How to Clean Your iPhone’s Charging Port

We know you love your trusty, but likely dusty, iPhone. So don't blow (in) it! Take care of your charging port for the years to come.

While you likely already know how to clean your iPhone (and how often you should) in the wake of the pandemic, what happens when your iPhone isn’t working the way it should be? There are few things scarier than the sight of that ever-thinning red line and a 10 percent warning popping up on your screen during your regularly scheduled social media binge. Maybe you move to plug it in and, your worst fear comes true, nothing happens. Now what? Especially now, in such a vital time to be connecting with friends and family, you’re left virtually disconnected.

It’s an unexpected wrench in the classic routine. Usually, like clockwork, you plug it in at night and hope it’ll have enough juice to last you until the end of the day (hopefully you’re already following these smartphone battery life secrets). And, while plugging in your iPhone may seem like the simplest thing in the world, there are a number of reasons why you may not be seeing that beautiful little lightning bolt in your battery icon. One lesser-known but likely culprit? Your charging port.

We know the situation may seem dire, but don’t fret just yet (and don’t run out to the nearest Apple Store before you’ve tried these simple tricks). You’ve got options to clean the port and restore that sweet, sweet charge back into your life before you know it.

Option 1: Q-tip method (or cotton/paper product method)

“It is quite common for the iPhone port to become dirty over time, however, periodic cleaning will do a world of help to decrease the likelihood of buildup,” according to Will Manuel, CEO of Core Media Concepts. He recommends a paper towel (or q-tip or cotton round) and “rolling the corner” so that it creates a tip that is “gentle, nonabrasive, and most importantly, dry.”

Step 1: Locate a paper or cotton product—anything that can be rolled or is small enough to enter the port

Step 2: Insert the tip into the port

Step 3:  Making sure to get all edges, carefully move it around the port

Step 4: Reinsert the charger cable into the port

Manuel asserts that jiggling the paper around will allow debris and dust to cling to the material or fall out of the port, freeing up the smaller connection pieces that the iPhone needs to recognize in order to charge.

Reminder: Make sure you do not put any chemicals or cleaning supplies onto the material and into the port as this could cause internal damage. No matter what you may hear (or google in haste), make sure you’re not doing any of these seemingly innocent things to your phone that Apple experts warn against.

Option 2: Paper clip method

This method is simple but slightly riskier as you can potentially scrape and damage the sensitive touch points inside the port. Stewart McGrenary, of iPad-Recycle, warns iPhone owners, “don’t be too aggressive. Try and find places where the dirt has possibly built up and remove it. Even if you knock any dirt loose and then shake your phone afterward.”

Step 1: Locate a small pin, paperclip, or needle

Step 2: Carefully insert the thin metal into the port

Step 3: With extreme care, jiggle the point inside the port to loosen dirt or debris

Step 4: Reinsert the charger cable into the port

Also, make sure you keep your nearly-charged phone young with these tips to stop your iPhone from getting slower as it ages.

Option 3: Compressed air method

One important idea to consider is the potential risk of damaging the port further by inserting foreign objects. This is the only method that does not have the potential to damage the machinery inside.
“The port comprises fragile touch points—tiny metal lines—onto which the charging cable will attach,” reminds Dr. Vikram Tarugu, a medical professional and CEO of Detox in South Florida. “If the contact points are damaged the charger will not work at all, regardless of how much you try to clean it. This indicates a can of compressed air is among the best solutions.”
Step 1: Locate a can of compressed air
Step 2: Hold the can upright (careful not stick the nozzle in the port or hold it too close to the port itself)
Step 3: Press down on the nozzle and spray the air in “brief, light bursts.”
Step 4: Wait a few seconds after the last burst
Step 5: Reinsert the charger cable into the port
Reminder: “Resist the urge to blow yourself into the port: Wet, hot air from the human mouth will not any favors to the port and its points of contact,” according to Dr. Vikram Tarugu. While blowing sharply into the port may be your first urge, it can truly do more harm than good.
Any of these three options will likely help clean your port and get you back to charging again. Your battery will surely thank you, but not if you’re still charging your iPhone this way and ruining its battery life.