I had an old banana sitting in the bottom of my backpack after a long weekend. When I set out for work, placed my MacBook Pro on top of the squishy, and ultimately leaky, banana directly into the usb ports of the laptop. Then I made matters worse, since I didn't realize where the goo came from etc, so I just plugged the cord right into the port. After realizing the connection wasn't working I pressed really hard. You get the idea, but it wasn't good. :)
The solution for me was to (1) use a toothpick to remove any of the major debris (see above) and then (2) use a toothbrush to remove the little bits remaining. For the tooth brush, I was methodical about keeping a high but acute angle. I worked at cleaning the ports for maybe 3 minutes or so each? I blew everything out and it works like a champ and the port is super clean and all my devices plug into and work flawlessly.
I hope that's helpful as a nother approach.