Nintendo game cartridges are both the joy and the bane of many a gamer’s existence.
We love them because of all the amazing vintage games we can play on our Nintendo 64 consoles, but the pain of cleaning them can be enough to make you want to trash your games instead.
The trouble is, all N64 game cartridges require cleaning from time to time.
From dust to grime, if your cartridge is dirty your game won’t work.
Investing in your games with high quality cleaning methods might be enough to keep your game out of the trash and keep you from blowing a fuse.
Check out a few of our top recommendations for cleaning your cartridges below.
How to Disassemble an N64 Game Cartridge
First, we highly recommend you disassemble your N64 game cartridges before you clean them. When your game is broken down, it is easier to clean them thoroughly and quickly.
You’ll need some tools to do this. Grab a 3.8mm Gamebit screw driver to carefully remove the panels from the cartridges. There are two parts to your cartridge that will break apart.
Next, you need to remove the shielding to reach the circuit board.
Trust us, it will take far longer to clean your cartridges if you don’t disassemble them first.
Pro Tip: Make sure to ground yourself before you start cleaning your cartridges. Get a grounding strap and attach it to a pipe or the metal casing of a plugged-in computer before you continue. This prevents unnecessary damage to your game’s chips.
Now let’s jump into the best ways to clean your game cartridges…
Method 1. Use an air duster.
Despite what you might have heard, using an air duster is a great way to clean your cartridges of dust and grime.
We like this method for maintenance, rather than deep cleaning. Use your air duster to blow along the length of the cartridge slot.
The gap between the bottom of your cartridge is home base for germs and dirt. If you use an air duster, you’ll get better results than if you blow with your mouth. In fact, don’t blow with your mouth since that can send moisture into your game, damaging it in the process.
Method 2. Try alcohol.
Our next favorite method if you want a little deeper clean, is to use alcohol. We recommend either isopropyl alcohol or denature alcohol with a high level of purity. You might hear that rubbing alcohol is bad for your Nintendo games, but we like the higher purity level alcohols for retro games.
Grab yourself a few cotton swaps as well. Dampen them in alcohol and get to scrubbing the insides of your game cartridges. Don’t use too much alcohol, since it can do more damage than good.
Swipe your cotton swabs along the copper contacts of your cartridge and push them in to the insertion gap for a little extra clean. Be firm, yet aware of where your swabs go. Replace your cotton swab each time if there is any dirt on it.
Remove as much dirt as possible from the game. Then, set it aside to dry at least 5-10 minutes before you try to play. Don’t use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process, as that could damage the interior bits and pieces.
Method 3. Try metal polish.
Another method for cleaning cartridges is to use metal polish. It sounds harsh, but this is one trick you’ll want in your back pocket.
First and foremost, this isn’t a method for generalized cleaning. It is ideal for games that are nearly beyond repair.
We like Brasso for this type of deep clean. You should also never use this method twice on the same cartridge. If you find a sweet game at a garage sale that just looks almost gone, snatch it up and use this trick.
Use it to clean the contacts on your games. Add two drops maximum to your Q-tips and scrub on the game contacts in the same method you did with the alcohol.
Pro Tip: Use a pencil eraser to speed up the process. Use a dry Q-tip afterwards to remove any built up particles.
Going a bit further, if your games are nearly destroyed, then use a cloth with Brasso on it, but just a bit. This will remove the residue on the cartridge ports. Use your compressed air over the top and add rubbing alcohol over top to remove any bits left over. Let it dry out completely before you try to play the game again.
What Not to Do When Cleaning Cartridges
Just like with all things in life, there are some things you should do and shouldn’t do when you are cleaning your N64 game cartridge. Our top tips for what not to do are below.
-Don’t use Windex
Some folks will recommend Windex to remove dirt on cartridges, but we don’t. Windex can leave deposits on your contacts—just like it does on windows—which can become more of a hassle for you. Make sure the alcohol you use is at least 91% purity or higher.
-Don’t use sandpaper as an abrasive
When you’re sick of scrubbing your cartridges with alcohol and Q-tips, it’s tempting to take out the sandpaper and start grinding away. However, no matter how bad your game is caked in grime you NEVER need to use an abrasive.
Make Your Games Last With These Tips!
The beauty of retro Nintendo games is that they last. It’s up to us to make sure they continue to. Maintenance, like the methods we mentioned above, secures your game’s spot on your gaming shelf.
And if you’re looking for a few more games to add to your collection, then check out our store. We add new vintage games regularly, so check back soon if you’re looking for a specific game.
We hope these cleaning tips make your game time a little more fun!