NES Game Cartridge Cleaning Tips + More

Guess what, blowing on your cartridges didn't clean them. In fact it made them worse.

This tutorial will cover the basics of cleaning classic cartridge games. Its worth mentioning that clean games shouldn't be inserted into dirty consoles.. It is highly recommended to clean both.  See my other articles on Gameboy , NES  & Famicom console cleaning.

            Security Bit
            Tools of the Trade: (available here)

            • 3.8mm Security Bit = opens game cartridges for Original Nintendo (NES), Super Nintendo (SNES), Nintendo 64 (N64), Virtual Boy, Original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Sega Game Gear. 
            • 4.5mm Security Bit = opens game cartridges for Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, Sega 32X  / Will open consoles for the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Game Cube, Virtual Boy, Nomad, Game Gear, TurboGrafx 16, and TurboDuo.
            • Hi Polymer Eraser. Found at art stores
            • Rubbing Alcohol 90% Found everywhere

            Lets Start with the cheapest way to clean game carts:
            Dip a qtip in 90% rubbing alcohol and clean the game pins. It's not necessary to open the game cartridge.
            If black residue is on the qtip (corrosion) repeat process until its clean. Make sure the game is completely dry before playing!  Note: This method will not fix heavily corroded games.

            Alternative Methods for Dirty Carts:
            First Step:  While it is best to open the game and clean the pins it is not necessary.  It is possible to cut the eraser to fit inside the game slot and touch the pins. Rub each side of the pins, you will see black residue on the eraser. That is the corrosion, repeat process until fully clean.

            STEP 2:  This method is easy and effective. Simply erase the marks from the pins, work firmly erasing in circular motions. Hi Polymer Erasers are gentle and will not remove the thin gold plating on the contacts. Harsh chemical cleaners and polishes will remove this plating and promote future corrosion.

            Make sure to clean both sides of the cart, many games have 2 sided pin rows.

             Final Step: That's it! Reassemble and enjoy the game.

            FOR the Badly corroded games.
            OK.. sometimes you need heavy duty stuff

            Supply List
            • Brasso Polish
            • Rubbing Alcohol

            Some carts are beyond repair, these methods below can salvage damaged games. Only use this method as a last resort.

            Before Brasso Polish

            After Brasso Polish / Best we can do.


            STEP 1:
            Place the PCB on a clean flat surface, place Brasso Polish on the swab and polish the pins in a up&down vertical motion.

            You'll notice the swab turning black. Repeat until all the black tarnish is removed. It will require many passes to remove deep corrosion.

            STEP 2:
            After polishing wipe the pins with rubbing alcohol to remove remaining residue. Before reassembly check the cartridge housing for dust or dirt and wipe it out. DeoxIt spray is a great final cleaner for pins in this condition but is not necessary.


            1. I have a retroN 3 system. It is a struggle to pull the cartridges out. Is there a way to clean the console?

            2. I have heard rumors that the cartridge slot in that console is defective.
              Nothing you can do honestly. Its a design flaw.


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