If you’re having trouble connecting or charging your iPhone using its Lightning port, it might be time to clean it out. We’ll show you how to do it safely—and to troubleshoot other possible issues.
First, Rule Out an Issue With the Cable
The charging port at the bottom of all iPhones produced since 2012 is called a Lightning connector. If you try to insert a Lightning cable and the connection seems flaky—it disconnects if you tap the cable or phone lightly—or it won’t insert all the way, the problem could either be the cable itself or the Lightning port on your iPhone.
To see which component (phone or cable) is causing the trouble, borrow or buy a known-working Lightning cable, plug it into your iPhone, and see if the connection problem persists.
If the new cable fixed the problem, then your old cable is bad or dirty. Rub the flat contacts on the old Lightning cable with a pencil eraser to clean off dirt and gunk, then try again. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to buy a new charging cable.
Apple Lightning Cable
If your old cable isn’t working properly, a new one will fix your charging problems.
If the new cable doesn’t solve the problem, then your iPhone’s connector is at fault. A common problem with iPhones is that they accumulate pocket lint or dust in the Lightning port over time, and that physically interferes with the Lightning cable connection. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to clean out the port yourself, as we’ll cover below.
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Getting Started: Turn Off Your iPhone Completely
To safely clean your iPhone’s Lightning port without accidentally causing shorts that might damage your phone, it’s important to power off your device first. How you do it depends on which type of iPhone you have:
- On iPhones without a Home Button: Hold the side button and the volume up or down button for about four seconds until the power-off slider appears.
- On iPhones with a Home Button and a Side Button: Hold the side button for a few seconds until the power-off slider appears on the screen.
- On iPhones with a Home Button and a Top Button: Press and hold the top button until the power-off slider appears.
When the “Slide to Power Off” slider appears on the screen, swipe it to the right, and your device will turn off.
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Next, Find and Use a Wooden Toothpick
Now that your iPhone is off, you’ll need a small tool that can fit inside the Lightning port on your phone without causing any damage. Based on our experiences, here’s what you shouldn’t use to clean your Lightning port:
- No Metal Items: A metal tool, such as a paperclip, can easily damage the pins inside the Lightning connector. It also might cause electronic shorts that could damage your phone if you forgot to turn it off. If you do trigger a short with a metal tool, restarting your iPhone usually resets the protection circuitry.
- No Compressed Air: Years ago, we tried to use compressed air to clean a Lightning port, but it backfired. It forced dust up inside the iPhone behind the screen where it was impossible to clean out without disassembling the entire iPhone.
We find that a wooden toothpick works best: It doesn’t conduct electricity, so it can’t cause an accidental short, and it’s soft enough to pose a low risk of damaging the connector pins inside the Lightning port.
To get started, gently insert the toothpick into the Lightning port at the bottom of your iPhone. Move it back and forth, then try to scoop lint or dust out. As you move the toothpick, try to keep it centered in the port (between the front and the back of the iPhone) to avoid damaging the pins located on the bottom side of the connector (toward the back of the phone).
Be sure to not use too much force with the toothpick. If you’re too rough, pieces of the toothpick could potentially break off, which will cause more trouble than the lint you’re removing.
When you’re done, gently wipe away the lint and power up the iPhone by pressing and holding the top or side button until you see the Apple logo in the center of the screen. Try inserting a known-working Lightning cable and see if you get a solid connection. If it still doesn’t work, you might want to turn off the iPhone and clean the port some more. But if everything’s OK, you’re good to go!
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A Backup Alternative: Wireless Charging
If you’ve cleaned your iPhone’s charging port and it’s still not working properly, you might want to contact Apple service for help. They can repair or replace your iPhone for a fee.
Apple MagSafe Charger
If your iPhone supports MagSafe, this charger will attach magnetically and charge wirelessly—no Lightning port necessary.
Meanwhile, if you’re in a pinch and need to charge your iPhone, you can potentially use a wireless charging method such as Qi (supported in iPhone 8 and up) or MagSafe (iPhone 12 and up). You’ll need the proper Qi charging pad or MagSafe charger to make it happen. Good luck!
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