how to clean iPhone charging port without toothpick

How to clean phone charging port with/without toothpick

Some people talk about cleaning your phone charging port using a toothpick, but you might not have one handy. In this article we show you how to how to clean an iPhone charging port without a toothpick with seven different alternatives. In addition, a toothpick does not always give the most effective clean. Read on to learn why.

If you do want to see how to clean it including with a toothpick, see this article. But, be aware that is not the end-all be-all cleaning method.

Why is a toothpick not the most effective for cleaning your phone charger port?

Sure, a toothpick can get in and scrape out the bulk of the lint from your pocket that collects in the charger port.

I also like them because they are wood and fine, which means they are a little flexible. Less likely to break something. Not only that, but they will also likely break instead of your phone if you use too much force.

But they are not the only option by far. 

If soot has already started to burn onto the connector pins, the metal connectors that transfer power between the charger and the phone, can get soot deposited on them.

To clean them you need more than just to scrape the lint or dust out.

We will first look at alternative options for use instead of a toothpick for scraping. Then we will look at how to give an even better clean.

When you do use a toothpick, the idea is to gently glide up and into one edge of the charger port.

Then swipe across and then retain it at an angle and withdraw to scrape out any lint or dust collected in there. Repeat.

How to clean iPhone charging port without toothpick – Preferred Options

I talk about an iPhone charger port here, but of course it is relevant to any smartphone with a ‘female’ connector that makes a catchment pocket.

You can do something similar to above without a toothpick.

You will need something that is similar in size to the hole in your iPhone for the lightning connector. It’s surprisingly narrow!

WARNING: Make sure you do not use anything too hard. It could scratch and damage your phone. Also, I recommend you turn your phone off before putting anything other than the charger in it.

You can try one of the following.

1. Q-tip or Cotton Bud

A Q-tip often works well. Sometimes called a cotton bud in some locations.

I often recommended them, especially when doing a better clean with a cleaning fluid (see end of this article).

You can use pliers or your teeth to crush the stem to make it narrower.

I find that, even when crushed, the stems are still a little too wide to fit inside the port. 

This means often only the cotton part fits in. This allows you to do a partial clean. It is okay but perhaps not the best way to remove all lint from the port.

In fact, it’s better for rubbing the pins to clean them than to remove lint jammed up inside.

A great tool to use to clean iPhone charging port without toothpick, is a twist-tie.

2. Twist-tie

By twist-tie, I mean those plastic-coated wires that we use to twist around other things to keep them together or freezer bag, not a cable tie.

The ones that come with freezer bags are not very strong so are not very good at all.

The black or white ones used on loose parts in toys or cables or work quite well.

The best ones are the stronger black ones that are typically on serious quality electrical goods. Including on new USB cables! If you buy new charger cable, look for and use the twist-tie to clear out the phone charger port before you start using your new cable.

Use the same method as explained above for the toothpick, but of course you do it without the toothpick!

In fact, it might be better than a toothpick because you can bend slightly the end to make a tiny hook.

In the photo below, you can see some lint or dust removed when I did a clean that was a success. There was more removed than shown in the photo.

This is how I got lint out of iPhone charging port without a toothpick.

I had the black twist tie wrapped around my new charger cable when it arrived! Perfect to give the phone charger port a wipe before inserting my new cable.

After all, you don’t want to get a black stuff on your new charger cable right away.

How I cleaned my iPhone charging port without toothpick using the twist-tie that came with my new iPhone charger cable!

My choice of iPhone charger cable?

I bought some like this iPhone charger cable and found the two cables to be awesome with a very robust design, and I’m really happy with them.

That is my choice but there are many more options, of course. You can search and find your own choice. This one is just to get you started.

TIP: Look for something that is going to protect the cable near the ends as that is where they fail in a way you can’t easily fix them.

Note: the above link is an affiliate link and if you click and buy one and it qualifies then I’ll probably get a tiny fraction of that. Which is to say (with the price of a charger cable), almost nothing, lol!

More ways to clean an iPhone charger port without toothpick

Along similar lines to Part 1, there are other small plastic-only items you can use.

A great one, though not always handy, is a ‘cable tie’.

3. Cable Tie

I’m referring to the plastic ones.

Metal ones are rare but if you have one, and want to use it because you have nothing else, please take extra care!

A metal one will be hard and you run the risk of damaging your iPhone or Android phone port. Not worth it to just clean out some lint or other stuff!

A cable tie for those that don’t know is a narrow plastic strip with a step pattern on one side, and an end that it zips into. People clamp cables and hold other things tightly together using cable ties very often.

These come in all sorts or sizes and variations.

You can typically cut them with good scissors and strong force, or a knife.

The method is the same:

Push it gently up into one end.

Drag it along the inside of the port.

Hook out the lint at the other end.

Repeat a few times, including from the other side.

