What Product Should I Use to Clean my Games? April 01 2015

There are many methods to approach game cleaning. In this post I take a look at some of the most traditional methods, as well as a couple vintage throwbacks.


This is the most common method for cleaning old game cartridges. Dip a cotton swab in some rubbing alcohol and you're good to go. Some of the things I discovered about using Q-tips when I got back in to retro gaming:

  1. They bend easily.
  2. Sometimes they leave fuzz on the game contacts.
  3. Poor surface area contact.
  4. I worry about spilling the bottle of rubbing alcohol on my floor or furniture. 
  5. I have a pile of garbage next to me when I'm done.
Some of the advantages are that they are good for getting into corners and de-gunking hard to reach spots. Read more about why I don't like using q-tips to clean my games here.

    Qtip cotton swabs

    Nintendo Nes Security 3 Tool Video Game Cartridge Cleaning Kit

    This is a kit which is currently sold on eBay and Amazon. It comes with security bits which can be used to open your cartridge games. I've found that in order to get a game in playable condition it isn't necessary to open the cartridge. (However, if you are a collector and want to restore your games from the inside out, security bits are how you do it. You can pick them up for a couple bucks on eBay.)

    This kit comes with an ammonia-based cleaning paste that you wipe onto your game's electronics. Once it dries, you wipe it off with the provided paper towel. (The kit really comes with a disposable paper towel!) Then you use the spray (whose contents are not disclosed) to wash off any remaining residue. 

    I think the disadvantages to using this kit are:

    1. Ammonia smells really bad.
    2. You don't know what is in the spray bottle.
    3. The cleaning process is neither simple nor quick.

    Captain Clean

    This product is early 90's vintage. It comes with a console cleaner and a cleaning wand for the cartridges. I'm not sure what's in the cleaning fluid, but it does say that it's isopropyl-alcohol based. The kit was made by Pfantone and is no longer in production. They had a kit for NES, SNES and Sega Genesis.  

    Captain Clean Game and Console Cleaner

    High Frequency Cartridge Cleaning Kit

    This is another vintage kit also no longer in production. The cleaning pads appear to be mole-skin adhered onto a large card. I'm not sure what the cleaner was made from.

    High Frequency Game Cartridge Cleaner

    The 1UPcard

    The newest and cleanest method for cleaning old games. It consists of high-quality, durable, felt pads permanently adhered to a rigid card the same size as your driver's license. The fluid is the most pure isopropyl alcohol you can find on the market, 99%. 

    The kit cleans games for Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, N64, Atari and more. It's super simple and super fast. 

    Available for purchase here.

    Read about some of the other ways the 1UPcard can help your retro gaming cleaning needs here.