Game and Console Cleaning

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Occasional cleaning of game consoles is recommend to extend their longevity and restore functionality.

The most important tools you'll need for cleaning most parts of a console are

  • Isopropy alcohol, at least 90 percent. 70 percents have other adulterant chemicals in them.
    • Check the label to make sure they didn't add acetone, as it damages (fogging on bottom side) CDs and leaves a residue on cartridges and connectors, over time this build up and causes problems.
    • Alternatively, Denatured Alcohol as it contains none of these other chemicals. You can find it in a hardware store in the paint section.
    • The point of using alcohol is that it evaporates very quickly. However, if the concentration (i.e. percentage) is low, the alcohol won't evaporate as quickly. This is why you should use 90% or higher.
  • Cotton balls/swabs .
  • A toothbrush.
  • A rubber eraser (not on a pencil) for taking off stubborn corrosion on edge contacts.

If you don't have isopropyl alcohol, get some. You can buy a bottle for only a few dollars at any drug store, and one bottle will last you a long time. Do not use Windex/Ammonia based cleaning products as they leave a massive residue inside machines that is difficult to completely remove from sockets and cartridge connectors, and can after a while cause a short or arching.


Consoles[edit]

Cartridge/Expansion Slots[edit]

The section applies to any port or slot that a circuit board (cartridge, memory card, etc.) or cord (controller, A/V, etc.) attaches to on the console. The best course of action is to take a toothbrush, dip it in isopropyl alcohol, shake it to remove excess, and scrub the offending slot or port. This is extremely effective for cartridge slots, and for those you don't have to worry too much about being gentle. It's also great for controller ports that use pins (i.e. the Genesis and Atari 2600); you just need to be careful not to bend the pins. For other ports where there are pins on the cord that are inserted into holes on the console (i.e. Genesis A/V cable), you can press the toothbrush against these ports and slide the bristles into the holes to clean them, although this usually isn't necessary.
An alternative method for cartridge slots is to take a t-shirt or other thin cloth, soak it in alcohol, and wrap it around a credit card. Slide the cloth-covered card in and out of the slot to clean it. Only go up and down; side-to-side movement may damage the pins.
When you clean a slot or port, you should also clean whatever goes in it to prevent the future accumulation of dirt on the connector. This applies especially to cartridges.

Laser Lens[edit]

For consoles which use optical discs, the laser lens can be cleaned very quickly once you have access to it. Top-loading consoles (PS1, Saturn, etc.) make it very easy to reach the laser since all you have to do is open the lid. Consoles which use a tray or a slot (PS2, 3DO FZ-1, etc.) will necessitate that you open the console to gain access.
To clean the lens, start by getting some isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab, but not too much; just push the tip against the alcohol container to squeeze out the excess. Then use the alcohol-soaked cotton swab to clean the lens by moving the swab gently in circles. Unless it appears you've left a puddle of alcohol behind on the lens, don't bother using a dry cotton swab to wipe it off; the alcohol should evaporate entirely in less than a minute.

Console Casing[edit]

In many instances, it is sufficient to wipe down a console's plastic with a damp cloth to remove most of the dirt. However, if a console has many grooves that can trap dirt or if you suspect there may be bugs living inside, you may need to open the console and completely separate the inside parts from the outer plastic shell to be able to give it a proper cleaning.
If the console has no stickers or metal pieces, you can immerse the plastic casing in hot soapy water and wash it thoroughly with a cloth or a toothbrush. After this, leave it to rest in the water for a few minutes, then rinse it and let it air-dry. Keep in mind you might have to blow water out of screw slots, do so with a sharp blast of air.
A warning about aging plastic: the casing of many older consoles will become brittle over time. This is especially noticeable in 3rd gen and older consoles which have never been opened before. The most common symptom is that some plastic screw-holes may break off as you attempt to remove the screws, even if you are trying to be gentle. Usually the plastic which breaks off is inside the console, so the outward appearance of the console won't be affected. Keep this in mind and weigh the benefits before doing any work on your older consoles.

Controllers[edit]

The steps to cleaning almost any controller are usually as follows:

  1. Remove the screws on the bottom of the controller and open it. If the controller you're cleaning has unusual screws, see Proprietary Screw Drives.
  2. Take all of the plastic pieces and put them in a bowl with hot soapy water and let them sit there while you clean the rest of the controller. Do NOT soak plastic pieces with sticker labels or permanently attached metal pieces; you'll have to clean those by hand.
  3. Contact-pads-before-after.jpg
    You'll want to put the most care into cleaning the button pads as those can become very dirty and will lead to degraded controller performance. Inside most controllers, you'll see that the plastic buttons sit atop rubber pads which lay on top of the circuit board. You want to clean the part of the rubber connector that touches the circuit board; usually that part is black, but not always. For rubber buttons (like the Playstation start/select buttons), they themselves have the conducting pad.
    Dirty pads appear shiny, while clean pads look dull. All you need to do is take a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol and use it to clean the pads. Contact pads get very dirty, and for extreme cases you can easily blacken a half-dozen cotton swabs on just one pad; however, that is excessive and you only need to clean the pads until they look dull to restore button responsiveness. You should similarly clean the contacts on the circuit board, which take very little effort to clean.
  4. To clean the cord, just take a damp cloth in one hand, gently close the cloth around the cord, and use your other hand to pull the cord through the cloth. Try to keep the wire straight as you pull it; you may damage the cord if you pull at an angle. Scrub the contacts on the cord with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol.
  5. By now the buttons and casing have been soaking long enough, so take each piece and scrub it with a toothbrush, rinse it under a faucet, and lay it out to dry. Be sure you scrub the grooves of the casing and the button holes and also the sides of the buttons and any engraved lettering.
  6. Wait for every piece to dry completely before reassembling the controller. Carefully inspect the side of each button and button hole for any dirt that stubbornly survived the recent scrubbing. In these cases, you should again employ the use of isopropyl alcohol to remove what's left.

Media[edit]

Cartridges[edit]

The best method for cleaning cartridges is simply to use isopropyl alcohol (90 proof) and a cotton swab to clean the contacts. If this doesn't work, you can also use a pink eraser (for a pencil) on the contacts to help make them like new again.

The rules and steps for console casing cleaning apply for the plastic parts of cartridges (their casing) as well.

To remove Sharpie marks and other types of permanent marker writing, rub over the marked areas with a dry-erase marker, then wipe clean with a paper towel or damp rag. Use caution on labels and stickers, as any break in the printed surface that reveals the paper pulp will absorb the dry-erase marker ink, and will not give it back so easily.

For corrosion on the pcb and/or components try electronic contact cleaner (You can find this at your hardware store or auto-parts store). Spray generously and scrub the area with a toothbrush, then blow out with compressed air. Once the corrosion is removed, check the connections for shorts and the components for damage.

Discs[edit]

For cleaning and taking off very fine scratches; use a small amount of toothpaste and using your finger rub the toothpaste up and down (from the center hole to the outside edge) the bottom of the disc rubbing firmly. After you've gone around the disc a few times hold it under a faucet, mixing the toothpaste with water and washing it off. Once all of the toothpaste is rinsed off, carefully dry the disc with a soft cotton rag/shirt. Be advised that some brands of toothpaste are more harshly abrasive than others, and can result in you needing to visit a game shop to have your disc professionally resurfaced. For practice, try using CDRs that have become coasters. This way, if you make a mistake, you will have lost nothing in the process.