How I fixed an iPhone with a Q-Tip

On Saturday night my 15-year-old daughter texted me that her iPhone was broken. Her friend had spilled salad dressing on it while they were at dinner. The speakers and microphone no longer worked. No phone calls, no music. I thought that the phone would have to be replaced. When I got home I googled iPhone water damage speaker not working. The first result was a page on Saw Tun's blog called "How to fix the iPhone speaker problem (water damage)." He wrote:

Problem: The iPhone speaker works fine when headphones are plugged into it. However, as soon as the headphones are removed, there is no sound emitted from the iPhone. In other words, the iPhone speaker doesn’t work. My phone wouldn’t ring and I couldn’t hear any sound from the iPhone. This happened to my phone after it was water damaged.

Solution: Find a q-tip. Insert the q-tip into the headphone jack of the iPhone. Swivel the q-tip around for a bit and clean the inside of the headphone jack. Once I did this, the problem was magically fixed!

I had my doubts, but I tried it. It didn't work. I used another Q-tip. Still didn't work. But, the Q-tips smelled like oil and vinegar salad dressing. So I kept on sticking them into the jack. After the fifth or sixth Q-tip, Lana Del Rey started singing through the phone.

Thank you, Saw Tun!


  1. If it’s just water, you can use a hair dryer to dry the moisture.

    Now that I think about it, the decision to put the headphone jack of the bottom of the iPhone 5 is brilliant.

    1. We’ve had the headphone jack at the bottom of the Ipod Touch for YEARS. We win!  In your face iPhone 1-4 users!

      But seriously. I really like my iPod Touch 4g. I’m around wireless hot spots most of the time and I use Skype and a SIP phone or Google phone for calls depending on the connection and who I’m calling. 

  2. Wow! I actually just went through the same nonsense with Hurricane Sandy.  After the hurricane passed, but was still kind of rainy I decided to go for a late night walk.  Took tons of iPhone pictures, but didn’t pay any mind to the occasional drop of water that would hit the phone.  It wasn’t a deluge, so I just wiped off any stay post-Hurricane water.

    Got home & wanted to play some podcasts.  Laid the phone down.  Worked & was clearly “playing” but no sound through the built in speakers. Whenever I hit the volume buttons, the indicator would say “headphones.”  Dug online & found a similar Q-Tip tip. But I dunno what kind of tiny Q-Tips folks were using, but all were just too big for the headphone jack.

    So rolled up a small piece of paper towel.  Dabbed it in there a few times & *WHALLA* it worked!

    1.  I once fixed a Renault 4 French ex-postal van with a handkerchief (tied round one of the coolant tubes that had split).

  3. Too bad apple tries to limit your “intrusion” into THEIR phone. Opening devices and cleaning them is often a common maintenance task that requires very little expertise other than know that you want to get rid of foreign materials that could be conductors. 

    1. are you mad because Apple doesn’t want to be tech support for hobbyists? All you risk is your warranty. Bodge on.

    2.  What are you suggesting? That the phone be covered in screws and bay doors with user-accessible internals? What, exactly, do you imagine this dystopian monstrosity would look like and weigh?

    1.   Yeah, I was gonna say… All this is good news except that the daughter is listening to Lana del Ray.

  4. I’d be interested in knowing what Q-Tip can fit in a standard headphone jack. 

    EDIT: I posted too soon…I see you pull off the cotton, leaving just a bit of it on the QTIP to insert it.

  5. vinegar is acidic. acids or even plain water can cause delicate electronics to corrode. The power button on my 5 year old HTC p3400i is on the upper left corner. Its failing. A cellphone technician opened it up and cleaned some corrosion. It still works 99% of the time but I’m gonna get a mid end android to replace it. Its served me well. Maybe some water dripped in due to it being on top, I don’t know

    so if there is some vinegar left inside the phone, expect future problems

  6. “After the fifth or sixth Q-tip, Lana Del Rey started singing through the phone.”  You have my deepest sympathy.

  7. Based on everyone else’s comments, I checked out this Lana Del Rey. Holy moley.  I will never complain about my kids’ tastes in music again.

  8. I’ve been doing this fix on client Macs for years. The old “red light coming out of the headphone jack” issue…

  9. Above posters are correct; while the Q-tip thing is cool for the short term, sit down with your favorite beverage and the required screwdrivers and follow the appropriate iFixit guide to disassemble the device and clean out the remaining goo (with more Q-tips!) or there will probably be more issues down the line. 

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