How To Clean Sticky Buttons On Xbox One Controller? [With Deep Cleaning Tips]

Any gamer can tell you that there is nothing worse than dying in the middle of a game, especially due to an equipment error. While it is not something that you normally think of doing, taking the time to clean the sticky buttons on your Xbox One controller can mean the difference between life and death, literally.

The top technique for cleaning sticky buttons is to gently wipe the area down with 70% isopropyl alcohol using a microfiber cloth or a Qtip. These should be damp, but not dripping. Repeat the process until the area is clean and then allow it to dry. However, if this method does not do the trick, you will likely need to take apart the controller to conduct a deeper cleaning. 

The Cause For Sticky Buttons

It is not an ideal situation. Over time and with frequent use, dead skin cells, dirt, dust, oils and food debris accumulate within the crevices of most electronics, particularly with gaming controllers. This can lead to the inconvenience of sticky buttons, drifting sticks and jammed triggers. Thus, regular cleanings are imperative in order to prevent these types of malfunctions.

The Best Ways To Clean Sticky Buttons On Your Xbox One Controller

Daily Cleanings

After each use, it is a good practice to take a dry microfiber cloth and wipe down the controller. The console and controller need to be switched off or unplugged prior to cleaning. This allows you to give extra attention to the buttons and controls without the worry of reprogramming anything. While this may seem tedious, routine dustings can prevent the build-up of unwanted debris in those problem areas. 

Best Ways To Clean Sticky Buttons On Your Xbox One Controller

Seasonal Cleanings

Despite regular maintenance, every few months there are some additional steps that need to be taken in order to remove unwelcome materials from the areas of concern. Remember to always unplug the device prior to conducting this technique.

Manual Removal — Clean Sticky Buttons

In order to effectively clean sticky buttons, you must first take a toothpick, bobby pin (with the rubber tip removed) or a safety pin and gently scrape the space around the controls. Next, take a can of compressed air and blow out any material that you have loosened in the ports. Keep in mind that the more regularly you conduct these manual cleanings, the easier the process will be to get your controller back to normal.

Disinfection

Next, take a microfiber cloth or Qtip and submerge it in isopropyl alcohol. According to the company, this needs to be at a percentage of 70% or less, otherwise, it can cause damage to the device. Make sure to remove any excess liquid before application. Then, lightly wipe all of the nooks and crannies with the solution and allow them to dry. Repeat this process until the buttons are back to status quo!

IMPORTANT CLEANING INFORMATION: NEVER apply liquids directly to the device. 

Disinfectant wipes are a good alternative for a handful of devices. Microsoft advises that users to only utilize PDI Sani-Cloth® Plus, Covidien™ Alcohol Prep pads, CaviWipes™, Clorox Healthcare® Bleach Germicidal Wipes, and Total Solutions® Disinfectant Wipes, as they have been safety tested on these electronics. Nevertheless, always wring out these disinfecting sheets before wiping anything down.

It is important to note that Microsoft recommends that you do NOT use this method with Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox One, or Xbox Elite Wireless Controllers. Instead, stick with the alcohol solution or a mixture of soap and water for your cleaning needs.

Deep Cleanings

There may come a time when these external cleaning methods will not suffice. This may be due to liquid spilling on the controller or a lack of regular cleansing. Thus, if you notice controller drift or your directional pad is malfunctioning, it might be time to consider taking the device apart to clean sticky buttons more thoroughly.

First, use a prying tool to carefully separate the plastic grip covers. Then, remove the battery door. Next, you will need to unfasten all of the screws in the grips as well as in the battery compartment (the last screw is usually hidden behind the sticker in this area).

Something to note Xbox One controllers are held together by screws that have six points. This means that a special type of screwdriver called a Torx is required for removal. Once these are pulled out, you should be able to detach the plastic covering.

