How To Clean Apple Watch Bands Without Ruining Them

How To Clean Apple Watch Bands Without Ruining Them

Apple Watch bands feel and look fantastic when they’re new, but they easily get dirty and stained. Knowing how to clean Apple Watch bands properly keeps them fresh and bright without causing damage, discoloration, scratching, or shrinking.

Plus, dirty bands tend to collect grime, sweat, and bacteria, which can cause skin irritation. Regular cleaning of your Apple Watch bands is crucial to prevent this nasty buildup, and here’s a quick rundown of the steps we’ll be covering:

  1. Remove the band from the watch.
  2. Prepare a cleaning solution suitable for the band material.
  3. Gently clean the band with a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth.
  4. Rinse and dry the band if it's water-resistant.
  5. For non-water-resistant bands, dry them for at least a day before wearing them again.
  6. Reattach the band to the watch once completely dry.

Keep in mind that some types of watch bands require different cleaning processes, depending on the material used and its construction. The processes detailed here work with official Apple Watch bands and Barton Apple Watch Bands.

Step 1: Remove the Band from the Watch

Don’t clean your Apple Watch band with the Watch still on it. It could cause problems such as surface scratching and degradation of the seals and other materials used in the Watch. Disconnecting the band is easy enough; just follow the steps below:

  1. Turn your Apple Watch over to access the back.
  2. You’ll notice two buttons on either side of the band. Press and hold one of these buttons.
  3. While holding the button down, slide the band across to remove it.
  4. Repeat the process with the other half of the band.

As you remove the band, place your watch on a soft, clean surface to avoid scratching it.

Step 2: Prepare a Cleaning Solution

Ideally, you should use a lint-free, non-abrasive microfiber cloth to wipe your Apple Watch clean. Use a bit of clean, fresh warm water to gently wet the cloth if necessary to get the band clean.

However, for very dirty, grimy, or stained Apple Watch bands, prepare a solution of mild hypoallergenic soap and warm water. Don’t soak the band in the water and soap solution unless you have to.

For the official Apple Sport band, Solo Loop, Barton Elite Silicone bands, and others made of silicone, make a mixture of warm water and a few drops of mild soap. Make sure the soap is free from any harsh chemicals that could damage the band or irritate your skin.

Leather bands are especially sensitive to staining, discoloration, and damage. Don’t use any harsh chemicals, sanitizer, hot water, or expose the band to direct sunlight. Instead, use a mild leather cleaner, which is available at most leather goods stores.

To prepare the leather cleaning solution, mix the soap or leather cleaner with warm water in a small bowl. You only need enough to dampen a cloth and spot clean any stubborn stains.

What to Use to Clean Stubborn Stains From Your Apple Watch Band

Some types of Apple Watch bands are particularly vulnerable to staining. For example, the white, orange, and pink silicone Sport band and Solo Loop options easily get pen marks, oils, inks, and many other types of stains.

A scientific study found that smartwatch wristbands collect harmful bacteria, particularly those made of rubber or plastic. As such, diligent cleaning and disinfection is necessary to avoid the buildup of Staph, E. coli, and other nasty bacteria.

For disinfection and tough stains, Apple recommends using 70% isopropyl alcohol, 75% ethyl alcohol, or disinfecting wipes to clean and disinfect your Watch. These work great for grease and oil stains, but they aren’t 100% effective.

The most stubborn stains require unconventional solutions. Please note that these are not officially recommended cleaning solutions either by us or Apple.

Although these solutions have worked for other Apple Watch users, they may come with unexpected results, including damaging your Apple Watch and bands.

  • Soak rubber, silicone, nylon, or woven fabric bands in water with liquid dish soap or shampoo
  • Put in a sock, pocket, or net and throw into the laundry, but use cold or warm water
  • Baking soda and soap solution
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Citrus oils (these can damage leather, plastics, and metal bands)
  • Nail varnish remover (this can damage your straps, so use very little to remove permanent marker and ink stains)
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? Mr. Magic White Eraser
  • Degreasers such as Purple Power
  • Acetone (undiluted)

Apple’s recommended way of keeping an Apple Watch Band clean is to use a slightly damp, soft and lint-free cloth to wipe off accumulated dirt. Since this method doesn’t work on stains, use any of the cleaning products above cautiously for better results.

