Cleaning/Care FAQ by Fleck

Version: v1.2 | Updated: 12/13/05 | Printable Version

SNES General Cleaning/Care Guide v1.2
By: Jason Fleck
GameFAQs - Fleck

April 2005

A. Introduction
B. Cleaning FAQ
   1. What causes games/console to get dirty?
   2. What materials will I need?
   3. Methods of Cleaning Cartridge Contacts:
     a. Q-tip/Alcohol Method
     b. Emory board method
     c. Official SNES Cleaner
   4. Methods to clean outside of cartridge:
     a. Sticker Removal (Submitted by DarkBubble)
   5. Cleaning the inside of your cartridge:
   6. Basic SNES Controller Pad Maintenance (Submitted by DarkBubble)
     a. Cleaning
     b. L and R Button Repair
     c. Repairing Contacts
   7. SNES Console Cleaning FAQ (Coming Soon!)
D. Miscellaneous

A. Introduction

You are probably wondering why on Earth we would need a FAQ about how to clean 
your cartridge, but you wouldnít believe how many people ask that question on 
the Super Nintendo General message board.  So, I have taken the time to outline
a few easy ways to keep your SNES cartridges clean and working perfectly.  
Should you have any questions (hopefully this FAQ will be comprehensive enough 
that you wonít), feel free to e-mail me at

B. Cleaning FAQ
   1. What causes games/console to get dirty?

   Again, this stuff may seem obvious, but any type of dirt or dust that comes
   into contact with your cartridge or SNES is going to soil it.  I have seen 
   cartridges with dried pop, oil, and other nasty things on them, too.  The 
   reason it is important to know this is because dirty cartridge contacts are 
   going to not only dirty up your machine, but 99.9% of the time are the 
   culprit when your game wonít load correctly; thus, the purpose of this FAQ 
   in the first place.

   2. What materials will I need?

      Depending on what method you choose, here is a brief list of materials
      that you will need to clean your games:

      Bit compatible screwdriver
      3.8mm Security bit
      4.5mm security bit
      Can of air (air duster)
      Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
      Windex (or any other household cleaner)
      Emory Board

   3. Methods of Cleaning Cartridge Contacts:

     a.	Q-tip/Alcohol Method

     This is probably the most widely used method of them all (or at least some
     derivative of it).  Easy as it sounds, just dip a Q-tip into some rubbing 
     alcohol and rub the contacts at the open end of the cartridge, and you 
     might want to clean the whole underside of the cartridge while youíre 
     there.  Youíll be surprised at how much dust gets trapped in there.  Put a
     little elbow grease into it.  You really will notice quite a bit of grime,
     usually, so you may need to repeat the process several times.  Keep 
     repeating this until the Q-tip is clean afterwards.  Some people dilute it
     with water, but I find that the alcohol by itself evaporates faster and 
     therefore may cause erosion.  Once the contacts and underside of the 
     cartridge are clean, use a dry Q-tip to dry up the excess alcohol left 
     over from your cleaning.

     b.	Emory Board Method

     For those who do not know, an emory board is basically a fingernail filer.
     I will say before going into this that I DO NOT recommend this method, but
     I know a lot of people use it and it works for them, so you be the judge.
     All you do is slide an Emory board across the contacts of the cartridge 
     until whatever is on them has been broken up.  You can then clean off the 
     grime using a q-tip or rag.  The Emory board is very abrasive and acts 
     almost like sand paper to get really hard stains off the cartridge.  Now,
     the reason I do not use this method is because it tends to corrode your 
     contacts pretty bad after a while.  As I said before, some people swear by
     this method and I definitely have had things on my cartridge that seemed 
     like they would never come off, but scratching it off is not an option 
     for me.

     c.	Official SNES cleaner

     Iím not going to go too much into these, because they have their own 
     instructions that you can read if you have one.  But, really I just wanted
     to note that these do exist and you can use them to clean the contacts on
     not only your machine, but your games, too.

     You can find instructions on how to use them here:

   4. Methods to clean the outside of your cartridge

   There are several different things that you can use to clean the outside of 
   your cartridge that I thought deserved mention.  First is Goo Gone.  Use 
   this with extreme caution.  It is very abrasive and will soak in to the 
   labels of your games and break down the glue that holds it to the cartridge.
   I use this stuff to get stickers off my carts.  It is especially useful in 
   getting the residue off after you pull a sticker off your cartridge.  Now, I
   do use this on cart labels, but I try to keep it away from the edges for the
   exact reason I listed above.

