Is Touch ID on your iPhone or iPad not working as well as it used to? Does it take several tries to unlock your device? This could be the sign of a hardware problem, or it could be something far simpler and easily fixable.

The Home button on your iOS device is a sensitive piece of technology. Far from simply allowing you to access your home screen, it also doubles as a powerful fingerprint scanner. As any iPhone user can attest, this is fantastic when it works (which it usually does), but extremely frustrating when it doesn’t.

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If your Touch ID is starting to act flaky, it could be any number of things, but before you run out and get it replaced, try a few of these things first–you might be able to fix it without replacing any hardware.

NOTE: If you do find you have to replace the hardware, remember that only Apple or an authorized Apple repair specialist can do it. Having any old third-party repair service replace your Home button will cause you major problems.

Dirt and Water

Some of the most common culprits are dirt and water. Wet or moist hands will probably not unlock your device.

Similarly, if your hands are dirty, such as if there is a layer of grime obscuring your prints, then you’re not going to have much luck unlocking your device.

For these problems, the solution is simple: make sure your hands are clean and dry.

Having said that, it is also possible that your Home button may be dirty. Try wiping it clean with a soft, dry cleaning cloth. Failing that, it probably wouldn’t hurt to blow it clean with some canned air.

Cold Weather, Hard Work, and Worn Fingerprints

Cold weather can make your hands dry and rough. Odds are if you live in a cold, dry climate, then your fingertips will have changed enough to throw Touch ID for a loop.

Working with your hands a lot can also change your fingerprints. You may roughen and wear your fingerprints just enough that Touch ID may not always recognize them.

In this case, it may be necessary to add your changed fingerprint until warmer weather or some time off returns it to its former glory.

Software Updates Gone Wrong

You should always keep your device updated to the most recent version of iOS. That said, it is quite possible that the newest version may be causing you issues as well. To that end, if you are experiencing a sudden decline in Touch ID performance and you just upgraded your iPhone or iPad, then software might be to blame.

In such a case, you might want to hold out for a new, patched version, or possibly downgrade to the previous one.

Retrain Your Device

For everything else, your best bet is to retrain your device so it re-recognizes your fingerprints. Retraining it will probably alleviate many, if not all of your Touch ID woes.

We have a couple of articles you can read to help with this process. There is a way to improve fingerprint recognition on your device, and you can also add additional fingerprints so you have a couple backup fingers in case your primary one stops working.

When All Else Fails: Try a Factory Reset

If retraining your device to your “new” fingerprints still doesn’t work, then you might have to do a full factory reset. Short of taking it in for repairs, this is kind of like the nuclear option. It will completely wipe your iPhone or iPad, so you will need to make sure it is backed up first–you don’t want to lose your pictures, texts, and other important data.

Failing all that, you might just have to admit defeat and take your device in for service. This won’t be cheap, but because the Home button is specifically paired to your iPhone or iPad, you have little choice. Going the cheap route could end up costing you a great deal more in the long run, and could very well end up bricking your device, so be sure to take it to Apple for an authorized repair.

Profile Photo for Matt Klein Matt Klein
Matt Klein has nearly two decades of technical writing experience. He's covered Windows, Android, macOS, Microsoft Office, and everything in between. He's even written a book, The How-To Geek Guide to Windows 8.
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