How To Clean Cartridge Games Part 2: Our Step-By-Step Process Revealed!

Posted by Chris Evans at

Way back in 2014 after we launched the second version of our website, we posted a blog covering how to clean your cartridge games. In that blog, we covered the worldwide go-to: a q-tip with alcohol. Well, sometimes that just ain't gonna cut it brother. After years in the biz, we've gotten to know pretty well when alcohol isn't going to be enough.

We have a signature 3 step process with a few additional 'optional' steps that we've developed over the years. Using this process has saved games that looked beyond gone; cartridge pins that were coated in rust, corrosion, actual dirt, and yes - the dreaded ROACH SKELETONS! UGH! HOW CAN PEOPLE LIVE LIKE THAT?!

*pant* *pant* Ok, let me breathe here....anyway, I keep no secrets. I feel perfectly comfortable letting you know EVERY STEP of how to clean your cartridge games to perfection. Why? Because there is no point in buying games if you can't take care of them now is there? So, here we go:

You're gonna need a few supplies.

1. Yes, Q-Tips are still KEY! I prefer to buy them in bulk, which you can do at any CVS, Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc.

2. Yup, Isopropyl alcohol is still key (also known as rubbing alcohol). People get super wrapped up in the percentage, so let me lift the veil for you a bit: the lowest percentage they sell in the store is 70%. That is fine! 70% is going to get the job done. Want 80%? Ok, be my guest. 90%? Have at it! 99%? Have a field day! A friend of mine worked on cell phones and he would always use 99% Isopropyl. It is very potent, and very powerful, and very safe. But hey, you don't really need that to clean a game cartridge, so 70% is going to do great. That is what we use, for the record. Or whatever is at the local Wal-Mart when I'm in a tight spot and need to clean games. Nothin' special.

3. Here is where the secrets come in. On every single cartridge we clean, we use BRASSO. Brasso is incredible. It is a metal polish, and it is perfectly safe. The contacts in the bottom of your game are metal (I believe they are brass, specifically), and they need to be polished if they become corroded.  Check out the picture down below to see what it looks like. This is a little tougher to find, but you can get it at any Wal-Mart or online.

4. Another neat trick we'll show you includes a special contact cleaner called Deoxit. Deoxit is used by Apple to clean iPhone components, believe it or not! So yea, this is going to be safe on your game. And, it will clean it up and make it play better! As we crawl deeper into the rabbit hole here, our supplies are getting tougher to find. You can get Deoxit at some hardware stores, some Radio Shacks, and of course, on Amazon. You may be able to find it at your local Wal-Mart.

5. Lastly, grab some chunky erasers while you're out and about. We may get the chance to use them if your games are REALLY messed up.

Cartridge Game Cleaning Supplies


ALRIGHT! You're all stocked up. You have your brasso, alcohol, deoxit, q-tips, and erasers. Ready to party? Here we go with step one:

1. Open up your Brasso. It is going to smell pretty bad. That is normal. If you would like to keep it off your hands, wear some latex gloves while you clean. Squeeze a very small dab of Brasso on your Q-Tip. It's time to get to work. Use the q-tip to rub the Brasso vigorously along the contacts of your game cartridge. After you finish one side, pull out the q-tip and look at it. GROSS! It's going to be black, brown, green, all three, or just one of those. Yuck. That was inside your game! Aren't you glad you're using Brasso now?

Keep going. Turn your Q-Tip 180 degrees and go to town on the other size of the contacts. You will want to keep cleaning with the Brasso until black residue significantly decreases. Now you're ready for step 2.

2. Time for that trusty Isopropyl! Dip a new Q-tip in your 70%, 80%, 90%, or 99% Isopropyl alcohol of choice (again, they all get the job done!!), and start rubbing it along the contacts for your game. Clean off all that excess Brasso and see how those pins shine. Wow! Make sure you get all the excess polish and dirt with the Q-Tip.

3. Here's a part most people forget: Dip the other side of your Q-Tip in the Isopropyl and clean the plastic inner ridges of the game! Dirt really likes to hide in there so it can get jammed in your pin connector and jump back onto your cartridge contacts. Don't let it do that. Clean those inner plastic ridges like it's your day job!

4. Now the Deoxit steps in, and this part is optional. Deoxit is a contact cleaner that leaves a protective coat on your contacts which is supposed to keep them clean for longer and enhance connectivity. Spray some of the Deoxit into a ramekin or other small bowl and dip your Q-Tip in it. Rub the Q-Tip along your cartridge contacts.

You are now clean and protected! Take a look at your contacts.Is there still corrosion? If yes, that is where the eraser comes in. But, you'll have to open up the game for this part.

5. Rub the eraser along your contacts in the areas where you see corrosion. Do your best to remove the corrosion, but don't be too rough. We can still test this cartridge - we may have already brought it back from the dead!

Cleaned Nintendo 64 Cartridge Pins

Alright, time to pop that bad boy in and power on the system. Back up and running? I sure hope so! Over the past several years, we have used this process on thousands upon thousands of cartridges, and over 90% of them have been recoverable. Most games can be fixed, and if you need a little help along the way, feel free to drop us a line.

Oh, and one more thing: Some times we have had to complete this process 2 - 3 times before getting a cartridge to work! There can be one small piece of corrosion in just the right spot to keep you from gaming.


Q: Why does the back of the NES cartridge say not to clean it with alcohol?

A: It is pretty widely regarded as fact that Nintendo discouraged customers from cleaning their cartridges with alcohol in order to sell more of their cleaning kits. Guess what was in that "super secret cleaning formula" they included in the Yeah. Nice one Nintendo! Anyway, this has been DEBUNKED. Alcohol is more than safe for your NES cartridges - it is beneficial!

Q: Someone told me Brasso is not safe for my cartridges. Are you sure it is safe?

A: That is completely false, unfounded, and short sighted. In short, the contacts in your cartridge are made of a type of metal; Brasso is a metal polish, and therefore polishes that metal. I have literally used Brasso on thousands of cartridges and have never seen it damage a game - because it can't. Trust me: it's safe : )

Q: Can I send my games to you to clean or repair for me?

A: Yes you can. Just CLICK HERE and place your order.

There you have it folks - our proprietary, super-secret cleaning process with every nook and cranny covered. Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions, or concerns! Best of luck to everyone as you start digging back into that "broken" game pile!


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