How to Clean Your Headphone Jack Without Damaging Your Phone

Dust and dirt in that tiny port could be causing issues with your phone's sound.

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Cleaning the headphone jack on your phone may be literally the last thing on your list of chores, and understandably so. But the reality is, your phone spends a ton of time tucked away in your pocket or your purse, where things like dirt, dust, and other untold debris can quickly collect. Since it's an open port, it's not protected at all, even if your phone is sporting a heavy-duty case. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to clean your headphone jack using tools you probably already have at home.

How do you know if your headphone jack is dirty? Most of the time you can totally tell just by looking at it. But a clogged headphone jack can cause lots of sound issues, such as skipping, static, and dimming of sound. If you're experiencing any of these issues, or if you just want to give your whole phone a thorough cleaning (it is one of the germiest things you own, after all!), keep reading for our three different headphone jack cleaning methods. And for more phone cleaning tips, check out How Experts Say You Should Clean Your Phone to Stop Coronavirus Spread.

How to use compressed air to clean your headphone jack.

Hand holding can of compressed air
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Compressed air in a can—the kind you use to flush dust out of your keyboard—is easily the safest way to remove debris from your headphone jack. The intense pressure in the can blasts air out, removing build up and dust from even the tiniest of spaces. Compressed air is most often sold in computer, electronics, and office supply stores. For more recommendations that'll make your life easier, check out The 17 Best Cleaning Products for Keeping Your Home as Good as New.

Step 1: Remove any packaging from the can.

Some cans include a plastic tab to prevent accidental discharge of air during transport.

Step 2: Aim.

Aim the nozzle directly at your headphone jack.

Step 3: Spray into the jack.

Press the button to blast dirt, dust and lint out of the jack.

How to use a cotton swap to clean your headphone jack.

Closeup of multicolored cotton swabs.
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The best thing about this method is that it only requires a common household item: a cotton swab. One minor drawback is the small chance that cotton could get stuck in your headphone jack, leaving you with a bigger problem than you started with. Follow these steps carefully to clean your headphone jack without that happening.

Step 1: Cut the swab.

Using an extremely sharp pair of scissors, carefully snip some cotton off each side of the tip at a slight angle. The top should come to a point, but again, only very slightly. Too much cutting will result in the cotton becoming loose and possibly unraveled.

Step 2: Wet the swab.

Dampen your newly cut cotton swab ever so slightly with water or rubbing alcohol. It should not be dripping wet, just slightly damp so as not to ruin the metal inside the jack.

Step 3: Insert the swab into the jack.

Carefully insert the cotton swab into the jack and make a circular motion to clear away debris all around the inside of the jack.

Step 4: Dry the jack.

Remove the swab and repeat with a dry one to remove any excess moisture.

How to use a paper clip to clean your headphone jack.

Straightened out paper clip
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An unfolded paper clip happens to be the perfect size for this job. So if yours seems otherwise beyond repair, try this method. Just be sure to use caution—the clip can damage the metal if you're too rough. For more miraculous cleaning advice, check out 27 Amazing Cleaning Tips You'll Wish You Knew Sooner.

Step 1: Unfold your paper clip.

Make sure that it's as straight as you can get it.

Step 2: Wrap it with tape.

Wrap a piece of tape—sticky side out—around the tip of the paper clip.

Step 3: Carefully clean out your jack.

Insert the clip into your headphone jack and gently move it in a circular motion to remove dirt from all sides of the interior.

Christin Perry
Christin Perry is a freelance writer covering health, lifestyle, and parenting. Read more
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