The SNES Cleaning Article



Authors: Mongunzoo & Masamune

Is your SNES yellow, marked up and covered in creeping crud? Is it dusted and disgusted? Tired of your games looking and smelling like an ash tray? Then read on to find out how to help your console!

Let’s be honest for a minute: Most of us DO NOT play on a brand new Super Nintendo! If you have one that IS in pristine condition, then that baby is probably locked up or on display! It just goes with the territory of collection. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to play on that yellow, greasy, dirt covered console! It’s time to give it a bath, and we’re going to show you how to do that without the uncertainty typically associated with tasks like these!

What You’ll Need:

1) Clean Work Space (Bench or Table)

2) 4.5 mm security bit (for opening the console; if you feel comfortable with that) I procured mine here. I bought from the seller Classic Game Source Inc.

3) Q-Tips and Non-Static Cleaning Pads ( Got my cleaning pads from Walmart. They say alcohol free, but they are pre-moistened. Get the kind that are moist, preferably) 

4) Paper Towels

5) Can of Compressed Air (Only need this if you’re opening your console)

6) Rubbing Alcohol

7) Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (Optional. Use this only if you have marker writing on your console)

8) The SNES Cleaning Cart (Optional, but recommended if you have one)

9) Goo Gone (Optional. Use only if you have any sticker residue on your system)

Part 1: The Control Deck Outer Surface

Let us start with what will probably be the easiest part of the process: cleaning the outer shell. IF you buy a SNES used or have left your system collecting dust for a decade, then you may be shocked at how much grime is on your system! The first thing you want to do is have a clear workspace along with all of  your cleaning materials at your side. This makes the job go a lot faster as you have everything you will need at your disposal and within reach.

Start by doing a general cleaning of the outside of your console. You are going to use your moist out the box cleaning pads to wipe down the entire area of your console top to bottom. If you don’t have electronic cleaning wipes you can use a dry non-static cloth and alcohol to wipe down your SNES. Scrub vigorously and make sure you get above and below the power and reset buttons and inside the eject button area as well (Press the power and reset buttons up to make sure you catch any dirt that may be hiding). Change pads as they begin to darken with dirt and grime or begin to dry and tear.

Make sure you finish off any problem areas with Q-tips and alcohol such as the power and reset buttons, as well as crevices.

Once this is done, the next step is to remove sticker residue (if you have any, the one I’m using for this article doesn’t) from the console. This can be accomplished by using Goo Gone on a Q-tip to hard-scrub the sticker areas.  Clean up the remaining residue with the cleaning pads or alcohol and a Q-tip.  

If you have marker writing on your system, just use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with the alcohol and repeat the drying process. I swear that these things really are magical, and I have found nothing else that works quite as good!

Finally, you are ready to dry your console! Use the paper towels to finish off step one.  DO NOT STOP DRYING UNTIL THERE IS ZERO SIGN OF MOISTURE!

At this point, my SNES looks like this:

Looks noticeable better!

Now, if the only thing you wanted to do was clean the outer surface of your control deck, then stop reading here.

For those that want to go the extra mile and clean the inside of your Super Nintendo, read on.

Part 2: Cleaning the Inside of Your Super Nintendo

Alright, so the outer shell looks a lot better. But what about the inside? To get in there, you need to use the 4.5 mm screw bit. Turn your control deck upside down and look for the six screws that hold your SNES together.

I tried opening it with just the bit, but I had a very difficult time to say the least! I even experienced a little bit of stripping of the screws! So I used a type of screw driver handle that can hold different bits. I fitted my 4.5 mm bit into it and tried again. Doing it this way was very easy and is the proper way to do it! Remember turn the screws to your left to loosen them, and turn right to tighten. I like to use this little motto to help me remember: Loosy lefty, tighty righty! (Thanks Professor Pierce!)

Once all six screws are removed, turn your SNES right side up again and gently remove the top shell from the bottom.

Now with the SNES open:

You’re going to want to use your can of air to blow the dust and debris out of the inards of the system. It’s best to go outside while you do this, or open a window and air it out there. Once there is no more dustballs and crumbs in there, finish it off with a light and careful wiping using a pad and be careful not to touch the circuit board with it! Once everything is clean to your liking, you’re finished part 2!

So now that you have a like new SNES …

What?!? The yellow or brown coloring? 

That’s a WHOLE different problem.  This is a result of a flame-retardant that was placed in the plastic, and over time a chemical reaction takes place that yellows these old materials.  So you can scrub all you want, but it’s not coming off.

