How to Clean a Headphone Jack

When your phone or other electronic device is left uncovered in your bag or pocket, the headphone jack can accumulate dirt and lint. Without cleaning, you eventually may not be able to plug in your headphones. Headphone jacks can be cleaned quickly and safely, though. Compressed air blows out debris, but you can also use a cotton swab for tough debris or a taped paperclip to remove lint.


[Edit]Compressed Air

  1. Buy a can of compressed air. These cans can often be found at electronics stores like Radioshack or Best Buy. Compressed air is also used for clearing debris from computer parts, so look where computer parts are sold. Air is least likely to damage your jack since you don’t have to put anything inside the hole other than the air.[1]
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 1.jpg
  2. Point the nozzle at the headphone jack. Get the air dispensing opening right up next to the jack. Some bottles come with thin tubes that stick out from the can. These may be easier for you to use since you can point the tube directly at the jack and focus the air into the small opening.[2]
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 2.jpg
  3. Release the air. Press the button on the top of the can to start dispensing air You should only need a blast or two to loosen most debris inside the jack. Make sure all it comes out of the hole.
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 3.jpg

[Edit]Cotton Swabs

  1. Purchase cotton swabs. Cotton swabs, also known as Q-tips, can be found at general stores and other locations where health and beauty products are sold. Try to get ones that don’t look very fluffy so that pieces don’t get left behind in the jack. Swabs with thinner tips work better, because they are easier to fit inside the jack.
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 4.jpg
  2. Remove cotton from the swab’s tip. On one end of the swab, begin tearing or cutting off cotton. Make the tip as close to the width of the swab’s middle portion as possible. Once the swab tip is this size, it should fit comfortably inside the jack.[3]
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 5.jpg
  3. Gently brush the jack. Don’t jam the swab into the jack. Slowly push it in until it rests inside the hole. Spin the swab to brush off all sides of the jack. Remove the swab and most debris will fall out.[4]
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 6.jpg
  4. Swab with rubbing alcohol. For difficult debris, you can dip the swab in some rubbing alcohol. Make sure the swab is lightly coated, not soaked or dripping. Squeeze out excess moisture first. Put the swab back inside the jack and spin it again.[5]
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 7.jpg
    • Rubbing alcohol can corrode the metal, so use it sparingly.
  5. Dry out the jack with a clean swab. The rubbing alcohol should dry quickly on its own. However, you can remove excess moisture to minimize the jack’s exposure. Stick a clean swab into the jack. Leave it in there for a moment and spin it around to collect the alcohol.
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 8.jpg

[Edit]Taped Paper Clip

  1. Unfold a paperclip. Open up the paper clip so that one end is straight. The paper clip can now be used to scrape out debris. However, the metal can still scratch the inside of the jack.
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 9.jpg
    • A toothpick can also be used, but the pointed ends can also scratch the jack’s interior.[6]
    • Needles are useful for reaching lint and large debris, but can easily scratch the jack and should be used as a last resort.
  2. Wrap tape around the clip’s end. Use standard office tape (like Scotch or Sellotape). Tightly wrap the tape sticky side up around the straightened end of the paperclip. Before use, check to see that the tape is secure and won’t come off.[7]
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 10.jpg
  3. Gently insert the tape into the jack. Slowly move the tape into position. Don’t jam it in there. Reach for any debris you see. The tape forms a lint roller and will remove stuck debris and lint.
    Clean a Headphone Jack Step 11.jpg



  • Be gentle and minimal when putting anything inside the jack. The metal can easily be scratched or corroded.

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

  • Compressed air
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paperclip
  • Office tape
  • Rubbing alcohol


[Edit]Quick Summary

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