   Another notable product is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  This is the invention
   that was created especially for us, I swear.  With minimal abrasion, you can
   get any and all magic marker or writing off of your carts with these things.
   Now, I must note that I have had some marker that was too old and had sunk in
   pretty good and wouldnít totally come off.  But, 90% is still better than 
   having that ugly writing on your carts isnít it?  Try these.  They work.

   Other stuff you might try is Windex or just about any other household cleaner
   you can find.   I use this stuff to get the easy stuff off; like dirt, grime
   and dried food stains.

      (Submitted by DarkBubble)
      a. Sticker Removal

      Anyone who's bought used cartridges has come across unwanted labels or 
      the adhesive left behind by them. Sometimes, the game label itself is 
      practically destroyed or is incorrect (case swaps do happen). Alot of 
      people will suggest Goo-Gone in this instance, but I'll typically go with
      what I have on hand or is more readily available. When it comes to 
      getting rid of adhesive, whether it be on a cartridge or a CD case, I use
      windproof lighter fluid. This is a simple cleaning method, requiring few 

         Windproof Lighter Fluid (Can be found near the auto fuses and tweezers
            at most convenience stores. You don't need to buy a huge bottle, as 
            a little goes a long way.)
         Paper towels or rags
         Q-tips or generic cotton swabs
         Toothpicks (for any trouble spots that swabs or towels won't reach)

      This'll be your standard fare rub-down, but use caution. If you're not
      removing a damaged/incorrect label in preparation for replacement, avoid
      getting close to the label at all costs. Only put the fluid on your towel
      or swab, not directly on the cartridge, and use as little as possible. I
      would also recommend using a clean, dry rag or paper towel to remove any
      excess fluid. Never perform this cleaning method near open flames and 
      dispose of your cleaning materials properly. 

      You can simply wet the swab or towel with fluid and go to work, using 
      enough pressure to take off the gunk as you wipe. It may be necessary to
      scrape a bit with a toothpick or your fingernail, but it shouldn't take 
      much effort. The only time I would recommend actually pouring fluid 
      directly on the cartridge would be if some adhesive had made it's way 
      into a crevice, and only in those crevices that aren't where the front 
      and back of the case meet. In that instance, it's better to dissassemble
      the cart and try using the swab, towel, and toothpick method.

      One user on the forums (unfortunately, I can't remember who)had also 
      suggested that Zippo Fluid is also good for cleaning the contacts of the
      cartridge. I personally have not attempted this and have had no 
      confirmation from anyone other than the original poster, so I cannot 
      recommend this method in good conscience. If you try this and suffer ill
      effects, I will accept no responsibility.

   5. Cleaning the inside of your cartridge:

   Ever wonder how in the world to get your cartridge open?  What on Earth are 
   those screws in there?  Well, they are security bits.  You will have to find
   a hardware store that sells them (or you can buy a set off Ebay for $10).  
   You need the 3.8mm bit to open your cartridge and the 4.5mm opens your 
   console. Just unscrew the the security screws, and carefully open your 
   cartridge. You will see a chip board inside. Pull the chip board out and 
   clean the inside of the cartridge with windex or any other regular household 
   cleaner.  Use the can of air to spray dust the board and replace it.  Screw
   the screws back in and you are done.  Some people like to clean the 
   cartridge contacts this way also. You can get a better grip on them and 
   really see what you are doing.

   6. SNES Controller Pad Basic Maintenance (Submitted by DarkBubble)

   Itís been my experience that the official SNES pad is fairly reliable, 
   assuming youíve not treated it roughly. Your average platformers and RPG 
   titles shouldnít put wear on the pad that quickly, but we all know how 
   abusive we get when weíre duking it out in a fighting game, sucking down 
   butter-soaked popcorn and spilling soda between rounds. Needless to say, one
   of these days, youíre going to be playing through Contra 3 and suddenly die 
   because you canít fire at an angle. Before you go out and buy a replacement,
   realize that you have some options.

