Cleaning a pinball machine looks like it might be tough at first, but is actually pretty easy once you get over the intimidation factor. In fact most people are terrified of even removing the glass. When I started, I remember being very intimidated the first time I removed the glass, I thought I might drop it, it might break in my hands, etc. It was easy though, and once I did that one time it’s been a piece of cake ever since. The video below shows how to do it:
Cleaning the pinball playfield
Once the glass is off, the next step is to get some paper towels or other rag to clean with. Along with the rag, you’re going to want some Novus 2. Novus 2 is the preferred cleaner for cleaning pinball playfields. If your paint is particularly fragile you may have to use something else, but I’ve found it to work well on everything. You can buy it directly through Amazon through my affiliate link below:
It works really well, in fact you’ll probably be using it for other things around the house as well. I’ve used it to get scratches out of all kinds of plastic, it’s a miracle worker on those things. My wife always asks me if I can use my ‘pinball stuff’ to clean things for her, lol.
Once you’ve got the cleaner and rags, you can dab a little bit on the playfield or rag and start cleaning. You should see the rag start to turn black in color and the playfield become instantly more shiny. Continue this process from the flippers all the way up the playfield, cleaning plastics, ramps, targets, rubbers, etc, it works on everything. You have to be a little careful not to use too much and spread it into places that don’t clean easy like Star Posts. Star posts get cleaner in their ribs that’s very difficult to get out then unfortunately.
How long should you clean? Until no more black stuff gets on your rag. On older playfields which don’t have clearcoat you don’t want to scrub too long or you might start to get into the paint. Older playfields also tend to flake so you want to be careful with your rag as well. Some people use 90% rubbing alcohol and magic erasers to clean their older playfield, they say it gets dirt out of the hairline cracks. I’ve honestly never had much luck with it, but maybe I just wasn’t do it right (or the playfield I was doing it on was too far gone).
I used to be a big fan of waxing but in the past few years I’ve kind of gotten away from it. I found that it tended to make a big mess (white stuff on star posts is super annoying) and was a little counterproductive overall (basically the extra protection is a little overkill in home use). Most people wax with a carnuaba wax. One of the most popular brands is this one through my Amazon affiliate link:
You can try it out and see what you think. Maybe I’ve just gotten lazy, lol. Waxing does allow for some faster gameplay and wicked spins on the ball.
Cleaning Pinball Metal Pieces
Sometimes after a long period of time, some of your pinball metal pieces will get really dirt, rusted, or scratched. There are a few ways to fix this. The best thing I’ve found to polish smaller pieces is to use a tumbler and some Flitz metal polish. What’s a tumbler? Well I didn’t know either at first, but mainly they use it to polish gun shells so they can be reused. That used to be a huge thing but I don’t think it’s as popular anymore. In any case, basically it just shakes like your buzzing cell phone for hours and hours and hours with some crushed shells in it + metal polish. This creates kind of a polishing machine which makes metal look chrome like or brand new after a while. When I was restoring games to look like new, I would put almost all the pieces through one.
The one I’d recommend is below, along with the metal polish and crushed walnut shells:
Hopefully that helps you find the stuff to do that. It works on household stuff too, I’ve used it to fix things I’ve accidentally let get rusty or corroded. It works wonders, just needs a little time. I will worn you that it doesn’t work as well with things that have lots of little holes because the shells might get stuck in the holes.
Hopefully this helps you out when cleaning your pinball machine. It can be pretty hard the first time, but after that you’ll be twice as fast. Doing it yourself will save you a lot of money from hiring it out plus you’ll be able to do it a lot more often. Usually you have to clean a game every few hundred plays at home if you want it to still play good. After that and the game starts getting a lot slower playing.