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How To Clean a Nintendo 64 Cartridge

How To Clean a Nintendo 64 Cartridge

Let’s take a little trip back in time, shall we? It’s a hot midsummer day. School’s been out for 2 months now and there’s just nothing else to do outside because how many times can you jump up and down on the trampoline? Plus, all the neighborhood kids are at camp so kickball is not an option.

So what’s a kid to do? What you wanted to do in the first place – draw the curtains, pour a tall glass of juice, and play Legend of Zelda on your Nintendo 64 (or Donkey Kong, or GoldenEye, or whatever game best identifies with your childhood).

Eagerly you shuffle through your plastic bin of games until you find the one, slappin’ it in the slot with anticipation, eagerly waiting for it to load. And wait still. And still, wait.

You know what happens next. Frantically you take out the cartridge and blow, baby, blow, and hope for the best. If you’re fortunate, your game will begin to load, but if not, you’re stuck.

Back in the day, blowing into your Nintendo game cartridges was seemingly the only way to clear the dust and grime. In actuality, blowing into your device transports all the moisture from your breath into the cartridge and causes corrosion over time. Since we’ve hit the new millennium, it’s time to act like adults and bring our cleaning methods to the 21st century. Because this historic and ineffective cleaning method blows…

And with that, our pun quota has been met if not exceeded. Case closed, blog post over, move along now.

Just kidding. Please keep reading. Your vintage games’ livelihood depends on it.

Now that we’ve gotten the wordplay out of the way, here’s the CORRECT way to clean a cartridge:

Start with the slot: Go straight to the source – the console – as this is the root of most problems. Grab an air duster, insert it into the cartridge slot, and let ‘er rip. Moisten a q-tip with rubbing alcohol because…

Alcohol solves problems: For once, alcohol solves more issues than it causes when it comes to cleaning your cartridges – rubbing alcohol, anyway. Make sure you’re using a 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol, as anything lower might have too much moisture.

Scrub-a-dub-dub: Carefully but firmly scrub your cartridge. Focus on the copper contacts and be sure to stay away from the label. Keep going until no dirt remains when you extract the cotton swab. When you’re done, make sure to inspect the cartridge for any excess cotton fibers.

Patience is a virtue: Hey you! Fictitious child from the nostalgic and immersive example above. Whatever you do, WAIT to play this game. The cartridge must dry completely before gameplay and your brother isn’t around to blame for breaking this gaming system. 

Let’s bring it back to present tense. You’re reconnecting with that childhood summer day, except maybe your juice is swapped for a nice cold beer (or whiskey on the rocks, or maybe a refreshing hard seltzer, whatever beverage best identifies with your adulthood). Now you are older, wiser, and better equipped to play your favorite N64 game the smart way – and more prepared to handle the impending doom of your cartridge acting screwy.


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