3 Ways to Clean a Nintendo 64 Cartridge

Best ways to get your Nintendo 64 games to work

Use isopropyl alcohol covered cotton buds and rub the pins until the tarnish comes off.

Using rubbing alcohol is the best way to clean most game cartridges but let's dig deeper and explore other methods and what's going on. Sometimes, Nintendo 64 cartridges can be difficult to get working and will simply not boot. You'll end up with a blank screen and want to throw your game out the window! Don't worry, we've got an N64 game cleaning guide that will get your dirty games sparkling clean and running again. This blog article will step you though several methods on how to clean a Nintendo 64 cartridge.

Nintendo 64 cartridges are known for being finicky at times. The game itself has small pins along the bottom edge and when inserted into the console it will make contact with cartridge slot pins.

If one of your cartridges is dirty, it may prevent your console from being able to read it. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to clean your cartridge and get it working again. Let's explore them.

This section will provide you with several methods for cleaning your Nintendo 64 cartridge. Follow the instructions carefully to ensure that you do not damage your cartridge or console.

Three ways to clean your N64 cartridges

1. Blow on the game cart the old school way (No don't do this)

This is terrible, don't do it! Blowing into the cartridge is the most basic method to get your n64 games running again. It involves simply blowing onto the pins along the bottom edge of the cartridge and letting the moisture in your breath coat the pins...yuk. The moisture makes temporary electrical contact and can help the games boot, but it's short lived and will add to the corosion problem. The moisture from your breath will encourage more corrosion to grow and next time you will have even more trouble getting the game to work. We really don't recommend this method at all.

2. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol covered cotton swabs (preferred)

The metal contacts on the bottom of the circuit board of a Nintendo 64 game cartridge are the part that needs to be cleaned. These small contacts are made of copper and interact with the console itself, so if they are dirty, it can prevent the game from working properly. We recommend using alcohol as the best way to clean video game cartridges in general. Use the strongest stuff you can find like 99% pure but anything over 70% will work well.

3. Cleaning with a magic eraser, metal polish and fiberglass pen.


N64 cart cleaning steps using rubbing alcohol

  • Dip a cotton bud (q tips) into liquid isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and make sure it quite wet. You can't use too much as it will evaporate very quickly.
  • Place your now damp cotton swap onto the game pins right at the bottom of the cart where there's a small insertion gap. The pins are on both sides on the circuit board, so be sure to clean both sides and use plenty of isopropyl alcohol. You will need to dip the cotton bud into the alcohol a few times and change the cotton bud once it gets too dirty.
  • Cotton buds are cheap, so use a few cotton buds and keep cleaning until you no longer see any black tarnish coming off. Replace your cotton buds often for best results as you don't want to spread the tarnish around to the other side of the cartridge. You’ll know you’re done when your cotton swab stays clean.
  • After you’re done cleaning your n64 game, leave it for a minute for the residual alcohol to evaporate, then give your shinny game a try in the console.
  • Cleaning cartridges with a magic eraser or metal polish. You will need to disassemble your game cartridge to perform this method. I'll outline the cleaning method, then in next section will step you through how to disassemble the game cart itself.

N64 cart cleaning steps using abrasive methods.

If you’ve tried gentle cleaning methods and your Nintendo 64 cartridge still isn’t working, you may want to consider a more thorough cleaning method such as metal polish like Brasso or AutoSol for a heavy handed clean. This method is typically a last resort for games that are so dirty that no other cleaning method works. You may find the pins are so corroded they have small pits on them and are in bad shape.



The cleaning steps for using metal polish are very similar to those for using rubbing alcohol, with a few key differences:


Use a very small amount of metal polish as it's a powerful abrasive. Metal polish will cut a very fine layer off the copper pins with the aim to get down to a nice layer of copper. This method is typically a last resort for games that are so far gone that no other cleaning method works.

The Magic eraser is another method to yield results that will very slightly wear the copper contacts down. Just pick one of from your local stationary store and gently rub with a light amount of pressure along the pins. You're rubbing all the pins in one pass, so give it a few passes and you should immediately see the pins change colour as the eraser cuts away the corrosion. The pins should shine when you're done.

