30 minute quick wash, so they didn’t get as soggy over time as they could have… designed for. Wiring and sloshing probably didn’t help either. Still, they went straight for rice, and iPhones have survived in water situations far beyond their waterproof rating, so there’s a chance. They are Schrödinger’s Pods at this point; living and dead until I watch.
They live! But they came back… changed…
After leaving my AirPods in rice overnight, I took them out this morning to see how they turned out. After carefully extracting the granules from inside the silicone ear tips, I put them in the case for a few minutes to make sure the buds were ready to connect, and then I put them in my ears without anything touching.
It was a relief to hear the familiar ‘bong’ sound to say they connected, as it also meant the speaker part was supposed to be working, but it immediately started. The ocean.
With nothing playing, I could hear what sounded like a harsh wind noise when you had transparency mode on – along with just a few other chaotic noises. It’s really, truth sounds like a combination of wind and sea hitting a beach. So much so that I had to check that I hadn’t played the ‘Coastal Calm’ stream from some meditation app by mistake or something.
I did not have. And when I tried to play some music, it’s fair to say that the new sounds of the sea interfered a bit with the overall audio quality.
But I had a suspicion – it sounded so much like wind noise that I thought it might be an issue with the noise canceling mics, so I turned off the ANC and the audio corrected itself. I can still listen to music and everything without it! Result.
I put the AirPods Pro back in the rice because it’s possible the problem is lingering moisture in the ANC mics, so maybe another night in the basmati will get it out. Maybe I’ll even try switching to couscous.
But even though those mics are damaged and this noise is permanent now, I’m pretty impressed that I can still use the AirPods Pro for music anyway. Clearly, I’m not going to recommend them over the best waterproof headphones for swimmers, but at least one moment of forgetfulness hasn’t totally canceled out a good pair of headphones.
And hey, if I want to imagine myself on a beach during this heat wave, being cooled by the sea breeze and sea foam, I can just put on my AirPods and be transported there…