After being used enough times, all Zippo lighters will start to show signs of wear and tear. Zippo lighters will begin to turn black as carbon builds up around the top of the lighter, wicks will become burnt and charred, and after being carried in pockets, small items could jam the lighter. Cleaning a Zippo lighter is requires very little time and nearly anyone can do it. You can clean a Zippo lighter with tools commonly found around the house.
Open the top of the lighter. Pull out the insert, which contains the lighter fluid, and set it aside on top of an old towel. Do not set your lighter on top of any kind of wood furnishings or counter tops, as lighter fluid may eat away at paints, stains and sealants.
Dab either an ear swab (Q-tip or equivalent) or cotton ball in lighter fluid or rubbing alcohol and wipe out the inside chamber where the insert was. Clean off any carbon build-up that might have collected on this portion of the lighter. Also clean out any pocket lint or other debris that might have collected in the lighter.
Dip a new ear swab or cotton ball into the cleaning substance. Open the top hinge of the lighter and clean the inside. This is where the majority of the carbon will build up during use and the lighter may appear to have been burnt. Scrub off the black build-up.
Unfold the paper clip and run the edge along the flint wheel. Gently push the end of the paper clip into the wheel to clean out anything that might be jammed in the lighter. Be careful not to push the flint out of the wheel. If you do, simply push it back into place.
Use a pair of pliers to grasp the wick. Pull the wick upwards until a clean portion of the wick is showing. Use a pair of scissors to cut away the burnt portion of the wick.
Slip the insert back into the lighter. Finish cleaning your lighter by using rubbing alcohol or your choice of polisher on the exterior.