How To Clean Your Control Pads

How To Clean Your Control Pads

I know you use control pads, and I know damn well you never clean them. Nobody does. Which is disgusting, so I'm here to try and convince you to change your disgusting ways.

If you've been to a show like PAX or Gamescom, and played any games, you'll have noticed that booth workers are meticulous in wiping their controllers down between use. It's not just a courtesy; it's a necessity. Control pads are things we rest our hands on for hours at a time, sometimes every day, sometimes every day for weeks.

So they're picking up all the crap that was on our hands. And what's worse, that crap is being ground into the controller's surface as we hold them. What's worse than that is that we're usually also a a little damp in the hands, turning that crap over time in a grimy brown sludge.

If you live alone, game alone and will be forever alone, that's not a problem. But if you plan on sharing a controller at all, whether in multiplayer or just with partners/friends (or if yo're giving away/selling a console), you need to start doing the right thing and cleaning your pads.

This Howtu, then, is only partially about how to clean a controller. It's not rocket science, what we're about to cover. It's mostly a reminder. To clean your controller.

There are a few ways you can go about this. Hot water and a cloth is the easiest and cheapest, while you'll see other people get extreme and start recommending things like rubbing alcohol and taking your controller apart.

I'm going to recommend a nice, easy middle ground. Here's what you'll need.

How To Clean Your Control Pads
  • Baby wipes
  • Q-tips/cotton buds
  • Toothpicks (maybe)

Now, you could just use a soft cloth instead of baby wipes, with warm water and a little soap. I prefer baby wipes though because they're a bit better at actually removing the grime you get on a pad, instead of just pushing it around.

How To Clean Your Control Pads

As you can see, I'll be using an Xbox 360 controller. And this one is perfect. I found it last week sitting on top of a bookshelf. It probably hasn't been used since at least 2009, and as you might be able to make out, the grime has discoloured, attracted dust, and formed a fuzzy layer over much of the pad. Time to get it clean.

How To Clean Your Control Pads

1. Surface Scrub

The easiest part is scrubbing down the general surface area. Just...wipe the cloth/baby wipe over the controller's grips, rear, etc until the bulk of the pad is clean. Remember, I already told you, this isn't rocket science.

A 360 pad, like the one I'm using here, needs a little extra work because of its textured pattern, which holds onto the grime a little more tightly. Dualshock controllers, with their glossy finish, are a lot easier to clean.

How To Clean Your Control Pads

2. Seam Clean

Now to the stuff you might overlook on a superficial clean. Most control pads have a "seam", usually on the sides, where two pieces of plastic are joined. This is a filth trench. Get in there by either wrapping a wipe over your fingernails and scraping it clean, or, if you can't manage that, over a toothpick. Just make sure you're actually getting the dirt out, and not just pushing it around.

3. The Grime Abyss

The triggers, bumpers and shoulder buttons are a black hole of sludge. You need to get right in there, which means this time, a toothpick is your best bet. If you can wrap it in a wipe and get it in there, good, if not, send it in naked. A scrape is better than no clean at all.

How To Clean Your Control Pads

4. The Filthy Underbelly

Even those who take the time to clean their controllers usually forget to clean under the thumbsticks. Come on. You can do better than that. If you start a job, you have to see it through.

This is where the cotton buds come in. The ones I'm using here are the best, because they're shaped exactly to fit. Just wrap them in a cloth/wipe, run them around and you'll see clean plastic where there probably hasn't been clean plastic since 2007.

How To Clean Your Control Pads

5. The Rest

Xbox pads have lots of ingrained text ("BACK", "START", etc). A hard scrub with a wipe should get most of the gunk out, while a toothpick should get the rest. Dualshocks don't have this problem, but don't forget to do the same around the charging port and inside the d-pad.

How To Clean Your Control Pads

6. You're Done.

Not hard, was it? Probably took you 90 seconds, and now you have a controller that looks good as new. The hard part now won't be cleaning it again, it'll be remembering to clean it again.

That or, next time, buying a black control pad.


    I think i'm just going to replace mine - say around November 22.

    the black ones are just as bad maybe even badder

      badder lol

        Bad - badder - baddest- badass.

        Last edited 12/09/13 10:36 am

        Not everyone knows proper spelling, don't make it any worser for them.


