Introduction: How to Clean a 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone Jack

How to clean a common headphone jack found on most portable devices. 1/8" jacks are found on most portable equipment (and with the proliferation of iPods, there are millions of such jacks). Being portable, the jack comes into contact with alot of grime and deals with many insertion / extraction cycles. This naturally gathers grime and grinds it in. A symptom of this problem is a scratching sound in the audio and sometimes premature wear on the jacks. But don't fret, there is an easy and cheap solution to clean them with items found in your local mega mart. It' so simple, you'll do it often as preventative maintenance.


See the before pictures of the jack below. The white plastic really shows how much grime has gotten in there, also notice the flaky looking corrosion on the gold contact parts.

Step 1: Get It

You'll need some tools. The "Interdental Brush" is the key. You would be familiar with them if you ever had braces or have dentures. It is an inexpensive brush made for cleaning in tricky spaces in the mouth. It is inexpensive, refillable and easily gotten. The other thing you need is "rubbing" or isopropyl alcohol that is 70% or greater. You will notice in the picture that the brush is roughly the same size as the headphone plug.

Step 2: Dip It

Pour a bit of the alcohol into the cap of the bottle of alcohol and dip the brush in.

Step 3: Shake It

You will notice a bead of liquid stick inside the brush (as shown in the picture). You will need to tap or shake most of that off so it does not migrate into the equipment. You only need the brush moist, not wet.

Step 4: Go at It

Put the brush inside the jack (WITH THE POWER OFF), move up and down and twirl around in a circle. If the jack is really dirty you may need to repeat the first few steps until it's clean.

Step 5: Wait for It

Wait till it dries.

No really WAIT. I know you want to try your new clean jack, but I'd give it an hour at least.

Step 6: You Now Have a Clean Jack

Notice how the white part is clean and the contacts no longer have corrosion on them.
As you can see this is a very effective, fast, cheap and easy way to clean those stubborn hard-to-reach jacks. This is also a good way to clean other small crevices like knife hinges or using it to get the gunk out of your canal phones.