4. Plastic 3D printing filament

If you or a friend has a 3D printer, then they likely have bits and pieces of tiny plastic parts that they don’t know what to do with. In any case there will be spare off-cuts of raw filament that we use that don’t serve any other purpose.

These plastic filament ‘threads’ can be quite useful.

They are strong enough to not break off inside your phone port.

3D filament can be harder than compressed lint from clothes or jeans.

I had to shave off a small edge just slightly for it to fit into the iPhone charger port. It made a sharper point for scraping the lint out. You could squeeze it with pliers to make it narrower, or you could bite it if you don’t have any tools!

You can bend plastic filament, just enough at the end to help make it a little more L-shaped or hook-like.

Less recommended ways to clean an iPhone charger port without toothpick.

Here are some more alternatives, but these are less recommended.

Some are metal so the warning above holds true. You run a risk to damage your phone so be gentle.

5. iPhone Ejector Tool

You will know the iPhone ejector tool for accessing the SIM card tray is metal. It can be handy as some iPhone users keep them in their phone case.

It has a nice little handle and a long thin projecting part. Insert it gently and scrape outwards.

NOTE: For iPhone 14 models bought in the United States, they use an eSIM so you probably won’t have an ejector tool either!

6. Paper clip

This can be less preferred because it is metal.

Having written that, some paper clips come with a plastic coating or paint which makes them an ideal option to clean your phone or iPhone charger port.

Blue works better than yellow (no that is just a joke!)

Bend open the paper clip just at one end to provide a handle (the looped part) and a cleaning prong (the open end).

If you only have a metal paper clip, you can try to wrap some paper around the end before you insert. I’m mixed about this idea because you do not want a little piece of paper to become trapped in the end so you cannot insert your charger cable all the way in.

7. Folded cardboard

I have tested folded paper and typically it isn’t strong enough. Perhaps an origami expert can fold one to make a great hook that is also strong? I actually tried to make folded paper hooks, but found they unfold rather than being useful!

But I think there will always be some cardboard lying around that you can get your hands on if there are no toothpicks in sight.

You will need to make a few folds after you tear off a small piece. That can give it strength as well as creating extra pockets to catch the lint or dust.

Compacted cardboard may be enough like wood, and so it gives another way to clean your iPhone charger port without a toothpick.

After Removing Lint, Clean the Phone Connector Pins

It is a good idea to rub the tiny metal connector pins inside the phone/iPhone port to clean them with a suitable cleaning fluid. 

I use a mix of bicarb soda and vinegar on a Q-tip.

Those who tout a toothpick probably never do this and wonder why their chargers are always failing so soon.

The cleaning mix and Q-tip can work quite well. I can see the black remains coming off onto the Q-tip. That proves the pins inside are becoming cleaner.

It can take a little set up and effort, but it is worth it.

For detail on how to make a suitable cleaning fluid and what else to use and do, see this article.

Also Clean the Charge Cable

It is important to clean the iPhone lightning cable or other phone USB charging cable once you have removed lint.

It might even be more important!

Why? Because the cable pins may have some soot burnt on them. That started off as the lint or dust and maybe oils from our skin we try to remove from the port. 

When the power starts to flow for charging, the first arc can burn that dust or lint. Carbon (ie. Soot) is not a great conductor! Plus, some of it can wipe off one surface to foul another.

To clean and fix a lightning cable of the burnt soot on the pins as per this article is just as important as removing the lint.

Rub the burnt pin or black line on the charger with cleaning fluid.

After cleaning, be sure to keep a look out for a black line on your charger cable to reclean it before it gets too bad.


We have now shown how to clean iPhone charging port without toothpick. As you now know, it may be best to clean your phone/iPhone charger port without a toothpick! Some FAQs follow.

How to clean iPhone charging port with a toothpick

Gently move the toothpick tip up into a corner of the port, then swipe the tip across keeping the base to the first side. Then wipe down and out. Repeat several times. Be aware that there is more to giving a good clean that just removing the larger lint and dust particles.

Why did my charger burn?

The tip of your charger may burn or appear burnt because soot has been deposited on it. It comes from dust, lint and oils from clothes and skin which can collect in the charger port. First clean out the phone charger port with or without a toothpick. Then you must do more than removing lint from the phone port.

Why do iPhone cables stop working?

Two main reasons. 1. Cables inside are tiny wires which can break if you flex them too much or pull too hard. 2. Soot builds up on the connector pins (the tiny metal lines at the end) which block the charge. Clean the pins and remove debris from the iPhone port to work again.

Why does my cable fall out from my iPhone charger port?

Your iPhone charger port is a small pocket that can collect dust, lint and skin oils over time. Each time you plug in the charger, it packs-in that debris. Eventually, there is so much debris inside that your cable won’t stay in, and you will need to clear it out.


About The Author


Jeff (Surname withheld for family privacy) is an engineer with over 26 years experience. He first learned to program in Fortran 77! See the 'About Us' for more.