Safely and Properly Cleaning Your iPhone's Charging Port

Phone not charging? It might need a good scrub

Phone charging iphone battery dead

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If your iPhone won’t charge or only charges when plugged into a specific charging cable, car charger, or external charging brick, you may be able to resolve the problem by cleaning the charging, lightning port. Use canned air, a mini vac, a Post-It Note, a toothpick, or some combination of these common tools to effect a do-it-yourself repair.

What Clogs a Charging Port?

Because the charging port is located at the bottom of the iPhone and is open to the elements, it can collect lint, dirt, and other debris from anywhere, including a backpack or shirt pocket. It can get dirty from sitting on a picnic table in the park on a windy day. It can get clogged with dust from your home. There are a thousand things that could gunk it up. If you could look inside a clogged port you’d see a wall of debris.

A picture of a girl with mud all over her and a phone in her hand.
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This debris, no matter what it is, collects on the pins inside the iPhone port. It’s those pins that make the connection to the charging cable. If there’s not a good connection, the phone won’t charge. Cleaning out this port releases that debris so that the phone can be charged.

Take Your Phone to a Professional

The safest way to clean an iPhone charging port is to take it to a professional. They have the tools and know-how to clean the port without harming it. Most likely they won’t stick a paperclip or toothpick in there either (a popular do-it-yourself option) but instead will use a small amount of canned air, a tiny vacuum, or another professional cleaning tool to remove the debris gently.

A picture of a phone with small tools beside it.
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Here are a few places to try. In many cases, these merchants will perform the task for free:

  • Apple Store
  • Watch repair shop
  • Jeweler
  • Battery store
  • iPhone screen repair shop

Use Compressed Air and a Mini Vac

If you don’t have access to a professional, you might be able to do the job yourself using canned or compressed air. Apple says not to use compressed air, so you’ll have to make a judgment call here. Some people say compressed air works just fine. If you choose to use compressed air, spray a little air at a time, be patient, and don't empty the entire can of air into the port. Too much air can damage the phone.

Technician using compressed air to clean a mobile device.
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You can also use a hand-held vacuum like a mini vac or a dust buster. It might be possible to draw the lint out by positioning the vacuum next to the charging port if the debris is already loose.

If some of the debris is loose but you can’t get it out with a vacuum, use a Post-It Note. Cut the note in strips, make each strip narrower than the port. Use the sticky-side to reach in, connect with the loose debris, and remove it.

Use a Toothpick

This is a popular method to clean an iPhone charging port but should only be used as a last resort. That’s because the charging port contains sets of pins, and those pins are fragile. If you stick a toothpick (or paperclip or thumbtack) into this port, you could damage those pins. Once the pins are damaged, the only option is to replace the port.

Toothpicks on a dark background
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To clean the port with a toothpick, hold the phone with one hand and the toothpick in another. Gently insert the toothpick into the port. Move the toothpick around while imagining that there is a line of debris sitting on top of a set of very delicate pins. Gently blow into the port to scatter the debris. Repeat as needed, and test the port between tries.

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