Cleaning gaming equipment like controllers, consoles, keyboards, chairs and headsets is an important part of keeping those items in good working condition. In addition, because they are handled constantly, sometimes by multiple people, dirty gaming equipment can lead to the spread of viruses from the common cold to Covid-19.
The good news is that cleaning most types of gaming equipment is simple and can be done with cleaning agents and tools you probably already have in the home — the bad news is that you actually have to do it! Ahead, with the help of experts, including Underscored’s own senior tech writer, Mike Andronico, we’ve rounded up the best cleaning products to use on gaming equipment as well as some tips and tricks to make upkeep a breeze.
How often to clean gaming equipment
There is no hard-and-fast rule on how often to clean gaming equipment, but it falls into the category of “high-touch items” like light switches, doorknobs and toilet flushers that are handled constantly and that are frequently overlooked when it’s time to clean.
“Cleaning gaming equipment can be unique to every individual and can be based on how they maintain their things,” says Keana Valentin, a customer advisor at Microsoft. “At home, I clean and/or disinfect my controller and headset at least once a week if I’ve been gaming.” Cleaning gaming equipment weekly, or after each use, is strongly recommended, and this is especially true if you or someone in your household has been sick.
While establishing a regular gaming equipment cleaning routine is ideal, there are some signs to look out for that indicate it’s time to perform maintenance. “If buttons on controllers and keyboards require more effort to press or can’t be pressed down at all,” Valentin says, “they are overdue for cleaning.” Consoles don’t need to be cleaned as often as keyboards or headsets, “but if you notice your console heating up more than usual or not performing as it should,” Valentin says, “then it might need a good dusting.”
How to clean controllers
The experts we spoke to all stressed that controllers, in particular, get very dusty, which can compromise their performance. "Controllers can get surprisingly dirty," Andronico says, "even if they're just sitting on your coffee table too long." He uses a microfiber cloth or a slightly damp paper towel to wipe dusty controllers rather than disinfecting wipes, which he cautions "can make things sticky afterward."
Danny Peña, the founder and co-host of "Gamertag Radio," uses Windex Electronic Wipes to clean his controllers — and just about everything else. "I've been using these for years for my controllers, for my consoles, for everything, even my screen, my monitor, my keyboard," he says.
How to clean gaming keyboards
"Gaming keyboards can get extremely gross very quickly if you don't take care of them," Andronico says. He uses compressed air spray to get crumbs and other general debris out of his keyboards. "I'd also use the same canned air," he adds, "to regularly take care of any dust accumulating inside of your gaming PC."
Those looking to cut down on waste may want to skip compressed air and invest in a power duster, which comes with an assortment of attachments, nozzles and brushes that allow you to clean everything from small electrical components to car vents.
In addition to dusting and wiping her keyboard regularly, Valentin also deep cleans it to ensure it's in good working order. "At least once a year, I remove all the keycaps with a keycap removing tool for a deeper clean."
Sometimes the right tool for the job is found in the bathroom. "To get between buttons or keyboard keys," Valentin says, "I might use a cotton swab or the flat end of a hairpin."
How to clean gaming chairs
"Keeping chairs clean is especially key," Andronico says, "and you can't go wrong with regular disinfectant wipes for a pleather chair or fabric cleaner for a softer one." These heavy-duty multipurpose wipes are oversized so they can cover more surface area in each pass.
Gaming chairs made from leather should be cleaned regularly with a leather-safe wipe. Leather is prone to drying out, which can lead to splitting or cracking, so using a wipe with leather conditioner is important to keep the material moisturized and in good condition.
Fabric gaming chairs can be spot treated or given an all-over cleaning using a carpet and upholstery cleaner like this foaming formula that's designed for use on car seats.
If your fabric gaming chair needs a deep cleaning, an upholstery cleaning machine will get the job done quickly. The Hoover CleanSlate Pet was our pick for best portable upholstery cleaning machine.
How to clean VR headsets
VR headsets, in particular, need to be cleaned regularly, Andronico stresses. "These things can be strapped to your face for hours on end, and you'll especially want to keep them clean if you're sharing them with housemates or guests," he says. "A quick disinfectant swipe of the face guard never hurts." Avoid wipes that contain alcohol, as they can damage lenses.
When it comes to cleaning the lens itself, always use a product designed specifically for the job to avoid costly damage. Inexpensive VR cleaning kits are a good investment — they also make a great gift for the gamer in your life!
For those who regularly share VR headsets, Andronico also recommends VR headset replacement covers, which he says are not only easier to clean but also "more sweat-proof."