How to clean a phone charging port

Lightning and USB-C charging ports side-by-side
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Daria Gromova)
Tools & requirements

- Toothpick

- Cotton pad

- Compressed air

- Isopropyl alcohol (optional)

If you’ve ever noticed that your phone isn’t charging properly, then a dirty charging port could be to blame. These ant-sized openings are a magnet for dust and general grime – even on the very best smartphones – and in this article, we walk you through the best ways to clean a phone charging port.  

Quick steps for how to clean a phone charging port

  • With your phone switched off, use a toothpick to remove excess dirt from its charging port
  • Alternatively, wrap a toothpick in cotton to make a swab, dampen it with cleaning alcohol (never water), then drag the swab along the inner wall of the charging port, using compressed air to remove excess dirt

Step-by-step guide for how to clean a phone charging port

Incidentally, TechRadar’s US Editor in Chief, Lance Ulanoff, recently appeared on US morning show Live with Kelly and Ryan to talk viewers through the best ways to clean their tech products. At the 01:30 mark of the video (embedded below), Lance explains how to clean a phone charging port using common household instruments.

If you’ve got more substantial cleaning equipment at your disposal, though, read on for an alternative – and more comprehensive – method of cleaning your phone’s charging port. 

1. Turn off your phone

First things first: switch off your phone. This may seem obvious, but you don’t want to be prodding any sort of spiky instrument into something that isn’t a million miles away from a plug socket – especially if that instrument is wet with cleaning fluid.  

2. Wrap a piece of cotton around a toothpick

(Image: © Shutterstock / Leviana)

Once your phone is off, you’ll want to tear a small piece of cotton from a cotton pad and wrap it around the end of a toothpick. The best way to do this is by rolling both elements between your fingers, so the cotton sticks to the tip of the toothpick. 

At this stage, it’s important to bear in mind the size of your phone’s charging port. USB-C and Lightning ports, for instance, are about the size of a grain of rice, so you only need to wrap enough cotton around the toothpick to fill that opening. 

3. Blow compressed air into the charging port

(Image: © Shutterstock / SAMRAN MGR)

If you’ve got either a canister of compressed air or a silicone air blower at your disposal (you can pick up the latter at Amazon for just a few dollars), use this tool to blow compressed air into the charging port from a left- or right-sided angle. This should clear away any loose dust.

If using a canister of compressed air, take caution not to apply too much pressure to the charging port, as this may damage your phone’s precious internals. Our advice is to blast the charging port with air for no more than two seconds. 

4. Dampen your cotton swab with cleaning alcohol

This step is optional, but if you’ve got some tech-friendly cleaning alcohol at your disposal – isopropyl alcohol is a good option – then lightly dampen your cotton swab with it. This will help to loosen any stubborn debris, once you begin rummaging around in your phone’s charging port.  

5. Drag the cotton swab from left to right, inside the charging port

(Image: © Shutterstock / inspire finder)

Insert the tip of your makeshift cotton swab (damp or dry) into your phone’s charging port, and wiggle it from left to right. The number of times you’ll need to do this will depend on the amount of gunk inside your particular port, so we’d suggest using a torch to make sure you’ve caught everything before calling it a day.

6. Blow more compressed air into the charging port

Once you’ve had a good rummage with the cotton swab, remove it, then blow a little more air into the charging port. Not only will this clear any remaining loose dirt, it should also dry out any droplets of cleaning fluid that may still be left inside the port. 

Useful tips

A dirty charging port

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Todorean-Gabriel)

Avoid using your mouth to blow air into your phone’s charging port. While this might seem like an effective, cost-free solution, it's difficult to replicate the air pressure of a compressed air canister or a silicone air blower without also blowing unwanted moisture from your mouth into the port, too. 

If the above method doesn’t remedy your charging woes, check the integrity of your charging cable. Over time, cable ends can fray and the wires inside them can snap, rendering the cable ineffective. If your charging cable is fine, though, and your phone still isn't charging correctly even after cleaning the charging port, we’d suggest taking it to a technician for a battery check-up.

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.