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How to clean your iPhone's charging port

iPhone charging port
iPhone charging port (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

There are several reasons why your iPhone might be having issues with charging. We've got a comprehensive guide on how to troubleshoot charging problems. You might have a bad cable or need to restore your software. You might even need to replace your charging port. Sometimes, though, the only problem with your charging port is that it's hella dirty.

Products used in this guide

  • Precision tool: GoodCo Flat Bamboo Toothpicks ($7)
  • Softening agent: Perfect Stix - Cotton Balls ($7)
  • Lighting source: SOS Solar Flashlight ($20)

How did my charging port get so dirty?

My experience: I was having trouble getting my iPhone to charge properly. It would charge or uncharge randomly, and sometimes not at all. After determining that the issue was not a faulty cable, I went straight for the cleaning supplies.

My port was really packed with pocket lint. It had gathered dirt and debris over time, and I would push it against the back of the port every time I plugged in his charging cable. Eventually, a small wall of dirt kept the charging cable from properly engaging with the pins inside the port. Hence, the charging issues.

Lesson learned: Before you spend a lot of time and money troubleshooting hardware or software charging issues, try cleaning the lint and gunk out of your port. There's a chance that you have everything you need right at home to clean it out.

What you need

Flashlight, toothpicks, and cotton

You might think that a quick shot with compressed air will do the trick. Maybe, especially if you've only got a slight amount of dust in your charging port, but sometimes, cramming your Lightning cable into the port mashes the gunk in there so much that a spurt of air just doesn't do the trick. Plus, Apple recommends not using compressed air (opens in new tab) when cleaning your iPhone, so it's better to avoid the stuff altogether.

Luckily, the things you need to clean out your iPhone's charging port can probably be found lying around the house.

  • Flashlight - You'll need really good lighting to be able to see whether you've cleaned out the port enough. Even with a flashlight, it is still difficult to see into that tiny hole, but it helps. I used the flashlight feature on another iPhone since the light is bright and narrowly focused. It worked great.
  • Toothpicks - This is going to be your main cleaning tool. You'll need a couple in case you break one. Some people will tell you to use a paper clip or straight pin. I do not recommend shoving anything that hard or sharp into the charging port. Remember, there are little electronic pins in there. You don't want to scratch or otherwise damage them. A toothpick is more malleable and so less likely to cause damage. Ideally, you should use flat toothpicks with rounded tips because there is zero sharpness in those.
  • Cotton (optional) - It's not a bad idea to have the tiniest bit of cotton on the tip of your toothpick to help cushion the cleaning process. However, keep in mind that you may need to actively scrape that port, and too much cotton will be unhelpful in such a case.
  • Patience - If you're lucky, you'll have all the grime, lint, and gunk cleaned out of your iPhone's charging port with just a couple of quick swipes. But, if you're at the point where your iPhone isn't even charging properly anymore, it's probably pretty mucked up, and you're going to have to spend some time and elbow grease cleaning it out.

How to clean your charging port

At first glance, you might not be able to see the built-up dirt in your port. Even with a flashlight, it can be difficult to see into that tiny chasm. The key is in poking and scraping very lightly until you've dislodged some dirt. Things get easier after that.

Note: Pay special care when cleaning around the charging pins, so you don't accidentally damage them. Otherwise, you might end up having to replace the port entirely, which is not a better position to be in.

  1. Power off your iPhone.
  2. If you're using cotton, place a toothpick on the cotton and twist until it catches and starts to wrap around the toothpick (Only use a small amount).

Twisting cotton onto a toothpick

Twisting cotton onto a toothpick (Image credit: Lory Gil / iMore)
  1. Holding your iPhone so the backside is facing up, place the toothpick inside the charging port.
  2. Scrape against the back wall of the port.This will take a lot of poking and scraping. Continue to do this until the debris starts to come loose. You'll see a bit of gunk come out on the toothpick.Sometimes, you may need to carefully scrape the sides of the port, too. Debris can get lodged behind the spring-loaded anchors. Be careful not to damage the anchors.
  3. Repeat step four until you're not pulling out any more debris.

Cleaning the charging port

Cleaning the charging port (Image credit: iMore)

You might have to blow into the port in-between scrapings to get some of the loose lint and dirt out of the way.

When you think you've cleaned the port out, connect your iPhone to the charging cable again and see if it worked. If not, repeat the steps above until it works, or until you've determined that the problem is not a dirty port, at which point, you can run through the troubleshooting steps.

Proper iPhone hygiene

To keep your iPhone in good shape and working order, it's a good idea to keep some useful cleaning tools handy; whether it's for getting out the gunk in your charging port or just keeping the surface shiny and new, these are the cleaning products I personally use.

GoodCo toothpicks

GoodCo toothpicks
(opens in new tab)

GoodCo Flat Bamboo Toothpicks (opens in new tab) ($7 at Amazon)

You need something small to stick into the Lightning port, but you do not want to use anything metal. Flat toothpicks with rounded tips are ideal for this situation.

Cotton Balls

Cotton Balls (Image credit: Amazon)
(opens in new tab)

Perfect Stix - Cotton Balls (opens in new tab) ($7 at Amazon)

To give your cleaning tool (the toothpick) some added cushioning, a bit of cotton wrapped around the tip will do. You will only need a very small piece as too much will not work.

SOS solar flashlight

SOS solar flashlight
(opens in new tab)

SOS Solar Flashlight (opens in new tab) ($20 at Amazon)

It's nearly impossible to see inside your iPhone's Lightning port, but a flashlight with a focused beam can help.

Whoosh Screen Cleaner

Whoosh Screen Cleaner (Image credit: Amazon)
(opens in new tab)

Woosh! (opens in new tab) (From $10 at Amazon)

Apple also recommends that you don't use liquid cleaners on your iPhone, but Woosh is alcohol and ammonia-free, so it is less abrasive. Just be sure to use it sparingly and not every day.

PhoneSoap 3

PhoneSoap 3
(opens in new tab)

PhoneSoap 3 (opens in new tab) ($80 at Amazon)

For a truly clean iPhone, destroy all the germs with this UV phone sanitizer. It doesn't clean out your iPhone's charging port, but it does give you germ-free peace-of-mind.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).