small data connector thwarted by lint

If your charger isn’t working, consider lint

Y’all know what “pocket lint” is, right? Dust and fibers that can be found in your pocket. Where you put your phone. Now suppose you find your phone won’t charge. It could be for any number of reasons (like a worn-out battery) but there could be a buildup of lint in the charging connector. Here’s how much lint I pulled out of a Lightning connector that wasn’t charging.

Something to consider about connectors: the bigger they are, the more fault-tolerant they are. As connectors get smaller*, the less actual metal-to-metal contact area is available. So a given amount of lint, or oxidation, or misalignment, or wear, has a better chance of interrupting the connection.

“Canned air” didn’t removed this compressed lint; I had to tease it out with a sharpened toothpick. That’s a fairly delicate operation, because the actual connecting springs are fragile. Work carefully, in a comfortable seated position with plenty of light, you can do it.


  • Connectors have gotten smaller, though that isn’t the only factor in their reliability. The D-style connector, invented in 1955 by the ITT corporation, has a lot of metal-to-metal connection area and can be very reliable. Ditto the Centronics connector. But consider the move from the round DIN-5 connector (old-style XT keyboards) to the mini-DIN (IBM PS-2) which was significantly less reliable.
  • USB was a step in the right direction, but the Lightning can be thwarted by just a tiny bit of dirt or corrosion.
  • Micro-USB is certainly prone to the same problems as Lightning.
  • DeOxIT is a real help with all kinds of low-power connections (which tend to be very sensitive anyway). These include antenna connections, audio cables, battery terminals in laptops or phones, USB (all sizes), and more. Obviously you need to clean out dirt and lint before applying it though.

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Older technology guy with photography and history background