Cleaning a pinball machine can either be a tedious process or a simple one depending on how you approach it. There are various ways to do it, and knowing how to properly clean a pinball machine yourself could save you a lot of time and money.
You should clean your pinball machine regularly, but how often this means will depend on how often your machine is used. There are various products and techniques you can use, but most involve first cleaning your machine, and then using a wax to make it look even better.
Many people will say use this cleaner or that cleaner, while others say don’t use any at all. Everyone has their own personal way of cleaning and specific products they use to get the job done. So, below we’ll go over a few different products and methods you can use to clean your pinball machine.
When Should You Clean A Pinball Machine?
Knowing how often the machine is played will help you understand how often you should clean it. Many machines in arcades may get cleaned and looked at for repairs every three to four months, but a homeowner might only need to do it once a year. However, you should give your machine a quick visual check every time you play so you can tell when things are getting dirty or dusty.
While looking at the machine sounds very obvious, it helps knowing where to look to avoid neglecting any specific parts over time. Since the middle of the playfield probably isn’t going to be filled with dirt, some might shrug it off and say it’s fine, but it probably isn’t.
Key Areas To Clean
You want to check areas where the ball will be rolling, stopping, and rolling again. These areas are especially around the flippers, slingshots, bumpers and any other targets. Since the ball will be travelling through the field, it’s easy for it to pick up dirt and drop it as it hits a target. Looking at the flippers alone can determine a lot as they usually get dirty pretty fast since they get a lot of action.
You can also look at any rubber rings around the slingshots and around the targets and lanes. With lanes and ramps, the ball will be against the wall leaving a straight line of dirt. Once you know where to clean, it’s time to learn how to clean it.
How To Clean The Pinball Field
You are going to need to take the glass off the cabinet. Before starting to wipe down anything on the playfield, you can grab a shop vacuum or spray to help remove some loose dirt. A shop vacuum with a bristle tip can help clean out any tight areas that need some cleaning. Many companies do this after they test the machine to be sent out to the customer.
Most cleaning products will work on any pinball machine, so you don’t have to worry too much about what you should and shouldn’t use. The ones we recommend below are all suitable. Using the wrong type of chemical you find just lying around your house however could eat at your playfield and ruin your machine.
Spray Cleaners And Vacuums
Spray cleaners on the other hand are very good since they shoot pressurized air into any tiny holes or openings that are filled with dirt and dust. This may not be as efficient as the shop vacuum since it is just pushing the dirt around, but it will let you get to places the vacuum can’t reach.
Next, microfiber towels are the best to use on a machine since they’re not rough like regular towels and they’ll pick up a decent amount of dirt. You might want to grab a few or some disposable ones since you’ll need to use a new one every time you switch chemicals. This will ensure you’re not putting down a cleaner while waxing at the same time.
Once you have your rag ready, you’ll need a cleaner like Klean-Strip Naphtha. This chemical is very good on your playfield and targets, but you don’t want to use too much. Pour some on your rag and start wiping away any heavy spots. You’ll notice right away it will pick up the dirt very easy. You’ll want to be careful to not apply too much pressure at it could start to eat at the paint.
Light Pressure And Rotation
Dab a little onto the rag, apply light pressure to the playfield or target and keep rotating the rag whenever you go to a new spot. This will ensure you’re using a clean part of the rag every time you put it down. Focus on the highly played spots, wiping all around the flippers, under them and wiping the flippers themselves.
Wipe down the rubbers on the slingshots and you can even rotate them to show the other side. This will help them last longer since they will not be constantly hit in the same spot. If they are too worn down, you might want to just replace them since you are already in the machine, and they’re usually not too expensive.
Wipe down the in and out lanes since these are some of the most used parts of the machine. Get around the bumpers, clean off any targets and clean around the kick-out holes. And don’t forget about the shooter lane!
Check The Balls Too
You may want to take a look at the balls too, since they can be dirty and even sometimes have rust on them. Rust on a ball will destroy your field as it can easily scratch the playfield and rip through the paint. Balls should always be mirror-like, so if you can’t clean them to that level it may be a good idea to buy some new ones.