But there is a way to improve the look.  You just have to know how to reverse the chemical reaction!

I’m serious. If you’re ready to play mad scientist, read on.

Part 3: The Retr0Bright Treatment

(All of the following is courtesy of RetroBright. To read how this formula was discovered, be sure to go to Thanks guys!)

1)  GET THOSE GLOVES AND GOGGLES ON!!  You’re going to be dealing with some really nasty stuff!

2) Measuring Bowl ( A one cup measuring tool will work just as well)


3)  Hydrogen Peroxide 12% strength (I bought mine here from seller Nature and Herbs) Lesser strength will work, but the process will take longer.

4)  Xanthan Gum (Got mine here from Deals On Call) This can also be found in your local health food/organic store.

5)  Glycerine ( I purchased from Walmart in the Pharmacy section)

6)  OxyClean (Available in most Supermarkets) I’m using the powdered version.

7) Large Mixing Bowl (Make sure you clean this bowl thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards).

8) Artist Paint Brush ( Use this to apply the Retrobright on the yellowed areas) I got mine here from seller Always Brilliant. Came in a three pack.

 9) Plastic Wrap ( To wrap the SNES after the Retrobright has been applied to avoid the formula from drying out).

10) Foil Trays or Aluminum Foil ( Use these to place your SNES in while it bathes in the sun. Reflective properties should help with the process).

Now before we begin mixing the formula, you have to determine what part(s) of your SNES you’re going to treat. Is only the top part of your SNES yellow? If so, all you have to do is remove the top shell from the rest and treat just that.

In my case, both the top and bottom parts are yellow. Therefore I’m going to have to remove all the components out of my Super NES to treat the bottom shell.

This video from RetroGamer3 will instruct you on how to completely remove everything out of your system. It be a good idea to take a few pictures before and as your are removing parts so you can remember exactly where everything goes.

Now once that’s done, here’s what I’m left with:

For years, I would hear something rattling in my SNES when I picked it up. I always wondered what it was:

That’s where one of the chipped off parts of my SNES shell went!

To make this wonderchemical, you need to mix a 125 milliliters (A.K.A. 1/2 cup) of the peroxide with 1/2 tablespoon of xantham gum.  Put those in the bowl and mix well. Keep mixing until it’s a consistency of paste.

This is the peroxide and xantham gum before mixing

This is after mixing peroxide and xantham gum by hand

Should have a consistency of paste or oatmeal.

Add an even teaspoon of glycerine and mix again for another five seconds.  Finally, let it rest for one minute before mixing again for a final five seconds. This mixture can be kept for a while as long as you do not add the 1/4 teaspoon of OxyClean until you are ready to use it. The OxyClean is the ingredient that “activates” this concoction, you see. 

In another smaller bowl, mix the 1/4 teaspoon of OxyClean with 1 teaspoon of hot water. Don’t use scolding hot water though. This step is intended to dissolve the OxyClean before adding to the main mixture.

Add the OxyClean/water solution to the main bowl, mix ,then brush it on any yellow spots!

Apply RetroBright generously on the affected area

Once the RetroBright is applied, cover up your SNES with the plastic wrap. This will help to slow down the formula from drying up. Then place it in the foil tray or on top of aluminum foil and leave it in direct sunlight for the entire day to see the yellow tinge fade away!!!!! 


After three hours:

 Can you see a difference? I can. I noticed the Retrobright seemed to be drying up, so I applied more on it.

So after eight hours, the sun’s going away so I pack it in for the day. I brought my SNES back inside, dried it off, now look at the results:

It definitely looks a lot better! As you can see from the pictures, there are still noticeable yellow splotches on the back, sides and top. I’ll apply a third application tomorrow, but I’m pleased with the results I already have!

Ok, this is why you can’t save Retrobright beyond a day:


So the next day, I applied a third helping of RetroBright on my SNES. I’m hoping I can get rid of the remaining yellow splotches. Unfortunately I ran out of the 12% peroxide (I’m using 3% this time) and the entire day is overcast (i.e. no direct sunlight).

This time I have the top and bottom connected and am using aluminum foil instead of a tray:

I wonder if I used aluminum foil in the first place would I have yellow patches on the side? I put plastic wrap to slow down drying. I left it out eight hours. The sun was never able to get past the clouds this day.

At the end of the day I took it in the house and dried it. Here’s the verdict:

It didn’t come out perfect, but it looks way better than before. I guess I could keep reapplying to see if it can get better, but I’m satisfied as is.  So that’s how you reverse the yellowing process. Please leave comments!

