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If your iPhone isn’t charging properly, and you’ve already tried swapping out the charging cable, you might need to clean the iPhone charging port. It’s one of the first fixes Apple’s technicians will try when you complain about your iPhone not charging.
You don’t need any special tools or training to do this—just a steady hand and a few household items. If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem, you might need to pay for repairs or swap out the charging port yourself if you’re feeling brave.
The Problem With Charging Ports
Since there’s no flappy cover on your iPhone’s charging port, it’s a magnet for dust and grime. Pocket fluff, dust, skin, hair, pet fur, and all manner of other unwanted gunk will build up in your iPhone’s charging socket over time.
Each time you plug a Lightning cable into the iPhone’s port, you’re compressing the unwanted grime. Eventually, it can build up to a level where the charging contacts are obscured. This prevents the iPhone from making a proper connection with the cable, and can cause it to stop charging altogether.
The latest iPhones are able to charge wirelessly, which will help cut down on this issue. It’s also worth keeping your charging cables clean. Periodically check the contacts for signs of gunk or wear.
What to Use to Clean Your Lightning Port
If your iPhone charging port is filthy, you can clean it yourself. You don’t need special cleaning kits, nor do you need compressed air. Despite many tutorials online recommending it, Apple tells customers to not use compressed air or aerosol sprays of any kind when cleaning their iPhones.
This is likely due to the high pressure at which air escapes from the can. This pressure could damage the iPhone internally. It could also jeopardize the water-resistant assembly on newer iPhone models. Fortunately for the task at hand (removing dried on and sticky gunk) compressed air isn’t much use anyway.
I once had a problem with my iPhone 5s refusing to charge. It was still under AppleCare warranty, so I took it to Apple for investigation. The Genius who addressed the issue solved it by cleaning out a lot of gunk from the charging port.
For this task the technician used a plain old iPhone SIM key, which is normally used to release the SIM tray.
Since then, I’ve had no trouble using a SIM key to clean my iPhone. I’ve applied a fair amount of force to the SIM key while scraping out the port, and never damaged it. The Genius who cleaned my old iPhone was careful but thorough.
If you’d rather use something a little less metallic, a thin toothpick or wooden skewer will do the job just fine. You could use a paper clip or another thin pin, but always take a little more care when using a sharp metal object for this task.
Get a tissue or a piece of paper towel to wipe down your cleaning tool as you remove gunk. Finally, get a small flashlight ready. You’ll need this to check in the port before and after cleaning so you know when you’ve done enough.
How to Clean Your iPhone’s Charging Port
First, turn your iPhone off. While cleaning, keep away from the power button so that you don’t turn it on again by accident. Safety first!
Check inside the charging port for signs of gunk using the flashlight. You will probably see buildup on the contacts at the very end, but also in the grooves that run along each side of the port.
Grab your toothpick, SIM key, or other thin object. Insert it into the charging port and scrape as much grime out as you can. It’s best to scrape the port, wipe down the toothpick or SIM key, then scrape again.
It might take a while to loosen the dried-on gunk. Keep checking with the flashlight till you can see the contacts at the end, and the port looks significantly cleaner.
Be careful not to apply too much pressure, even if you’re using a toothpick. You don’t want the toothpick to break and cause a bigger problem. You also don’t want to damage the contacts by applying too much pressure with a metal tool.
Note: If you have an old iPhone, iPad, or iPod that uses the 30-pin connector, you should take extra care since there are a lot more pins to damage.
Get a Professional to Clean Your iPhone
Don’t trust yourself to do this properly? You can get a professional to clean your iPhone’s port, for a fee. Whether this is worth it or not depends on how confident you are performing the steps above.
Your best bet for a deep iPhone clean is to visit a repair shop that specializes in smartphones. These vendors often offer services like screen and iPhone battery replacements, with or without genuine Apple parts.
Remember that even though these technicians have a set of tools and relevant experience, they’re going to use the same method as described above. They won’t take your iPhone apart to clean the charging port, since there’s no benefit to doing that.
Consider Replacing Your Lightning Port
If you’ve cleaned out your Lightning port and still have problems, you might want to consider replacing the port entirely. There are two ways you can go about this: fixing your iPhone yourself, or paying someone else to do it.
If you’re considering doing it yourself, you’ll need to find the right Lightning connector for your hardware, plus get a set of tools. You’ll need special tools to even open the iPhone. Once you’re inside, there are a lot of screws and other components you’ll need to remove to access the Lightning connector assembly.
If you’re not sure if you’re up for it, check out the video above from repair specialist website iFixit. This demonstrates how to access the Lightning connector on an iPhone 7; other models require a similar procedure. The video only shows how to remove the connector, so keep in mind that you’ll need to perform the process in reverse to fully fix the iPhone.
To find detailed instructions, search iFixit for your particular model of iPhone. iFixit also sells the replacement parts and tools you’ll need. The Lightning connector is relatively cheap at around $50, plus the set of tools required to conduct the repair.
If your iPhone is under warranty then you should take it to Apple, who will conduct the repairs for free. Another other option is to head to your local smartphone repair center which will be cheaper, but may not use first-party Apple replacement parts.
Out of warranty and want the best quality repair? You can pay Apple for the privilege. An Apple technician will use first-party parts and are highly trained, but this also costs considerably more than third-party repair shops. If your iPhone is pretty old, you might want to put the money toward a replacement (make sure you know the best time to buy a new iPhone) or opt for a cheaper technician.
Now Clean the Rest of Your iPhone
Your iPhone is probably filthy, because you take it almost everywhere with you and constantly touch it. That’s why you probably need to clean it more often than you do. Check out our full guide on how to clean your iPhone without any special equipment needed!