   Please be aware that I will accept no responsibility for any damage done to 
   your controllers, system, cartridge, or your person. Out of my own affection
   for the original SNES controller, I developed these basic methods and have 
   seen no ill effects to this day. As with any project using solvents or 
   adhesives, I recommend reading the directions for proper use and safety 
   precautions. If it says that you should only use a project in a ventilated 
   area, I suggest that you work in the garage with the door open or on a 
   porch/patio. Now, on with the show:

     a. Cleaning

     The easiest part of maintenance is simply cleaning out all of the goop 
     that your grubby little hands leave in and on the pad. Youíd be amazed 
     what all of that sweat, oil, potato chips, pizza, and skin cells amount 
     to. Youíll need the following:

        Philips head screwdriver (not too small, but not very large)
        Q-Tips or other cotton swab
        Rubbing alcohol
        Toothpick (Anything that needs to be scraped will most likely come off 
           with this, especially when using alcohol. Thereís no need to cut 
        Paper towels

     First thingís first, remove the screws. Make sure you put them where you
     can find them. Pop open the back, and pull up the board, though not 
     completely. Make a mental note of the layout, especially the way the cord
     winds around the posts inside. That acts as strain relief, preventing you 
     from yanking the cord free of the board when you pull it too far. Go ahead
     and pull the board free.

     Wet a swab with enough alcohol to get it wet, but donít soak it to the 
     point that alcohol will be running all over whatever you are cleaning. 
     Youíll see where the buttons make contact (most likely brown and black, as
     if burnt). Rub those areas with the wet end of the swab with just enough 
     pressure to clean. Rub it again with the dry end. Use one side of the 
     swabís head for each attempt, so you can tell how much dirt is left. It 
     may not look pretty on the board, but if thereís nothing else coming off 
     onto the swab, youíve probably gotten all you can. Anything thatís left is
     probably wear. Now, onto the button contacts themselves.
     Pull out the rubber pieces. The gray is just what holds the contact and 
     acts also as a spring to open the circuit when youíre not pushing a 
     button. The contacts themselves are a black, rubbery, conductive material.
     Some may argue that cleaning these pieces with alcohol may not be the 
     best, but working quickly should minimize damage. Again, use the same 
     method that you used to clean the board, but be gentler. The contacts 
     themselves only need a once-over, as theyíll make the swab black no matter
     how much you go across them. Itís the nature of the material, at least 
     from my experience. Youíll definitely notice some wear if youíve spent 
     much time perfecting your Dragon Punch.

     As for the casing and the buttons, go nuts. The only thing that can be 
     damaged by the alcohol is the rubber Start and Select buttons, but donít 
     expect much, if any damage. Crevices will be your main concern, primarily 
     around buttonholes and where the two pieces of the case meet. This is 
     where the toothpick comes into play.

     So, now that itís all nice and clean, slap your buttons back in, as well 
     as the contacts. Remember the cableís strain relief wrapping? Most likely,
     the kink is permanently in the cable, so the guesswork of how it went in 
     should be gone. Slip the board back in and put the back on. Whether you 
     put none, a few, or all of the screws in before play-testing is up to you.
     There should be a tight enough fit to not need them for testing, if you 
     want to be sure that you were successful before closing it up.

     b. L and R button repair

     One problem Iíve noticed with the design of the standard SNES shoulder 
     buttons is that unlike the simple pushbuttons of the PS1, they are hinged
     on the side closest to the cord. The button has an eyelet that holds a 
     metal bar. Stress from pushing the button down too hard or incorrectly 
     (i.e. closer to the end with the eyelet) will eventually break the button 
     free from the eyelet. This can lead to finger pinching, button presses 
     not registering, and generally not feeling right during gameplay. This is
     a simple fix. Youíll need:

        rubber gloves (Sticking your fingers together is bad enough, repeatedly 
           is worse, but if your skin is really sensitive, prepare for Pain 
           City, population: you. Youíve been warned.)
        Something to set the button on
        Cleaning materials from previous project
        Needlenose pliers

     Basically, just clean the pieces as you did the buttons during cleanup. 
     This way, youíll achieve a solid bond between the pieces. Now, put some 
     superglue on one piece (preferably the button, not the eyelet). Youíll 
     probably prefer to use the needlenose pliers to hold the eyelet piece, as 
     thereís little to hold onto, and you donít want to get stuck to it. Stick 
     the two pieces together. You can either hold it until it dries or set it 
     aside in such a way that the glue doesnít make contact with anything else.
     These are light pieces, so you really donít have to worry about them 
     working free of each other. Keep in mind that the glue will exit on both 
     sides of the fissure as you squeeze them together. You donít want a chunk
     of glue keeping the button from going all the way back to neutral (or you
     may. What do I know?), so use to toothpick to remove excess on that side.
     Feel free to add more on the inside for extra support, as long as it 
     doesnít interfere with normal operation.

