Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Clean Video Games & Consoles with Household Products

Author: Smsoko1988

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 Cartridges

Supplies Needed:
For cartridge based consoles it is highly recommended to clean your games and the system (Mainly the cartridge slot) before playing games on it. I say this because some games or cartridge slots may be really dirty and the last thing you want to do is insert a dirty game into a clean cartridge slot or the other way around.

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 Slots

Supplies Needed:
Cleaning cartridge slots in the game system is a little different. Usually I like to take a credit card and wrap it in a thin felt cloth and spray it with Windex. Do not completely soak the cloth just dampen it. Simply take your dampened cloth with card and slide it into the cartridge slot moving the card up and down through the slot. To dry it you can simply blow on it or you can use a can of compressed air. Windex is designed to dry quickly without having to wipe it off. So not much to worry about if you just dampen the cloth it should dry without a problem.

How to Remove Stickers from Games

Supplies Needed:
Removing those pesky stickers can be a little annoying and involves a little patience. It is recommended to slowly peel the sticker off, but we all know chances are the sticker will just tear and you will be stuck with a white torn sticker left on your game or sticker residue. Only if you’re lucky will the sticker simply come off with no problem. The longer a sticker is on the product the harder it is to remove.

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 & Consoles

Supplies Needed:
So you just got a game or system with someone's name or initials. What do you do? Well truth be told permanent marker really isn't permanent and can be removed using two easy techniques.

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 Electronics

Supplies Needed:
Corrosion can appear as a light blue or white gunked up substance on game cartridge boards or system cartridge slots and electrical connectors. Corrosion and rust are completely different types of degrading on metals. Corrosion is usually formed by two dissimilar metals. There are several other ways it can be formed, but you're not here for a chemistry lesson you want to learn how to clean the corrosion off.

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 Discs

Supplies Needed:
If a disc you have has scratches or scuffing you may want to seek out a place in your area to correct these problems and resurface the discs. Most places only charge a few dollars to resurface discs. I would not recommend using cheap cleaning kits to clean a disc as most people have reported that it may make your disc worse. I have experienced this first hand with Disc Doctor as the machine left many scuffs on my disc.

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 Casings

Supplies Needed:
So you have a game system and its collecting dust and you want to let it shine like new again. Or maybe you have a console or controller that has buttons that may stick and may not rebound all the way back or get stuck. Cleaning consoles goes a long way for looks but also in the consoles functionality.

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.


Travis Hendricks said...

I like the images of the supplies needed. A quick snapshot gives you a pretty good idea of what you need to do.

And I'm very surprised there was no vinegar anywhere on here. That stuff cleans everything.

JJ Hendricks said...

@Travis - you can use the vinegar and baking soda and make a Volcano out of your video games.

Anonymous said...

Windex and other ammonia-based cleaning solutions are NOT good for cleaning game cartridges! Ammonia corrodes the metal contacts.

Anonymous said...

Windex is not pure ammonia. Remember you are drying it off quickly with the Q-tip, Windex also naturally dries quickly. I suppose submerging it for hours or cleaning the boards thousands of times may have an effect. You'd be pretty hard pressed to corrode metal with 10 seconds of contact of a light Windex solution.

ccc said...

I've heard of putting really gross system shells in the dish washer too. Also to remove magic marker/sharpie writing I use fingernail polish remover on paper towels. There are occasions too, where I use rubbing alcohol on a q-tip to clean the laser lense (especially in smokers homes).

Anonymous said...

WD40 works amazing on removing sticker residue, also on dvd cases it also will make cloudy and dirty clear plastic outer cover shine and look new. The absolute safest and best way to remove marker on a disc without using abrasive cleaner is with another marker. Take a dry erase marker and color over the existing permanent marker marks. Then wipe away the dry erase marker, best with a dry eraser, and like magic the original marker disappears.

video game facts said...

This video game cleaner provides the necessary information regarding the Cleaning of the video game articles which was clearly explained by the images provided above.

Anonymous said...

for stickers try a hairdryer first.. i had alcohol once damage the plastic-surface of modules.

but on the other hand a hairdryer once melted a dreamcast-case. :D so be careful with both options.

Anonymous said...

oh, and another one for sticker residues: margarine! definitely the most gentle method. put the butter on it and rub rub rub with a tissue, put butter again, rub rub rub, till it's gone. clean with water - like new.

JJ Hendricks said...

@anonymous - The butter/margarine home remedy is hard to believe, but I have never tried it. Next time I get a game with some sticker residue, that isn't very expensive, I will try this.

If it doesn't work at least it would taste good :)

Kevin said...

the margarine thing is something I learned from a school janitor. Any lipid has some capability to denature a lot of adhesives.

Anonymous said...

Really like all the helpful information and tips.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

MAAS metal polish works wonders for cleaning games (metal contacts)

Andy said...


Opu said...

Very well tutorial you did here about the way to clean video games consoles with household products. Actually we all have to know in such tricks to use household products and to save money. I hope people will be benefited by these. Thanks

Unknown said...

i have been trying to clean off a old gba i just picked up for 15 bucks,its white and in near perfect condition, minus a tiny dent in the screen. i put it in my pocket and a pen exloded so now it has red but now it is white again

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Would it work on a circle pad on a ds because mime went purple a while agoand still trying to take it off

Jake K. said...

I'm a console gamer and I cleaned my disks with alcohol until now. Now thanks to you I'm more educated on that matter and will take better care for that big part of my life. Thanks!

Tasha R said...

Thanks for sharing this article. I always cleaned my console and DVD-s with pure alcohol until now. Now I know even more products that can help me.

Elephant and Castle Cleaner Ltd said...

Great tips! I should clean my cartridge slots. This tip is sooo useful. I am going to show it to my sister. Thank you very much for sharing it. Best regards!

Anonymous said...

Great writing.

Kendall Everett said...

These are some very helpful tips! I didn't know how easy it could be to clean consoles! It was especially helpful to know what products to use based on what I wanted cleaned. I've been wanting to get back into playing some of my old games again, but my old console's have been so dirty!

Brandon Perton said...

Nice! I'm a huge fan of using Mr Clean Magic erasers as well. Thanks for the tips :-)

Ron said...

I highly recommend the 1-UP cleaning system that are specifically designed with the spacing to clean NES and SNES game contacts with a wet side and then a dry side . But you don’t need to buy the cleaning liquid which is just 95% pure alcohol (which by the way is the best cleaner for dirty contacts and isn’t mentioned in this article) . Do not use anything less than 90% pure alcohol because you don’t want to leave any residues

Ashley said...

Its a little technical for me to clean the console but I will try to clean it step by step the way you describe, thanks for sharing the tips though.

CG said...

A little bit of diluted Goo Gone or Goof-Off will clean up markers easily.

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