It is important to be extremely careful around the circuit board in order to prevent permanent damage to the controller. Gently and thoroughly clean around all buttons, the joystick, the d-pad, and any triggers. Allow the device ample time to dry and then reconfigure it. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: This method should only be conducted if you have passed the 90 day warranty period. Taking apart the controller will void this coverage. This means that if a different issue occurs, such as problems with a faulty motherboard, you will not receive a replacement. 

Cleaning Products To Avoid

Isopropyl alcohol is the number one choice to clean sticky buttons for a very distinct reason. It evaporates quickly. If you use products that do not have this quality, you run the risk of the liquid damaging the controller and potentially losing functionality. 

Therefore, when cleaning this item, you should NOT use products like WD-40, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide. Moreover, you should also never use a vacuum to clean out the controller. The static electricity emitted from this tool can cause permanent damage to the electronics inside the device.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I prevent my Xbox One controller from getting dirty?

Besides regular cleanings, the most effective methods for preventing the build-up of materials on your controller is to avoid eating or drinking while gaming and to store the device in a dust-free cabinet when not in use. This will help to prevent dust and dirt particles in the air from settling on the controller. 

Can I use a regular screwdriver to take apart my Xbox One controller?

You should always use the appropriate tools when taking apart your controller. The screws used to hold this device together have six points, not four. While you may be able to get a Phillips or flathead screwdriver to work in a pinch, you will likely strip the screws in the process. 

Thankfully, there are kits available online that include the correct Torx screwdriver as well as cleaning supplies to help you properly maintain your device. If you are an avid gamer, it is a worthwhile investment.

Do Xbox One controllers break easily?

Unfortunately, these controllers are relatively fragile. Therefore, experts advise that you purchase the proper tools in order to take them apart for cleaning and repair. 

Can I use putty or gel to clean sticky buttons on my controller?

The answer is resounding sometimes. The cleaning putty and cleaning gels that are manufactured for electronics are created specifically for picking up dust and small amounts of dry debris. However, if your buttons are sticky due to the buildup of oils from your hands, it will likely not do the trick.

Moreover, it is important to regularly disinfect these types of devices. If not, bacteria can develop quickly. Considering the fact that you will likely be eating at some point while conducting this activity, it is a good practice to uphold. 

What do I do if I spilled liquid on my Xbox One controller?

Take an absorbent cloth or paper towels and dab as much of the spilled liquid off as possible. Next, get a large Tupperware container and fill a third of it with uncooked rice. Put the controller inside the space. Then proceed to slowly cover the remainder of the device with rice. Lastly, leave it overnight and check on it in the morning.

There are two goals you want to achieve here. First, you want the rice to draw out the liquid. Second, you do not want rice grains to become stuck in the device. Therefore, it is imperative that you do NOT put all the rice in the container at once and then forcefully work the controller into it. 

If the device still isn’t functioning, check your warranty information to see if the coverage is still intact. 

What else can I use around the house to clean my Xbox One Controller?

Microsoft clearly states that the recommended cleaning tool for an Xbox One controller is 70% isopropyl alcohol or the pre-tested wipes listed above. Using alternatives could void the warranty. However, if you are in a pinch, many people have had success with hand sanitizer.  Just make sure to look for products with a similar alcohol content to achieve the same effect.

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Users also note that WD-40 can be an effective solution for the issue of sticky buttons. This is best used if you decide to take the controller apart as we never recommend applying anything directly to the device.

Final Thoughts — How To Clean Sticky Buttons On Xbox One Controller

In order for your Xbox One controller to work smoothly, it is crucial that you regularly maintain the device. This means wiping it down after each use and storing it in a clean, dry, and enclosed area. Microsoft advises cleaning these devices every three to six months, or as needed. Reference the “Seasonal Cleaning” section above for the company’s recommended techniques to clean sticky buttons. 

When sticky buttons occur and the company’s approved cleaning methods don’t do the trick, check your date of purchase. If the controller is less than three months old, contact customer support about a replacement before trying to take it apart yourself.

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