How to Clean Your iPhone’s Charging Port

After spending years using your iPhone in every possible location and situation, it will inevitably gather a load of lint, dust, candy fragments, and whatnot from the elements or sitting in your pocket or purse. If the result is a problem charging your phone, you may have to do some phone cleaning to clear out accumulated gunk, dirt, or fragments of metal and plastic. It doesn’t help that every time you plug in the cord, it packs the dirt in even more tightly.

Your iPhone is as good as dead unless it has a functional charging port, so you want to have proper maintenance, as well as set procedures for keeping your handset functional. To keep your phone working as it should, we’ve outlined a few steps every iPhone owner can take to flush damaging materials from the connector bay. The following techniques can also be used on any brand of smartphone or tablet with similar construction. Remember to unplug your phone and turn it completely off before you do anything, and use a flashlight to illuminate the inside of the port as much as possible.

Use compressed air

iphone x lightning port
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Although Apple specifically recommends you not use compressed air to clean your phone, many people are going to do it anyway, so our instructions here emphasize how to do it in the safest manner. Your phone’s charging port has delicate contact points — tiny strips of metal — that the charging cable must dock into, so you need to approach touching such components with extreme caution. If the contact points get damaged, then the charger won’t work at all, no matter how much you try to clean it. If the anchors on either side get damaged, they won’t be able to lock in your cable, which is another serious problem. The only solution after that kind of damage is to have the charging port replaced by a professional, which costs both time and money — and may not even solve the problem. So, the first rule is to be extremely careful. If possible, you should try cleaning your charging port without touching it or sticking anything inside.

This also means that one of the best options for unclogging the iPhone port is to use a can of compressed air. Hold it upright and close to the port, but not too close, and don’t try to stick the nozzle inside — remember all those delicate parts. Spray the air in very short, light bursts. Resist the urge to blow into the port yourself: Wet, hot air from the human mouth won’t do the port and its contact points any favors. After you’ve blown a careful blast of air at the port, wait a few seconds, then try attaching your charging cable again and see if it is detected. If the air has dislodged dust or debris stuck in the port, then it should be working just fine again.

Use a toothpick — very carefully

iPhone SE 2020 Charge Port
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Sometimes, a spritz or two of compressed air isn’t going to cut it. Perhaps there is a buildup of grime in the port that air alone can’t dislodge, or there’s some kind of invasive particle lodged inside that can’t be easily removed. In that case, you can try digging around a wee bit inside the charging port yourself using a slim toothpick. Again, all the dangers we just discussed still apply, so it’s important to be careful and patient. A toothpick is a better tool for this purpose than plastic or wire — like a paper clip end — because the wood is softer and more flexible. You may want to cushion the tip with a bit of a cotton pad to soften the edge even more, but not too much.

With a toothpick in hand and your iPhone turned off, find a spot with great lighting, such as under a desk lamp or a flashlight. Lightly insert the tip of the toothpick into the charging port and gently wiggle it around. Avoid putting any pressure on the toothpick at first; if no particles or grime are coming free, you can exert the lightest pressure for a soft scrape. Any more than that, and you risk damaging the port permanently.

Try to stay away from the sides of the port as you work to avoid damaging the anchors. If you notice that your toothpick is picking up some grime or knocking out debris, stop and switch to canned air if possible. Test your charging cable again to make sure it is working.

Use a sticky note or manual air blower

ADXCO 129 Pieces Cell Phone Cleaning Kit

If you’re not too facile with toothpicks, another way to gently access the inside of a port is with a Post-It. Just cut a strip that’s narrower than the port and use the sticky side to access it, and try to lure out dust and dirt inside. The sticky part is pretty mild, so there’s less chance of damaging anything.

Also consider a manual air blower, like the ones used to clean camera lenses. They also blow air, but without a chemical-based electronic force behind it. The Adxco cleaning kit features a variety of tools you can use to scrape a clogged smartphone port.

Let the pros handle it

Trevor Mogg / DT

If you’re willing to make a trip and have a nearby Apple Store, this is always the best option. An experienced employee will know how to clean out the charging port safely and will have professional tools that are best able to do the job — like cute tiny vacuum cleaners. Best of all, an Apple Store should clean your port and get your iPhone working again for free.

If you don’t have a nearby Apple Store, you can take your phone into any similar type of repair shop, jewelry repair shop, or business that specializes in mobile devices or equipment, and they should be able to help you. Of course, there’s no guarantee someone else will do it for free, but when dealing with delicate components, your iPhone is typically better off in the hands of a professional, even if you have to pay a fee for the service.

Charger port problems can get frustrating, but there is an alternative. You could always switch to wireless charging, although a cable connection is usually necessary for any big data transfers.

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