Back in 2015, when we made the decision to start collecting seriously, we soon realised that cleaning and cataloguing the games was just as important (and as much fun!) as finding them out in the wild. Some of the games are over 20 years old so it is not uncommon for them to be a bit grubby, or sticky from years of use. We regularly come across game which need some tlc and as long as the cartridge labels, box sleeves and manuals are intact we are happy to add them to our collection.
When we first acquired grubby games a simple wipe over with a baby wipe would suffice, but over the past four years we have added to and developed our “game cleaning kit” into something which makes it really easy (and relatively quick) to get games back to looking their best. Let’s take a look at what’s inside…
The Game Cleaning Kit
To properly clean a game cartridge, you really need to get inside and that is where specialist screwdrivers come in.
1. GAMEBIT SCREWDRIVERS: These are a must for taking N64 cartridges apart. They have a hexagonal hole at the end which fits over the security screws in the back of N64 cartridges (and the front of SNES cartridges) to allow you to unscrew the two halves. They come in two sizes; 3.8mm and 4.5mm; although we only ever use the smaller one for the cartridges. 2. TRI-WING/CROSSHEAD SCREWDRIVERS: One of the two organge screwdrivers is a tri-wing and this is used for the security screws on GameBoy and GameBoy Advance cartridges. It is also useful for opening up some game controllers, such as Wiimotes. The other two screwdrivers are simple crosshead ones, which are useful for unscrewing N64 controllers or the metal shielding inside the cartiridges. Sometimes you need a little extra oomph to open something up and that’s where 3. SPUDGER comes in handy. This is essentially a thin, rectangular piece of spring steel which is used to gently prise open friction fixed plastics such as those found in controllers or in particularly stubborn cartridge cases. A much better choice than a rounded knife or flathead screwdriver which can damage the item (or yourself!). Once you’ve got the cartridge open, 4. SOFT BRISTLE TOOTHBRUSH can be used to scrub dirt out from all the nooks and crannies (either with or without cleaning products, but more about those later…). 5. PAINT BRUSHES are used to brush away dust or loose debris. We have two different sizes for large or small areas. 6. WHITE BOARD MARKER is really useful for removing permanent marker from cartridges. I would never have dreamed of writing on my cartridges as a kid, but we have found a lot of carts which have the name of the game scrawled in permanent ink along the side (for easy location when stacked I guess). Using the white board marker we write of the top of the writing on the cartridge and when wiped off it usually removes the majority of the ink. 7. COTTON BUDS are used for hard to reach areas or for applying small amounts of chemicals to assist cleaning. 8. ERASER is really good for cleaning contacts on the PCB inside the cartridges. The pink microfibre cloth underbeath the items is also really useful for buffing up contacts or the carts themselves.
9. CROCHET HOOK and 10. CARDBOARD TEMPLATES & MAGNET are essential if you intend to make use for the sun’s UV rays to restore a cartridges original colour. We have used the Retr0bright method (which uses peroxide) to restore cartridges for some time, however we have more recently been simply putting the cartiridges outside on sunny days (which has had mixed success). The hook is simply for embossing card to create templates of the cartridge labels; without damaging the cartridges; to prevent them from fading when they are in direct sunlight. You can see some of the card templates in the plastic bag and the magnets which are used to hold them to the lid, not only stop them from getting damaged inside the case, but can also be used to hold the templates on a cartridge. 11. STRONG MAGNET is from an old harddrive, which we keep on the lid to hold the screws (and stop them from escaping!) during cleaning. Sometimes all that is required is a bit of warm soapy water, but when something more is required we usually start with 12. GOO GONE. This is a citrus-based cleaner which we use to remove sticky patches or unwanted stubborn labels; we have had some really good results with this. 13. BBLONDE is peroxide 40vol which is more commonly used for dying hair. We use it as part of our Retr0brighting process (as discussed in our Retr0bright post from 2016). 14. ISOPROPANOL is used for general cleaning. We use it to remove sticky bits, marker pen and general dirt, as well as to clean up contacts. NOTE: all three of the chemicals should only be used as instructed on the bottles and gloves and eye proctection are always recommended. Finally, 15. SPRAY BOTTLE is just for the easy distribution of the isopropanol.
And that’s it. All of it is neatly stored inside a Nintendo DS Lunch Box featuring Princess Peach, which does the job perfectly.
Our kit is still a work in progress, however we have found the current contents are really effective in helping us restore our games to their former glory.
I’m off now to wait for some sun to put out our next batch of cartridges. But until then…Happy Gaming!