    The worst thing about shared controllers is when I go to use one just after my husband has been using it for an extended amount of time on a weekend or in the evening. It's usually kind of slimy.
    And I also swear by babywipes for cleaning controllers. I swear by babywipes for cleaning a lot of things because when you have a baby they're always close at hand so you find yourself trying them to clean up a lot of messes. They're pretty good at cleaning up spills on the carpet, too.

      I bought a pack of baby wipes once. i took it home and opened it up and put one in my mouth and started sucking. After a few minutes I threw it out and grabbed another one and began sucking on it too. After about an hour or two, when I was half way through the wipes, I noticed on the side of the pack it said 'non alcoholic' and I was like 'DAMMIT!'

    I just spit on mine then rub it on my shirt.

    Spray and wipe and tissue paper

    I feel compelled to tell people that if they own ear cup headphones, that the odd scraping of putrid filth from the inside of them is generally a good idea

    Buy a black controller, problem solved.

      Or use Kinect, problem solved.

        Not likely, have you seen how dusty that thing gets? Gross.

          Sweat and slime are gross. Dust is ugly more than gross.

            I'm tryin ta make a joke, silly

            Last edited 13/09/13 9:33 am

    I wish you had posted this article back when I worked for a games retailer who received traded in consoles. It was an eye opener as to how filthy human beings really are.

    The weirdest thing I had to clean was caked on milk and cereal from a PS2. There was only a couple of times where I refused a trade in because it was vomit worthy gross (if I see pubes jammed in a DVD case ever again)

      Ha ha for some reason that reminds me of the time I stuffed pine-needles in my grandpas VCR, but seriously pubes in a DVD case how does that happen?

        Some people play games naked!

          Well then I guess pubes are the least of his worries.

        I think some people just never vacuum or clean their house. Console in the bedroom and hairs get everywhere.

        There's a fine grey dust that gets on second hand games too, it gets in your pores and under your nails. I got flashbacks of it when playing the Last of Us when you're walking through the spore clouds.

      It amazes me that people think stuff in that condition is sellable.

      I take really good care of my stuff. It just... makes me feel good. I don't vacuum every week, but at least every 2. And baby wipes, they are so good for cleaning surfaces.

    This guide is incredibly "duh" to me because I clean my 360 controlller multiple times per gaming session with a Chux yellow microfibre cloth (not to be confused with the thin cloths). I always have one on hand so I give the sticks a wipe after each multiplayer match, for example. If I haven't used the controller in a while, I'll wipe it all over with Wet Ones or dettol wipes (specifically, most other brands of wipes are inferior), then dry with the cloth.

    They're the absolute best cloths you can buy yet so few people know about them. I see people clean TV screens with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol and I just want to slap them and hand over some wet ones and a microfibre cloth. Paper towels are so outdated for that kind of cleaning. Seriously, go out and buy a chux all-purpose yellow cloth for $4 from Coles/Woolies and you'll thank me.

      paper towels are only good for glass now days.. and even then a short pile microfiber is better.

      long live microfiber.

    I go the whole hock.

    I take mine apart, use metho to get the "oilyness" off, toothpicks, damp chux, the lot. My controllers are amazingly well kept.

    I even openend up some controllers from my retro consoles and cleaned them up too. Dreamcast, N64 and such all got the treatment. Luckily my hands don't lube up controllers like my friends' do, but I still like to keep on top of it.

      How do you go maintaining the thumbstick on the 64 controllers? I used to put sewing machine oil in that bad boy to avoid the dreaded "mario party chalk"

        Ceramic grease is designed for plastic, so that's your best choice. As I recall, this is the grease Nintendo used in later revisions of the controller that didn't have the wear issue. You'll need to disassemble the thumbstick assembly though.

        Last edited 12/09/13 3:37 pm

    Just use isopropyl alcohol from bunnings, removes everything grease dries without residue so if you get it inside anything it's dry a minute later anyway and no gumming up of parts.

      you can get it from a chemist too, they normally call it rubbing alcohol. just check the ingredients to see its the same stuff.

      but it does work wonders, going from dirty controllers to clean ones just makes me feel good inside

    God gave us tongues for a reason!

    Or you could do it properly and completely dissemble the controller and clean it? Ain't no way you're going to be able to get at the tiny nooks and crannies without disassembling it.

    I clean my controllers regularly. Probably once every 6 months. I pull them apart and clean inside and out with methylated spirits.

    *OCD high five*

    When I use friends controllers, I always clean them before use and they are all like "what are you doing?".

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now