Pinball Rehab

pinball repair and restoration

Pinball Cleaning Supplies Pinball Cleaning Supplies Hot

There's nothing better than a shiny, clean pinball machine.  The question is, what are the best products to use for cleaning a pinball game?  Over the years I've come up with the following list of readily available (all except a couple are available at Home Depot), effective and safe products.

Note: Unless otherwise noted always spray the cleaner onto your microfiber towel and then clean.

Playfield Cleaning -- My personal preference is a citrus based cleaner like ZEP Heavy Duty Citrus Degreaser.  While a lot of people use Simple Green, I like the citrus cleaners better since they also remove old wax.

One product I should specifically mention that I do not use is Mill Wax pinball cleaner/wax.  There are a lot of discussions on the web regarding the potential damage Mill Wax can do to modern pinballs.  Rather than enter into that discussion I will just say a combo cleaner and wax is really not very good at either job.

For ball-tracks or spots with heavy dirt accumulation that don't come clean with the citrus cleaner I use a Magic Eraser.  They are made of Melamine foam and have tiny strands that will get down into small crevices and remove the dirt.  Be aware, they are abrasive.  The Eraser works best when moistened with a little isopropyl alcohol.

Playfield Inserts -- I use denatured alcohol to clean the underside of playfield inserts.  It won't damage the exposed wood and will evaporate.

Cabinet Cleaning -- For the outside of the cabinet I use Mean Green, which is an all-purpose solution for a lot of pinball needs (you can get it at the Dollar Store).  Although Simple Green is commonly used by pinballers, even myself sometimes, I have had it remove paint in certain conditions.

I just cleaned a Sega Baywatch and after everything went fine on the cabinet sides, I got careless and quit checking my rag frequently for paint.  Next thing I knew the yellow paint on the warning label on the back of the cabinet was coming off, rather quickly, on my towel.

For the inside of the cabinet I use Resolve High Traffic Foam applied directly to the cabinet and the rubbed in with a scrub brush.  The reason I switch to this product for inside the cabinet is to minimize the moisture I'm applying to wood that hasn't been sealed.  It also does a better job of getting into and cleaning the rough wood surface.

I use Febreze for removing odors (WalMart sells an auto version with no scent).

Note: I have recently switched to Sprayway Crazy Clean for cleaning cabinets.  You will need to spray the Crazy Clean directly onto the cabinet for the foam to work properly.  It's a little hard to find, but does a very good job of cleaning and so far seems to be safe on paint.

Although it is a foam, it will run after about 10-20 seconds so when cleaning the inside of a cabinet put some shop towels down in the cabinet to protect the bottom, which is particle board, from moisture.  Do not use Crazy Clean on the bottom of the cabinet (use the Resolve product instead).

Plastics and Ramps -- For the initial cleaning of plastics I use Mean Green since it's cheap (you can get it at the Dollar Store) and although it's not as good a cleaner as Simple Green, it will do a good job of flushing off the grit.  I then follow-up with Novus 1. 

For removing scratches from plastic I use Novus 2 or 3.

Metal -- I use Flitz Metal Polish paste for wireforms, metal ramps, legs, etc. and use Nevr-Dull (available at WalMart or Pep Boys) on the blued ramp flaps.  The Nevr-Dull works far better than anything on gun blued metal.

Rusted Legs -- I use Evapo-Rust from Harbor Freight if I'm in the mood just to let the legs soak.  The aluminum foil and Coke method works very well if you're willing to invest a little elbow grease.  For an in-between solution use Naval Jelly and rub it in with a fine steel wool pad.

Wire Bundles -- I use Purple Power for cleaning wire bundles.

Glass -- Sprayway Glass Cleaner (Sam's) or Sparkle Glass Cleaner (Ace Hardware, True Value, Do It Best, etc.) are about the best I've found.  If you're cleaning the glass while installed use the Sprayway since the foam spray won't run down into the game.

Gooey and Sticky Stuff -- I use Goo Gone Spray Gel (since it does not include any solvents) for cleaning up sticky areas or removing glue residue leftover from decals, mylar, etc.  Works well with a razor blade when working on metal or a plastic razor blade when working on plastic (available at Pinrestore.com).

Miscellaneous -- A toothbrush or small brush with stiff bristles works well for cleaning small parts.  For getting into tight areas I use Q-Tips or foam tip swabs.  I use a stiff kitchen brush for the inside of the cabinet and an old paint brush for wire bundles (you can cut off about half the length of the bristles to stiffen it up a little).

I almost always prefer micro-fiber towels over paper towels.  The tiny fibers pull away the dirt like a magnet rather than grinding it in.  You can wash and reuse the micro-fiber towels so they're really not much more expensive than paper towels.

NOTE: Pinrestore.com sells some cleaning products that are arguably, slightly better than the solutions provided here.  If I'm ordering other stuff from them I will often pick up some.  Otherwise I just stick with what I can get locally.

For your info here are their cleaning solutions: Sprayway Crazy Clean is a foam cleaner that works well on cabinets (inside and outside) and wire bundles.  Sprayway Heavy Duty Orange Power Plus can be used on the playfield and is (supposedly) better than Goo Gone at removing sticky stuff.  Sprayway Malodor Neutralizer works about the same as Febreze, but it's not always easy to find non-scented Febreze so this is a good option.