After the machine has been cleaned down, your paint is back to its original color and you are happy with how it looks, it’s time to get the wax out. Once you have a fresh rag and your playfield is dry, you can take some of your wax and start applying it.
You can put some either in the middle of the field or just on your rag, but make sure you rub it all in. You want to apply this only to the field, avoid putting it on any of the plastic or metal. Rub it in with some light pressure until your rag is sliding across the field quite freely. You also want to avoid trying to get under anything that you won’t be able to reach.
For example, you can try to get under the slingshot a bit but if it goes into the hole or you can’t reach it to rub it in, it will dry up in a clump. If you accidentally get some in a hole you can use a Q-tip get it out.
When waxing, you are going to want to apply the wax and then buff it out. So, after you apply it over the field, use a new part of your rag to just lightly rub over the wax. This will ensure that you get more of a shine out of your wax and will make it worth the time and effort.
Avoid putting more than one or two coats onto your field as it can lead to you actually taking off more of the wax you just put on. You should always avoid lubricants, as these are useless, so don’t even think about it! No part of your pinball machine needs lubricant, and it can just end up getting stuck in holes causing problems.
11 Great Pinball Machine Cleaners And Waxes
CP-100 is made specifically for cleaning pinball machines. It contains no water or abrasive chemicals, and it doesn’t leave a waxy residue.
2. Klean-Strip Naphtha
Klean-Strip Naphtha is a great choice as it will clean off dirt on the playfield very easily and it tends to dry very quickly too. This is good because you don’t want to have any moisture or running fluids on your field. Plus, it makes for a quick process, being able to get straight to waxing.
3. Novus #2
Novus #2 is a polisher, even though many people use it as a wax. Novus #2 is very popular among pinball machine owners since it does a good job of getting into small cracks in the field. You want to avoid Novus #1 and #3 as one is too abrasive and the other one is not abrasive enough!
4. Carnauba Wax
Carnauba wax is a good choice, but it can leave a white/milky color when it dries, so you may need to do your own research to find the right one for your table. Be sure to check the descriptions on these products, as some are made to have a clear coat finish.
5. Meguiar’s Tech Wax 2.0
Meguiar’s Tech Wax 2.0 was originally made for cars, but this will work great on a pinball field as well. It dries clear and usually pretty fast as well.
6. Chemical Guys 3X Paste Wax
Chemical Guys 3X Paste wax also dries in fast and clear. This is a form of carnauba wax, but it has extra additives to leave your table with a liquid look.
7. Mill Wax
Mill Wax is made for pinball machines and has some polishing in it as well. It’s branded as a wax and a cleaner, but you should probably use a different cleaner beforehand as you don’t want dirt to get stuck in your wax.
8. Microfiber Cloths
Microfiber cloths will help you since they are very soft unlike other rags and towels. This will ensure you don’t get any scratches or other damage to your playfield during the cleaning process.
9. Shop Vacuums
Shop Vacuums with bristle brushes are great for cleaning pinball machines. You could use a regular vacuum if it comes with a suction tube, but a shop vacuum will help cut back some of the “scrubbing” you’ll be doing since it will pick up the loose dirt very easily.
10. Compressed Gas Dust Spray
Compressed gas dust spray will work well for very small areas you can’t reach. Since these are usually designed for computers, you definitely won’t have any problems spraying this on your machine. Just don’t turn it upside down and spray it, as it will spray out the liquid inside the can onto your field!
11. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
Some people use Mr. Clean Magic eraser and a cleaning chemical to get some extra pressure on any really dirty spots. This works fine, but you have to be careful when you use this as it can rip up the paint.
You can’t go wrong with any of the techniques and products we’ve discussed above when cleaning your pinball machine. How often you need to do so will depend largely on how often your machine is used. But follow the steps above and take your time, and your pinball machine will look as good as new in no time!