     Aside from putting them in place when theyíre dry, thereís nothing more 
     to it.

     Cannibalize! Cannibalize!!! CANNIBALIZE!!!

     Contacts dead? Button worn? Need to replace a cord on your favorite 
     controller? If youíve got a pile of pads or can get used controllers 
     cheap, by all means, use them for parts.

     c. Repairing contacts.

     So, the black contact is worn to nothing, but the rubber has retained itís
     springiness? You can actually buy the contact material in liquid form from
     electronics supply companies. I havenít tried this yet, but it stands to 
     reason that with a little patience and ingenuity, you can actually repair 
     the contacts themselves. Whether this would be worth the effort, your 
     guess is as good as mine.

     As for the contacts on the board, there may be a few options, but they may
     be impractical and less cost-effective than just buying a new controller.

   7. SNES Console Cleaning FAQ (Coming Soon!)

C. Frequently Asked Questions

   Q. Where can I locate those products?

   A. All of the products that I listed (Goo Gone, Rubbing Alcohol, Mr. Clean
      Magic Erasers, Windex, etc.) can all be purchased at any grocery store or
      Walmart.  Pretty much anywhere that cleaning supplies are sold, you 
      should be able to find most, if not, all of them.

   Q. How much should I expect to pay for any of those cleaning products?
   A. All of them are in the $.99 to $3.99 range, so it won't break
      you to keep your games nice and clean.

   Q. Help! My game won't save any longer! Is this the cause?

   A. Surprisingly, this is a common problem with dirty games and systems.  Try
      cleaning everything first and see if that helps.  A lot of times, if your
      game is dirty, the contacts aren't connecting well enough to hold a save.
      I have heard, not confirmed, that a dirty game's saves can be erased with
      a slight bump of the system.  The only time this has ever happened to me
      was with a dirty game, so there may be something to it.  But, batteries
      going dead are the more probable answer to this question.

   Q. What about the console? It's yellow, is there any way to clean that?
   A. This may be one of the most common questions asked anywhere.  Here is the
      deal:  Once your system gets yellow, there is little, if anything, that
      you can do about it.  I know it sucks, but the flaw is in the plastic
      that was used to make the actual system itself.  There are earlier models
      that will not yellow because they are a higher grade plastic, but the
      later models will always yellow eventually.  You can try to clean your 
      system with some rubbing alcohol or 409, but unless the discoloration is
      from the system just being dirty, it just won't help.

   Q. What causes the discoloration, anyway?

   A. There are a lot of reasons for the discoloration of a SNES console.  One,
      and probably the most common, is exposure to sunlight.  The UV rays are
      pretty lethal to the plastic.  Smoking can also cause the same effect.  
      Look what it does to most smokers' teeth.  I know that's a pretty brutal
      reference, but it is the same conceptual idea of what can happen to your
      console.  Another cause is just plain age.  As the plastic gets old, it
      just plain breaks down.  At least these are the reasons that I have 
      always read as so-called "expert's" answers.  Take them for what they 
      are worth, but keep your system out of the sun and clean it, and you 
      will find that your console is less likely to yellow.

D. Miscellaneous (Thank Youís, Credits, etc.)
I want to thank GameFAQs for hosting this FAQ.  I know there are those of us 
that need this sort of thing.  

Thank you to DarkBubble for his submission and help with the cleaning the SNES
controller pad section.

Thank you to all the members of the SNES Geneneral message board for your
continued help and suggestions.

I also want to note that this work is mine and you are free to use and host it
anywhere as long as I am credited for it.  Am I going to hunt you down if you 
donít?  No.  But, Karma will get you.  And, besides, it just wouldnít be cool.

If you would like me to add anything to this or have any suggestions, please 
e-mail me at