Expert tip: Test the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the watch band first. This way, you can confirm that it won’t discolor or damage the band. Don’t soak your band in anything other than a mild soap or shampoo solution. Stronger cleaners are for stain removal only.

Step 3: Clean the Band in Gentle, Circular Motions

Apple silicone roarange watch band

For all cleaning steps involving rubbing and wiping, use a clean, soft, non-abrasive, and lint-free microfiber cloth. Be especially careful when cleaning leather and stainless steel bands and use gentle motions to gently rub the Apple Watch bands clean.

For woven fabric, nylon, or metal bands, we recommend using a brush with soft bristles to remove grime from the time spaces in the mesh.

You can also use a slightly stronger soap solution for stubborn stains and odors, and do it often to keep the band clean.

Here are the important points to remember:

  • Dip the soft cloth into the cleaning solution, but don’t soak it.
  • Clean both the inside and outside surfaces of the band using gentle, circular rubbing motions, while focusing on any visible stains or discolourations.
  • Wipe the band dry with a clean and dry part of the soft cloth. If the material is not water-resistant, lay it out to dry on a dish rack and away from direct sunlight or hot temperatures.

Remember, we’re not scrubbing the band. We’re just giving it a gentle wipe to remove any dirt or grime. If there are any tiny or hard-to-reach spaces, you can also use the end of a damp cotton swab.

Some Apple Bands are more prone to damage and deterioration than others. For example, there have been complaints about white and black Silicone Loops and Solo Loop variants getting discolored and peeling off, as you can see in the image below.

If you want to keep your Apple Watch bands looking like new for a long time, use the right bands for every occasion and clean them often.

The Ocean band, Alpine Loop, and Trail Loop are best suited for swimming, hiking, and extreme sports, while woven nylon and silicone loops are perfect for normal workouts and exercise.

To give yourself more options, consider getting a few Barton Apple Watch bands. In particular, our Gray Silicone Apple Watch Band is popular for its comfort, durability, and classy look. One customer even had this to say:

Barton silicone watch band review

How to Clean and Maintain Leather Apple Watch Bands

Leather Watch Bands require a bit more TLC to keep them in good condition. As leather is a natural material, it’s porous and quickly absorbs oils and odors. One of the ways to keep your leather watch bands is to use them sparingly or swap them often to allow them to breathe.

Here’s the recommended procedure for keeping leather watch bands fresh and clean.

  1. Gently wipe down: Use a soft, lint-free cloth to lightly wipe your band. Do this regularly to keep daily grime at bay.
  2. Deep clean: Once every few months, dip the cloth in water mixed with a bit of mild hand soap and gently go over the band. Avoid soaking it!
  3. Dry it properly: After cleaning, pat the band with a dry cloth then let it air dry completely. Leather doesn't like moisture, so keep it away from direct heat or sunlight while drying.
  4. Conditioning: A leather conditioner can keep the band supple. Just apply a small amount every few months to prevent cracking.
  5. Avoid water: Leather and water aren't friends. Try not to get your band wet. If it happens, dry it off quickly.

You can also use a soft toothbrush with a small amount of leather cleaner or mild soap solution to scrub off stubborn stains. Use circular motions to gently rub the band clean, then wipe off any excess cleaner and air-dry the band.

Expert tip: The reason you shouldn’t use any detergents, fabric softeners, and strong soaps is that these can deteriorate the Apple Watch band material. Harsh chemicals can degrade leather, nylon, fabric, silicon, rubber, and metal bands. For example, a fabric band can become stiff and uncomfortable if you use too much soap.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Apple watch band

Rinsing your Apple Watch band is a crucial step because any leftover soap or cleaning solution can cause skin irritation or damage the band over time.

Here’s how to do it:

  • If your band is water-resistant (like the silicone Sport band), gently rinse it under warm water; avoid hot water as it can warp or damage the band.
  • If your band is not water-resistant (like a leather band), skip the rinsing part. Instead, use a damp lint-free cloth to wipe off any excess soap or cleaning solution.

Next, it’s time to dry your band. Regardless of which type you have, never use a hairdryer or any heat source to speed up the drying process. This can cause the band to warp or crack.

Instead, do the following:

  • Pat the band dry with a clean, dry cloth to remove as much water as possible.
  • Let the band air dry completely, which can take a day for woven bands
  • Make sure the band is completely dry before reattaching it to your watch

Don’t rush the drying process or wear the band while still wet. Not only will it cause irritation and discomfort, but it can also corrode and damage your Apple Watch.

