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.