Finally we are ready to clean the cart connector. I know many people who swear by wrapping a thin cloth around a credit card and then swiping it between the pins, but I do not reccomend this at all! The reason is the delicate nature of the pins. The slightest mistake can result in the pins being bent out of shape, thereby breaking your SNES unless you know how to repair it! The ONLY thing I will use is the SNES Cleaning Kit Cartridge, which serves the same function but is 100 percent safer! Simply apply alcohol to the white applicator and pop the cartridge in and out 10 times like a normal game and let it work its magic! If you know of a suitable alternative, post it in the comments section!


Part 4:  The Control Pad

A Clean Pad is a Happy Pad!








The controller pad is an easy clean. Just use one of the cleaning pads or a rag and alcohol and wipe the controller down. If you see any crud stuck in the buttons that you can’t simply shake out, try the can of air. If that also fails, use a toothpick tip dipped in alcohol to clean those hard to reach places. That’s really all there is to it, unless you want to put a little WD-40 on the toothpick for added button lubrication! The thing to remember is that the controller is pretty much going to be the dirtiest thing you clean, and I think that most people will be shocked at just how much GRIME comes off of controllers! Potato Chips, pizza, and soda really take their toll over the decades! Just concentrate on the crevices since gunk in between the buttons is the #1 factor in controller error!

Part 5:  The Cartridges

Time may be vicious to systems and controllers, but it is absolutely merciless to cartridges. Anyone who remembers the SNES and especially the NES remembers how much of  a pain in the butt it can be just to get the cartridge to work! Perhaps the reason why this occurs is the months and years worth of dust and dirt buildup on the chip!  In order to safely clean this all you need to do is take one of your Q-Tips and douse it in the rubbing alcohol! Run it on both sides of the chip and you should see dirt buildup on the head of the Q-Tip! Just repeat this process until no grime stains it and then dry with the unused end of  a Q-Tip.

Alcohol serves the perfect solution to cleaning the cart shell as well. Alcohol can be safely used on labels to get rid of unnecessary sticker residue. However when alcohol fails for sticker residue, you will need to break out the Goo Gone to get rid of the rest. Just be careful using it on the cart label! For any marker just use the magic erasers, but DO NOT USE THIS ON STICKERS!!!

When it comes to the games themselves, it never ceases to amaze me just how careless past owners of these carts were! I have even bought a cartridge that appeared to have grape jelly smeared on it! Even with today’s games, you must look before you leap, especially when buying used. Note that this philosophy DOES work for most things, though, so just know what you are getting.

Well we hope that covers everything!! Any questions and comments can be directed in the section below.  WE WILL ANSWER ALL QUERIES!






I am an avid fan of the SNES who never really left. When others were upgrading to the 64 and enjoying Star-Collector Mario, I was Perusing Japanese auction sites for hidden gems on the other side of the ocean! I now have a collection spanning over 200 SNES games and accessories. When not playing on SNES and writing for this website, I enjoy traveling, good food, drink, and company, and deep discussions with Grimm.


  1. this is the best article I’ve seen for applying retrobrite. everything else put me off, but this makes it look a lot easier. now that I have step by step instructions and pictures I might undergo this task.. but I have 2 dogs and a 3 year old so that might be troublesome 🙂


  2. Thank you for the compliment! One of the goals of the site is to deliver in depth, easy to understand information about a particular subject. You can look forward to informative articles like this one in the future.

  3. Great article. You practically need a fume hood to clean a yellow SNES. Will all SNES eventually go yellow?

  4. to answer your question: no.

    Early SNES were made with a plastic that yellowed, but as time went on, the system went through refinements. Since it is almost impossible to know by look how early your model was built, the best bet is to keep it out of direct lighting which speeds up the yellowing!

  5. Great answer, thanks!

    In a way, the Yellow SNES has its own sort of charm.

  6. Is there a way to repair golf-ball-sized holes in the case of the system? Like a putty or something? I bought several to repair and sell, but I don’t think it will sell very well with all of those holes.

  7. Golf ball-sized holes? I don’t think I know of any solutions. If you had the piece that fell off you could carefully glue it back together. But other than that it may not be feasible to repair golf sized holes. Can you post a pic of it in the forums in the technical section? Maybe the members can brainstorm some ideas.

  8. Alright I’ll do that in a bit.

  9. I posted the pictures in the forums.

  10. Does this also work fine on a Super Famicom?

  11. sfc124, yes it will.

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