How to Clean Your iPhone’s Headphone Jack

A clean iPhone headphone jack can make all the difference when listening to music or taking calls with your iPhone. Dirty headphone jacks are one of the most common problems responsible for sound issues on the iPhone. Since the headphone jack is an open port, it can fill with dust, dirt, lint and other debris. If you’re having connection trouble with your headphones, it may be because the headphone jack needs to be properly cleaned. 

It’s easy to clean out the dirty port so that you can get a proper, clean connection to the headphones and once again enjoy all your iPhone has to offer. This article show you how to clean an iPhone headphone jack using a few different methods and common household tools.

3 Methods to Clean Your iPhone Headphone Jack

If you’ve got new sound issues like static or muffling, or if your phone is stuck in headphone mode, a clogged headphone jack might be to blame. In many cases, you can tell if your port is the issue just by looking with a flashlight to check for large debris, like fibers or sand. In other cases, your jack might appear fine while harboring smaller particles. Test your volume buttons without headphones plugged in and note any changes to the ringer levels on-screen. Test other areas of the device, including the Bluetooth connection, and try another set of earbuds or headphones before proceeding.

Since the average size of a smartphone headphone jack is only 3.5mm, they can be tricky to clean. The following methods use easy-to-find items that you might already have around your home, and you can adapt them to fit non-iPhone devices, like iPods, iPads and non-iOS phones.

1. Cotton Swab

Choose a good quality cotton swab to minimize the chance of cotton coming loose inside your headphone port. Use sharp scissors to carefully remove almost all of the cotton from one end of the swab, preferably at a slight angle. This will help you access hard-to-reach areas more easily.

Turn off your iPhone before you start cleaning the jack. Lightly dampen the cut end of the swab in rubbing alcohol — be careful not to oversaturate it. If it’s dripping or soggy, it’s too wet and you should start over. You can also forego the rubbing alcohol altogether and try this method dry if debris is minimal.

Carefully insert the end of the swab into the headset jack and use gentle circular motions. Do not jam or force the swab in and be careful not to use harsh movements. Carefully remove the end of the swab and trim the dry side down to match the damp side. Repeat the entry process, this time using the dry cotton to dry the rubbing alcohol and remove any remaining dirt. Repeat as needed.

Allow your iPhone plenty of time, preferably overnight, to dry before turning it back on or plugging your headphones in.

2. Compressed Air

You can find cans of compressed air at office supply or electronics stores, but you’ll have to shop in person since they don’t typically ship well. Look for one that comes with an attachable thin tube for better precision. Attach the nozzle to the end of the can and, aiming away from your skin or iPhone, try a short test blast.

Place the end of the tube applicator near the headphone port and use a quick blast to loosen and remove debris. Repeat as needed.

3. Using a Paper Clip

We call this option the homemade lint roller technique, and it’s ideal for removing large, visible debris. Start with a clean paperclip and straighten it out as much as possible. Wrap it with a piece of clean tape, sticky side out, until you’ve formed a sticky point. Make sure the tape is on securely so it won’t come off inside the headphone jack.

Gently insert the sticky, taped paperclip end into the jack and pull out lint and debris. Repeat as needed and follow up with one of the above methods if you feel the port could use additional cleaning.

Tips and Tricks for Maintaining Your iPhone’s Headphone Jack

Now that you know how to clean a headphone port on an iPhone, these tips and tricks will preserve your headphone jack for years to come:

  • Create a maintenance routine: Establish a cleaning and maintenance routine for your device, including regularly cleaning your headphone jack once a month and as needed. You should also clean your headphone connector with alcohol regularly to avoid inserting debris or dirt into the port — remember to let it dry completely before reinserting.
  • Know when to call the professionals: While some damage is reversible with a thorough cleaning, the time may come when a professional is necessary. If you’ve tried cleaning your headphone jack, restarting your phone, testing the Bluetooth connections and audio settings and trying different headphones, all to no avail, it might be time to visit an Apple Store or repair shop near you.
  • Go wireless for less upkeep: Most of today’s iPhones have forgone the traditional physical headphone jack for wireless connections instead. Invest in a wireless headset, Bluetooth buds or AirPods, and eliminate the need for headphone jack maintenance and upkeep.
  • Avoid moisture at all costs: Never let your smartphone get wet, especially if it has a physical headphone jack. If it comes into contact with moisture, including water or alcohol, let it air dry thoroughly before plugging it in or using it. Do not attempt to manually dry the headphone port with a towel or other item that could leave behind fibers.
  • Keep the port covered: Keep your headphone port covered by closing the built-in lid or investing in a dust plug to keep it safe from debris and harsh environments. Some third-party dust plugs and replacement covers can even be personalized for a unique style.

Learn More iPhone How-To’s at Gazelle

Because many headphone jacks are open, they’re left vulnerable to dirt, lint, debris and your environment. A dirty or clogged port can cause all types of audio problems with your device, like muted or muffled sound, static, only hearing sound in one side of your headphones or the inability to hear audio at all. Fortunately, you can clean the port quickly with common items you might already have in your closet or bathroom storage. Preventive measures, like routine cleaning and dust plugs, will protect your investment even longer.

If none of these methods work, it might be time to take your iPhone to the nearest repair shop or Apple Store or even shop for a replacement. We can help with that. Gazelle is your go-to resource for iPhone tips, tricks and how-to guides — visit our blog to learn more or shop our inventory of certified refurbished smartphones today!