Finally, we recommend a fiberglass pen as a gentle abrasive to clean your N64 cart pins as it's very effective and probably one of the easier methods.

clean n64 game with metal polish

cleaning an n64 game cart with a fiberglass pen

clean n64 cart with isopropyl alcohol


How to disassemble your N64 game cartridges

Taking your game cartridges apart is easy and can really help you to clean them properly. Let's take a look at WCW Vs NWO Revenge and give it a good clean.

We chose this game as it also has a save game battery inside that we'll replace sat the same time as cleaning. If you want to know which n64 games have save batteries, take a look at that topic here.

Parts you'll need to open an N64 game cartridge and give it a clean

  • 3.8mm Gamebit screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver size #1 (Small tip)

  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) available at most department stores like Bunnings, Jaycar, BigW or online

  • Cotton buds / swabs

  • Optional can of compressed air (air duster electronic dust remover)

Step one

Place the cartridge face down and use your Gamebit screwdriver to remove the two screws on either side.

Fold the shell up from the bottom

Remove two screws from the n64 cartridge inner shell


open n64 cart with gamebit


Step two

One half of the cartridge will have a metal shield attached with two Phillips screws, so get out your Phillips head screwdriver and remove them.

The metal shielding is attached at the top end with pressure tabs, so you’ll need to press down on them firmly when you reassemble the cartridge.

Step three

Slide down the plastic shield on the bottom of the cartridge.

Now that the circuit board is exposed, you can gently remove it from the shell casing. Inspect cartridge for any damage or dry solder joints while it's open.


Will it damage my games or console if I don't have anything but rubbing alcohol?

Using dirty games can transfer the corrosion into the cartridge slot inside the console and ruin the pins in there too. It's highly recommended to clean your games with the mentioned process, especially using an alcohol covered cotton swab .

Taking Apart the N64 console for internal cleaning

It's important to also clean the cartridge slot inside the console as you can imagine that's probably just as corroded and dirty as the games themselves. It can be tricky to reach inside and get to the slot, so we recommend two ways to clean it properly.

How to open the N64 console?

Just unscrew the few screws (4.5mm GameBit) underneath and the lid will lift right off. Be sure to remove the front jumper PAK from underneath the little lid first as this will get in the way.

How to clean n64 cartridge slot?

Manually cleaning the N64 cartridge slot

Take a thin cloth like t-shirt cotton, fold it over a credit car, pour some isopropyl alcohol over the end of the card that's wrapped in cloth and repeatedly insert and pull out of the system's cartridge slot. If you use white cotton you will see the tarnish coming off onto the cotton. Just repeat until it's all clean.

N64 Cleaning Kit by 1UPcard for the cartridge slot

This amazing product will clean the cart slot inside your N64 console without having to open it up! Just spray a little rubbing alcohol onto the cart and insert it into the console. The special rubber edge will go into the cartridge slot and clean off all the grime. We sell them in store here.

Replace the N64 save game battery while the cart is open

We wrote another blog on how to replace an N64 cart battery while you have the N64 cartridge open for cleaning. We also cover which N64 games have save game batteries in the same blog post.

Cleaning the console plastics

For the plastics themselves, we recommend Meguiars New Car Scent Protectant which leaves a beautiful non-greasy finish that repels dust.

Removing stickers

Use WD-40 and spray a little onto the sticker or sticky residue and let it sit for 5min. Then simply rub it all off and most of the sticker will come away. You may need to repeat this process but we find WD40 works exceptionally well.

Removing pen, texta and marker writing

The easiest way is with our friend isopropyl alcohol. Just spray some onto the marker writing and let it sit. Rub off and repeat. It takes many applications but you will dissolve the permanent marker and eventually get it off.


Take the time and effort to keep your gaming console and cartridges clean and they will give you years of reliable use.

3 ways to clean a nintendo 64 cartridgeBest ways to get your nintendo 64 games to work

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