Ask LH: Is There A Safe Way To Clean My Sticky Gaming Gear?

Ask LH: Is There A Safe Way To Clean My Sticky Gaming Gear?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m looking for a safe (and easy) way to remove stickiness from old plastic and rubber equipment. Some of my old gaming gear (gaming keypad, analogue sticks on my Dual Shock controller, gaming mouse, etc.) have developed stickiness. How can I remove it without damaging the components? Thank you, Glue Blues.

Dear GB,

I don’t want to seem all judgemental, but… eww.

It’s a bit late, but in the future try not to mix soft drinks, snacks and lollies with your gaming gear. Those are the most likely culprits for your current sticky woes, presuming that is that you don’t have some kind of an adhesive fetish. If you do, then carry on; presumably you like your gear that way.

As to how to clean your now gunged-up gaming peripherals, there’s a few key things to keep in mind.

The first thing to remember is that you’re much better off taking a slow and steady approach to gunge removal, with first perhaps just a little warm water applied to the sticky surfaces. If it is just a little sugar, you may find removal with a soft wipe is all you need. If that’s not enough, possibly a light detergent to get things moving.

What if it’s more stubborn, however? You could use any of the commonly available “goo remover” type products, most of which have a simple citrus base, but I’d go very easy indeed with that kind of approach. A lot of gaming gear relies on rubber membranes that tend to degrade over time anyway, and dripping solvent type products across them may not end well. Some people swear by baby wipes (as in this guide over at Kotaku) for the same kind of result.

Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


    • Agreed. If it ruins the rubber, then it was probably already ruined. Your Dual Shock should be fine with it, keypads should survive without problem too as they are usually hard plastic.

  • You shouldn’t be judgemental – not even with regards to soft drinks, snacks and lollies.

    I have a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse that were used for all of two weeks prior to going into storage for over a year as we moved interstate a couple of times, When I removed them from the cardboard box that were being stored in, the rubber surface on the inside of the mouse (where your thumb goes) had developed a sticky substance over the top of it that was difficult to remove. I think that heat was the cause (the box was stored in a garage that copped a lot of the Queensland summer sun).

    • Exactly. The question specifically saids ‘old’ and ‘developed stickiness’, not spilled a drink.

      I too have old equipment that are nowhere near anything sticky, like USB hubs and network switches that have become sticky due to age. And my headset which was in storage is also sticky with age.

      I would like to know how to remove the stickiness due to age, without damaging the components.

      Searches say that talcum powder may be good, but with electronic equipment I don’t think that would be a good idea.

    • I came here to say the exact same thing.

      The journalist comes off as an asshole. Clearly they’ve never encounter a product (like the Microsoft one you mentioned) where the rubber breaks down and becomes sticky. And to immediately assume it’s from soft drink, I mean come on, way to perpetuate the “typical gamer” stereotype.

      • Maybe I am. Maybe I was joking around. Although I’m not the one mentioning stereotypes. Maybe someone is overly sensitive. Hard to say. Although he did mention a range of gaming gear, some of which would appear to be hard plastic, not rubber surfaces that could degrade over time.

        However, if it is a question of older rubber compounds breaking down over time, then I can’t see (or find) much that can reliably be done. Entropy gets us all in the end, even if we’re a rubber compound.

        • Classic “Its not what I said, its your reaction to it” right, Alex?
          Don’t be judgemental and people won’t call you out for being an arsehole. Its really that simple.

          • No, I approved the comment calling me an asshole — I’m clearly taking that on board.

          • Well, at least your arseholeyness isn’t delibrate, then. 😀
            To be frank, any gaming gear, if used a lot, accumulates dirt due to the residue on our hands (not necessary food/drink) – I suspect thats what the OP was talking about.

        • Firstly, thanks for replying.

          Secondly, you’re definitely not an asshole. I’d be an asshole if I thought you were. I want to ensure you understood that I felt you were coming off as an asshole.

          Your advise column is a good thing, but I can’t help but feel when someone comes to you looking for advise, starting it off with “Eww. Maybe don’t mix soft drink and chips with technology” isn’t the best way to preface the solution.

          But hey, this is your job, and this is just, like, my opinion, man.

  • Yeah, Im not sure if Alex may have misinterpreted the question here. I have an old Logitech Momo forcefeedback wheel that has been unused for a few years. The rubber grip on the handle has started to degrade over time and is basically “weeping” a sticky substance. This is something that happens to rubber as it perishes I believe and may not be related to grime.

    If anyone has a surefire solution for this problem then would love to hear it. I do recall my father used to store his rubber diving mask and snorkel set in a bag with talc to slow down this process.

    • The only effective way, I have found to work with removing this ‘rubber dipping’ as they call it is a bug and tar (used in the car industry) remover you use with cars. It does require some elbow grease but I have used this on several items (electronic as well as motorcycle helmet) and it works well. Talk really does not work, just prologs the problem. Note, this solution actually removes the ‘rubber’ coating so try first on an area that is not important.

      Good luck

      • Thanks for that, I actually have some bug and tar remover in the cupboard and am giving it a go, no harm in testing it out.

      • Does bug and tar remover have any lasting smells?

        Also, when I googled it, the active ingredient is mineral turpentine. So maybe I should just try turps on its own?

  • Am I the only one who just takes them apart and puts the chassis through the dishwasher

    Not the best idea if it has stick on vynals/stickers but otherwise works a treat

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!