When your Apple Watch band is dry, reattach it by following the steps in section #1 in reverse order.

Important: Leather can become stiff and crack after drying. New leather bands can also be uncomfortable to wear, especially our thick Barton Alligator Leather Apple Watch bands.We recommend applying a bit of premium leather conditioner to soften the material. The right conditioner also helps the leather resist water and makes it look and feel great.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you disinfect Apple Watch bands?

To disinfect Apple Watch bands, especially those made of non-porous materials like silicone or stainless steel, you can use a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or disinfecting wipes. Gently wipe the exterior surfaces of the band for at least 30 seconds without soaking it in the liquid. 

That’s according to the scientific study we mentioned before. For plastic wristbands, wipe for at least 2 minutes to make sure you kill all the bacteria. 

However, avoid using alcohol-based products on leather or fabric bands as they can damage the material. Instead, lightly dampen a cloth with soap and water to clean these bands.

Take good care to avoid applying disinfectant directly to the watch itself. Alcohol can damage the rubber seals that prevent water from getting into the watch, which can lead to leaking and damage to your Apple Watch.

How often should you clean your Apple Watch band?

The frequency of cleaning your Apple Watch band largely depends on your usage and lifestyle. A good rule of thumb is to clean it at least once every two weeks.

If you exercise regularly or wear your watch all day, every day, you might want to clean your band once a week to keep it in the best condition.

For occasional wear, you can get away with cleaning your Apple Watch band once a month, but these are just guidelines. If your band starts to look or smell less than fresh, it’s time for a cleaning, regardless of the schedule.

How do you clean a stainless steel Apple Watch band?

Stainless steel bands are easy to clean with a gentle wipe down. Simply use a dry, lint-free cloth to remove surface dust, oils, and dirt, and use an edge to get into the tight spaces.

Barton stainless steel Milanese bracelet

If the band is particularly dirty, use warm water with a few drops of mild soap solution. Avoid harsh cleaning agents because these can damage the delicate metal finish and corrode the band. Also, don’t immerse the band in water.

Once the band is clean, dry it thoroughly by hanging or laying it down in a cool, dry place. If your stainless steel or Milanese Loop band gets stained or discolored, one user suggested using silver polish. Another one mentioned silver wipes.

Whichever option you choose, be cautious and clean off any residue when you’re done cleaning.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when cleaning an Apple Watch band?

Cleaning your Apple Watch band can seem like a simple task, but there are a few common mistakes that many people make. Avoiding these can help ensure your band stays in good condition for as long as possible.

  • Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials; use a gentle cloth and mild cleaners instead.
  • Don't soak bands, especially a leather or metal band; use a slightly damp microfiber cloth instead.
  • Dry the bands thoroughly after cleaning to prevent mold or mildew, especially on leather.
  • Clean the hardware gently with a soft, lint-free cloth to avoid scratches.
  • Avoid exposing bands to direct sunlight for extended periods during drying to prevent discoloration, especially for colored silicone, rubber, and leather bands.
  • Use a cotton swab for hard-to-reach areas around the band's hardware to remove dirt and grime without causing damage.

Also, don’t wear a leather band when cooking or working with strong chemicals. Leather absorbs smells quickly, and these can be hard to wash off. Use a silicone or rubber strap instead, such as the Ocean band.


Cleaning and maintaining Apple Watch bands is simple enough if you follow a few simple guidelines. Don’t use harsh chemicals and abrasive materials, and don’t expose the band to direct sunlight that can damage the band, opting instead for a gentle, non-abrasive microfiber cloth and mild cleaning solutions.

In particular, don’t let leather and metal bands get wet to prevent warping or discoloration. Dry them thoroughly after cleaning to avoid odors, mold or mildew. Also, pay careful attention to hardware like buckles and clasps to prevent scratches while cleaning.

If your Apple Watch band is stained, particularly on silicone or nylon, a targeted approach using a small amount of soap can be effective. Try using a cotton swab dipped in baking soda solution, isopropyl alcohol, or common household soap to clean up the spot.

Always rinse or wipe off any extra soap or cleaning solution to keep the bands colorful, soft, and comfortable for a long time.

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