Below are some quick tips on how to clean your video games and game systems using household products. The most common problems like dirty contacts, stickers, and markers are covered. Most of this info pertains to older cartridge based consoles but will work on newer consoles in some instances.
Warning: While cleaning the inside of a game system with a liquid solution, ALWAYS UNPLUG THE CONSOLE first to avoid electrical hazards. Also make sure the electronics are completely dry before powering the system back on.
How to Cleaning Game CartridgesSupplies Needed:
It is very common for people to simply blow on cartridge based games to clean them. This is a simple solution but not a perfect fix. I would recommend using a Q-Tip and original Windex, yes Windex not rubbing alcohol. Believe me it works much better to clean games.
I usually have a small jar I put Windex in and dunk the Q-Tip in to soak the end with Windex. You will want to then place the wet end of the Q-Tip on the contacts of the game cartridge and run it across the board a few times on both sides of the board. You may see the tip of the Q-Tip turning black from the dust it has collected, even if you did the old blowing into the cartridge technique you will be surprised how much more dust and grime is still left on the board. When done using the wet side of the Q-Tip you will now want to use the dry side of it to dry the area you just cleaned.
How to Clean Cartridge SlotsSupplies Needed:
How to Remove Stickers from GamesSupplies Needed:
If the simple tear method doesn't remove the entire sticker try this.
Use either high content rubbing alcohol (Usually 90% or higher) or Goo Gone. Whichever you may have at hand. Take your product and apply a generous amount to a paper towel and soak the sticker. You may also slowly pour the chemical directly from the bottle onto the sticker but be careful for spills. Let the product sit for approximately 30-60 seconds, rubbing alcohol dries very quickly compared to Goo Gone so keep that in mind.
After the chemical is applied you may just want to scratch away at the sticker with your fingernail until the sticker is removed. Sometimes you may need to apply more chemical and repeat these steps until the sticker is removed completely.
You can also use a razor blade and scrape the sticker off instead of scratching with your fingernail, but the razor may cut the product you are cleaning if not positioned right, so be careful and patient if you try that. For any leftover sticker residue after the sticker has been removed I recommend using a rubbing alcohol soaked paper towel or even hot water soaked paper towel and wiping the area clean. Then simply dry it off with a paper towel. Now you should be sticker free!
These tips are for stickers stuck on game cases, game cartridges, or consoles. If you have a sticker on a paper game cover art or manual I cannot recommend using these techniques as they will damage your product. Also this only works on paper based stickers. Some stickers may be metal based "Non-removable" rental stickers. There are ways to remove rental stickers but that is a completely different method and may damage your product.
How to Remove Permanent Marker from Games & ConsolesSupplies Needed:
Technique 1 involves hairspray. I prefer hairspray in an aerosol can as it seems to work better. Simply spray the area with hairspray and let it sit 5-10 seconds. You should see the ink start to bleed off quickly. Now wipe the area vigorously with a dry paper towel. Most if not all the ink should be gone. If some ink remains simply repeat the above steps.
A few things I want to address about hairspray are that it does not leave a sticky feeling at all to the applied surface. Hairspray is designed to be absorbed in the hair and then cure after being absorbed. Hairspray cannot be absorbed in plastics and metals. If stickiness is of a concern to you it is possible to wipe the area clean with a paper towel soaked in water and wipe dry afterwards. This method works great for areas like LCD screens or any area where light pressure is needed to remove ink from a product. Since the hairspray does most of the work for you.
Technique 2 involves using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser soaked in water. Simply soak the magic eraser in water and start scrubbing away at the permanent marker ink. With a little patience and elbow grease the marker will come right off.
How to Clean & Restore Corroded ElectronicsSupplies Needed:
To clean corrosion off you simply need baking soda and hot water from your faucet, that’s it. I would suggest one cup of hot water then about 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Mix the two together with a spoon. Now you have a safe corrosion cleaning chemical. Depending on what you are using it on makes a difference how you apply it. If it is a cartridge slot on a game system than you may want to just apply it to a felt cloth and wrap the cloth around a credit card (Make sure the cloth is damp you and not soaked. You may need to lightly squeeze the cloth to release some liquid), then proceed to move the card up and down in the slot to clean the area.
For game cartridge contacts you can simply dunk a Q-Tip in the solution and use it in a similar way you would to clean games with Windex. I would allow the solution to sit for a few minutes before you dry the area. When done dry the area with compressed air or a dry Q-Tip. You can also use a Scotch Brite pad dampened in this solution to clean electronics if you can access areas with it. Corrosion rarely forms on electronics, so only use this guide if corrosion is present.
How to Clean CD or DVD DiscsSupplies Needed:
For discs some problems may be from simple finger smudges present on the surface. For a light cleaning of the disc use a dry felt cloth and rub the surface of the disc from the inner ring outward. Do not rub the disc in a circular motion as it will go against the 'grain' of the disc. No chemicals needed here.
How to Clean Console CasingsSupplies Needed:
If you want to properly clean the entire shell of the system you can simply remove the screws and the electronics connected to the case. I really would only do this with systems that have ridges in their molding such as an Atari 2600 or Sega Genesis systems. Cleaning those grooves can be a pain without taking the system apart.
Don't be afraid to take the old school game systems apart they are literally just a couple of screws and the motherboards come out easily. You can take the bare casings of the system and wash them in a sink with soapy water and a sponge. Dry it off and put back together. This method also works to clean jammed buttons that are filled with grime and food crumbs that get stuck in the buttons from kids using the system/controller.
A Swiffer duster and a can of compressed air are great products to invest in. No need to rip the console apart to use those. Keeping your consoles free of dust helps them breathe better keeping them less prone to getting clogged with dust, which can overheat the system. I've seen modern systems fail due to overheating from being covered knuckle deep in dust.
I'm always interested hearing new technics and what methods you use to clean games and consoles. Feel free to leave a comment with your cleaning technics below.
This is part of our video game collecting 101 series.