How to clean a headphone jack

Audio Jack 2 How to clean a headphone jack

If you’re anything like me, you like to have the best sound quality possible, whenever possible. This means doing simple things like tweaking the equalizer and getting better headphones to major undertakings like re-ripping your entire music library to Lossless encoding.

An often overlooked area in the pursuit for better sound quality is making sure all your player’s contacts and connectors are clean, especially since a pocket is sanctuary for dust, moisture, and other harmful debris. I have been asked why cleaning a headphone jack is important and I always give this example:  if you have distortion (static, etc.) while playing music and have to either disconnect and then reconnect the headphones or turn the headphone jack to make it go away, then cleaning your headphone jack might help with this problem.

Luckily, cleaning a headphone jack is quick and easy. With a few simple steps you can be on your way to musical bliss.

Step 1: Have a nice clean work area with plenty of light, then gather the supplies you will need. In this case it will be some Q-tips, some rubbing alcohol (70% or higher works better), and a soft cloth towel. (Some other guides and tutorials recommend using pipe cleaners or dental brushes instead of Q-tips, but I do not recommend using those as they contain metal and can break a headphone jack.)

Step 2: Pull most of the cotton fuzz off the Q-tip until just a thin film is remaining. (Q-tips with all the cotton are too big to fit in a 3.5mm headphone jack.) You will want to make sure that all the remaining cotton is firmly attached as you don’t want any coming loose while cleaning.

Step 3: Get the Q-tip lightly damp with rubbing alcohol (be careful, as too much rubbing alcohol could damage the player), and proceed to gently stick the damp end of the Q-tip in the headphone jack of the MP3 player. (Be careful to not force the Q-tip in too far as that can also damage the player.) Once inserted, turn the Q-tip back and forth for a few revolutions and remove. If your MP3 player is anything like mine the Q-tip will come out dirty (which is a good thing).

Step 4: We will also want to clean the headphone connector on the headphones themselves. We can do this by getting the towel damp with the rubbing alcohol and gently cleaning the tip of the headphone jack.

Step 5: After all of the former steps are complete, we’ll let the the player and the headphones dry for a few minutes and try them out. If your music sounds better than before or you no longer have to twist and turn the headphones, then Success!

Since cleaning the headphone jack, my sound quality has gone back to how it was when the player was new, which makes me a happy camper! Just thought I would share this with everyone as I see it as a good practice to make sure your player is always performing at its best.

Let me know what your experiences/preferences are in the comments.




12 Comments

Mikerman on November 3, 2012 2:24 AM

Thanks for this reminder, for something easily overlooked.

kendimen on November 3, 2012 12:19 PM

Same here! Thanks :)

jim on November 4, 2012 9:48 AM

I have never done that before
but lately there were some noises when cable was moving here and there
after cleaning headphone jack everything, noises are gone

many thanks

Ian Hadley on November 8, 2012 8:48 AM

Not a problem, I have been doing this for years through all my tape, CD, and mp3 players and it seems to help quite a bit. It also helps to diagnose any jack and headphone static to isolate which one is having problems.

cge on November 5, 2012 6:30 PM

Doesn’t rubbing alcohol eat plastic, that is why i have been scared to clean this way.

Ian Hadley on November 8, 2012 8:45 AM

Not from my experience, heavier duty solvents have been known to though. I have personally used rubbing alcohol for cleaning electronics for years without a problem.

A on November 16, 2012 11:02 PM

I bought new headphones and still heard static, so I thout my zune was breaking down. Never thought of doing this, but it fixed the problem! Thank you!

jason on December 13, 2012 8:01 PM

i have gotton a sylvania MP3 player recently and it only works if i use headphones with three rings on them if i use one with two rings only one side of the headphones work they are great headphones they work but any suggestions to be able to use two ring headphones without an adapter

Mikael on July 20, 2013 12:17 PM

This is what I Always use to do when buying an used player as I don´t khow how it´s treated. But I use to roll an toothpick made Wood with some of the cotton from an Q-pad and be sure it will not fall off when Clean inside the jack. I use Isoprophanol, that I Think is the best, but also T-Red ethanol can be used.
When cleaning RCA-jack´s, I use Contact cleaner, such as Cardas.

/ Mikael

day on September 5, 2013 10:19 PM

Beutiifull thanx so muuch my headphones work again : D

Mar on December 13, 2013 5:04 PM

I really appreciate this post. After buying different headphones, and having issues not only with static, but because the headphone jack seemed “loose” it was mess up my ipod as well – songs would start and stop constantly, along with very loud static. Here I thought it was a hardware issue. I am so happy to come across this post!

Alesio Serrano on January 12, 2014 8:29 AM

Thanks a bunch dude I’m a skater and I like skating with music but I wasint able to do that since my jack was dirty. I even have better sound quality now :D

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