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How to Clean a Headphone Jack

Similar to any other electronic device, audio equipment requires some general maintenance to continue working as designed. Unless your headphones or earbuds remain plugged into your device all the time, the jack is probably going to accumulate some dust and debris. 

When dust gets into a headphone jack, it can interfere with the connection. Those connections can be sensitive, so it’s even possible that the jack might stop working entirely. Here are some tips for cleaning a headphone jack and keeping it that way once you’re done. 

Common Problems with Dirty Headphone Jacks

So you’ve plugged your headphones into your device and you aren’t getting the desired result. Either no sound is coming out or what you hear is scratchy or garbled. The first thing you should do is troubleshoot the connection. Make sure the headphones are fully inserted into the jack, and the device (like your phone or laptop) recognizes the item. Once you confirm those two things, it’s time to take a look at your headphone jack. 

Analog audio signals are AC electrical signals, so an electrical connection is required. The headphone plug (the part attached to your headphones) has several different conductors. These match up with connections inside the audio jack. When something gets in the way of that connection, like dirt or debris, you won’t get the desired results. Some of the issues you might run into include:

  • Sound problems — Dirt in your headphone jack can cause annoying audio interference because the two items aren’t making a proper connection. 
  • Loose jack — A clogged headphone jack can lead to your device no longer fitting properly, which can get worse if you try to force it. 
  • Wrong mode — If there is dust in the jack, the device might think there is something plugged in when there isn’t and keep it in headphone mode. 

How to Clean a Headphone Jack – 4 Methods

If you suspect that dirt and dust in your headphone jack are the cause of your issues, there are several ways to address the problem. Set up a clean and flat surface before you start. Here are four ways you can clean a headphone jack:

1. Give it Gentle Taps

Believe it or not, sometimes the simplest approach works the best. Gently tapping your electronic device might dislodge any dust or lint that is causing you trouble. The key to doing this is to take a gentle approach. Otherwise, you’ll end up with even more damage. 

2. Try Compressed Air

Compressed air is probably one of the most effective and safest methods for cleaning a headphone jack. You can grab a can of this stuff at most pharmacies and big box stores. When applying the air, use one or two short bursts and hold your device upside down so that any loosened debris can fall out. 

3. Apply a Fine Brush

Another approach that might work is to apply a fine brush (we recommend interdental brushes) to the headphone jack. This can be something like a toothbrush, a long bristled paintbrush, or a brush made specifically for electronics. When carefully inserted, you can loosen dirt particles in the space to get a better connection. 

4. Use Alcohol 

Another effective cleaning method is alcohol. Alcohol is effective for cleaning electronics because it evaporates quickly, which is ideal because any excess moisture is a bad thing. Your device must be powered off before using the alcohol, and keep it off for several minutes until it dries.

Make sure you use rubbing alcohol that is 70% or higher. Soak a cotton swab with the alcohol, squeeze out the excess, and then gently swab it around in the headphone jack. Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate before testing your connections. 

How NOT to Clean Your Headphone Jack

Now that you know how to clean your headphone jack, here are several things you definitely don’t want to try if you are trying to remove dirt from your device. 

  • Blowing into it — One of your first instincts when you see dust in a jack, is probably to blow into the space. Don’t. The water droplets and saliva you are also sending into that area can damage the space, and you can also just send the dirt further into the device. 
  • Using dry cotton swabs Avoid the temptation to shove a dry cotton swab into the jack. The cotton on the swab will likely get caught on the inside of the jack and leave you with an even bigger mess. 
  • Applying Tape — You might read some online sources advising readers to shove tape inside a jack to get rid of dirt. But this isn’t ideal because the residue from the sticky side of the tape can leave gunk inside the jack, which will just attract more dust. 
  • Using Water — Water will clean most things that are dirty, but not electronics. Water carries electricity, which can damage the inside of any electrical components you get wet. 

Ways to Keep Your Headphone Jack Clean

If you aren’t having any problems with your audio jack, it may be best not to mess with it. That said, it’s a good idea to take a flashlight and peer into the space to see if there is any dust or dirt accumulation. If you see anything amiss, it’s better to address it with the steps we outlined than wait around for something to break. 

Another option is to just purchase what’s called a “dust plug.” This is something you can plug into your audio jack when it isn’t being used to prevent the space from getting dirt in it. Using a simple solution like this is a good idea if you’re in a high-dust environment, move your device around a lot, or frequently leave your headphones unplugged. 

The act of plugging and unplugging the plug helps keep the jack clean. Each time you plug in your headphones, plug and unplug a couple of times as a preventive measure.

Get High-Quality Audio Solutions from Galaxy Audio

Your audio solutions will always need some level of maintenance and care to continue to perform their best. But it helps if you are using the highest-quality products on the market, which won’t break down when you need them the most. 

At Galaxy Audio, we offer a wide range of pro audio equipment and accessories for the pro audio tech to the audio novice. Our team is in its fifth decade working in this industry and has provided audio solutions to some of the most famous names to walk across concert stages. Check out Galaxy Audio’s latest products or contact us to find out how we can help.

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