Uh oh, how unfortunate! You washed your AirPods because you're human and things like that happen to us all the time. First off, breathe! It's not the end of the world, and you may be able to save your headphones with no harm done.
The key here is not to make any hasty decisions because the best way to make this work for you is to have patience. Water and electricity don't mix, so let's take some time to get rid of the water first.
Apple wants to be clear: these headphones are not waterproof. You do not want to go for a swim in them or take a long and intense shower with them.
AirPods are water-resistant, which means they can stand being exposed to water a bit, for a short amount of time.
If you've caught your mistake in the middle of your washing machine load, your chances increase due to lower times of water exposure. If you've let them sit and soak in water for hours, you may not have the success you're looking for.
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You first want to get your headphones out of the water and start trying to dry them as best as possible. You may have items lying around the house that would be perfect for the job, but a quick run to the store could do you some good as well if not.
You can remove the most obvious water from your AirPods with a Microfiber cloth or a paper towel. Avoid using something thin like tissue or cloth with little pieces that can get stuck in the nooks and crannies.
Speaking of nooks and crannies, a cotton swab would be a good choice for getting water out of the little cracks that a cloth cannot easily reach.
Just make sure you aren't using some type of small object that could damage your headphones even worse than the water did.
If you can't get to the watery spots you want, consider using silica gel to help absorb the moisture stuck in the cracks of your Airpods. Silica gel packets can be found at a local store or on Amazon.
Many people swear by the act of using a bowl of rice to absorb the moisture in electronics that are at risk of water damage.
Just make sure that if you're using the rice method, you've gotten rid of the more accessible moisture with a cloth first. You don't want the rice getting wet and sticky and mixing into the headphone cracks.
Let your headphones dry on their own without being in a bowl of anything. Try to go for an area that is well-ventilated.
If you have a spot where they can get a bit of sun to help them to dry naturally, even better. You will want to let them dry for 12-24 hours before seeing if they have worked or not.
Don't be hasty! Don't try turning them on within the first 12 hours of being exposed to water. You may find that they work after a few hours, but your chances of not damaging them will increase if you use the art of patience.
Also, do not hastily try to dry them with something like a blow dryer! This will increase the chances of damage.
Throwing your AirPods in the washer by mistake may sound like doom and gloom can soon follow, but I've seen a lot of good results from other people who had the same plight when I first threw my headphones in the washing machine by mistake.
This Reddit thread, for example, is filled with users who said they hadn't had any damage after they dried their headphones and let them sit for a while. A small few did run into problems, though.
A warranty doesn't help in this case since your headphones won't be covered for water damage. Warranty only covers manufacturing issues, while water damage is caused by the user.
This is the same for AppleCare and AppleCare+ in terms of warranty, but AppleCare+ can help you reduce costs.
If your AirPods are covered by AppleCare+ for Headphones, you can pay a service fee per incident of $29 (each incident). AppleCare+ users get up to 2 incidents of accidental damage protection every 12 months.
Many reports from users that have managed to save their AirPods after a wash also say that they were in the dryer cycle as well.
The dryer cycle is still risky, but less so than the washer cycle, so your headphones will likely be fine if they survive the water first. The many wet clothes that are drying along with your AirPods are protecting them in a way.
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