Blowing On Cartridges Didn't Help Them, It Hurt Them

Millions of people grew up worldwide convinced the way to get a busted Nintendo cartridge working was to blow on it. It may have worked sometimes, temporarily, but experts say you were actually doing a lot more harm than good.

How? Well, as Mental_Floss writes, the common theory as to the cause (and success) of the "blowing" theory is that glitching or non-functioning games were caused by dust accumulating on the inside of the cartridge's opening. Blowing this away would ensure a clean connection between a console and cartridge, and let you get your game on.

This "cure" to broken games spread like wildfire around the world in the 1980s, but it turns out it was actually almost worthless.

With the benefits of hindsight and research, collectors and game historians these days now know that it wasn't dust that was causing games to "break" at all. It was the way the NES was designed to interact with its cartridges.

Nintendo designed its NES connector using nickel pins bent into a position so that they'd give slightly when a cartridge was inserted, then spring back after it was removed. These pins became less springy after repeated use, which make it hard for them to firmly grasp the game cartridge's connectors.

BUT IT ACTUALLY WORKED, I hear you scream. And it did! Sort of. But remember: to blow on the cart, you had to take it out first. It seems more likely that it was the simple act of removing the cart and re-inserting it - giving the connector pins another chance to connect properly - that brought your games back to life, not the blowing.

Indeed, blowing was actually bad for your system. Because some components were made of copper, the moisture you exhale when blowing would eventually, over time, damage the cartridges, and maybe even your NES itself. Nintendo even warned against this in the fine print of its products, stating:

Do not blow into your Game Paks or systems. The moisture in your breath can corrode and contaminate the pin connectors.

So, there you go. As fun as it may have been to have used such a simple, crowd-sourced means of resurrection for seemingly dead cartridges, it turns out in the long run you were actually hurting your games, not helping them.

Did Blowing into Nintendo Cartridges Really Help? [Mental_Floss]


    Mind blown.


      Careful, you'll corrode your mind's pin connectors

      Okay then just re-insert it and it should work fine...

      Oh wait.

    I heard this in the early 90s from one of my uncles. We then started using I THINK it was pure alcohol on swabs to clean them all now and then? *I THINK it was pure alcohol*. I know one of my uncles tried to use turps but it damaged the cartridge lol.

      Yes. Pure alcohol is generally the accepted way of properly cleaning and electrical or computer components. Pure alcohol washes things away like water but evaporates quickly to leave no residue.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      Easy there champion, calm down before you hurt yourself.

      Thats what I just started to think - fine as an explanation for the nes, but it used to work for the snes and the 64 and the megadrive.

        That must make me very lucky. I never had a single snes or n64 cartridge fail on me (never had a nes), and as result never has the need to blow a cart!

          I used to do this as a quick fix on my N64 all the time if they wouldn't boot properly.

          Last edited 03/07/14 5:15 pm

      " blown close to 1000 cartridges in my day"
      Wow, you old tart!

    Oh well. It is still something all of us gamers old enough to remember have in common :)

    What next?

      When you put a pencil in a tape and spin it you aren't actually rewinding it but rather the cassette remains in a static position and reality spin around it.

        Also when you only spin only one spindle thingamajig at a time. It doesn't damage or stretch the tape of anything. It just extends time so make your song seem slightly longer,

    I used to do it with my NES, but SNES and N64 I figured out other methods.

    Amazed how many people are amazed by this.

    The main problem with NES carts was more to do with alignment, shifting the cart laterally had a better effect on whether the screen was glitching out or not. For everything else, it tended to be either dirt or corrosion that would block the connection, so just inserting and removing the thing several times would usually fix it.

    The other noticeable problem I had was with the N64, kind of similar to the NES in that sometimes starting the machine with the cart leaning against the back of the slot mightn't work, but switching off and tilting to the front would often fix it.

    I'll never complain about a Daily Blow. Ohsnap

    Even I as a kid understood blowing on these things didn't help - My sisters however did not, and I was forever battling with them that this didn't work! Especially because the general consensus was it did...

    I've had this problem with the Nintendo Wii. There was dust over the laser to read the disks, tried blowing, vacuuming, everything. Turns out the laser was broken :/
    Since then I've cracked the Wii so I can run all my games off a harddrive connected to it XD

    What! Noooooooo.

    Next you'll tell me that using Vaseline on my CDs did nothing to help with scratches /o\

      Actuilly, putting them in a frezzer dose. Tho you need to make sure its a zip-lock bag you put it in.

    Wait, people didn't know this?


    I blew on them through the fabric of the bottom of my t-shirt. No moisture that way... and it did work, I don't care what you say. If I insert a game 4 times and then blow on it and the 5th time it works... I'm gonna go with the blowing :-P

    Did not nintendo release a cartridge cleaner for the NES?

    Cartriges are like cocks, sure if you dont blow them theyll be cleaner.. but someone will be having alot less fun if you dont.

    This could have been useful...25 years ago.

    Awesome. Thanks for the great tip. 15 years too late.

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