A simple solution, yes, but not a correct one (despite the fact that it does often seem to do the trick, at least temporarily). So prevalent is the need to blow into the NES’s game cartridges (or “Game Paks,” if you prefer) that the very act has effectively become a part of the subculture of NES players, to such a degree that it’s even taken on life as a meme and is even merchandised, such as on the t-shirt at right.
The correct solution, at least as Nintendo would have you believe, is in purchasing today’s piece of ephemera: The official NES Cleaning Kit.
Said cleaning kit came with equipment for cleaning the two parts of the NES that were most likely to be affected: A wand for cleaning the edge connectors of the game cartridge, and the cleaning cartridge to handle the interior pins of the NES Control Deck.
The recommended cleaning process is easy enough. For the cartridges, just apply some distilled water (mixed with isopropyl alcohol for best effect, about a teaspoon of each) to the blue end of the wand until damp and rub it side to side across the connectors, then use the white side to dry. If successful, the connectors should have a shiny gold finish.
For the console itself, you just need to apply a small amount of water (or the above mixture) to the cleaning card with your finger, then insert it into the cleaning cartridge, dampened side facing outwards. Insert it into the NES as you would a game cartridge, press it down, then move it in and out (there should be about three-quarters of an inch of wiggle room) five to ten times, then leave the console for an hour before plugging it back in (you did think to unplug an electronic device before cleaning it, right?).
And voila! Nintendo suggests cleaning your game cartridges and Control Deck once a month, or “whenever they become dirty.” Odds are, most opted for the latter.
It’s a handy little device, particularly for cleaning consoles. Of course, this was how cleaning was recommended when the console and games were still relatively new. In the many years since the NES Cleaning Kit was released, there may be other factors that come with age which may require more, shall we say, “invasive” cleaning techniques than what the NES Cleaning Kit provides. Still, at a base level, a Q-Tip and some rubbing alcohol on the connectors of your game cartridge is a good first step, no fancy kits or disassembly required.
That said, it’s a fun little piece to add to your complete NES collection, if you can still find one complete.
What’s more, we’ve got a little bit of “Mario Mania” for the hardcore Mario collectors out there as well!
The NES Cleaning Kit was first released in the box at left in 1989, but a second version with different packaging was released in 1991. As you can see, the latter version features more colorful box art featuring a unique image of Mario doing the actual cleaning, albeit on a television screen. While both versions would fit well in a complete NES collection, it’s the one on the right that would primarily be of interest to Mario Maniacs, of course.