How to clean and sanitize Xbox controllers the right way, with tips from Microsoft

Xbox Controller Cleaning
Xbox Controller Cleaning (Image credit: Windows Central)

We live in strange times, with many of us spending more time at home indoors than we might like. Either way, we're all adapting to new habits, which include cleaning and sanitizing stuff more than we may do usually. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is known to pass on through hand contact and is capable of remaining alive on surfaces, such as video game controllers, for at least a few hours. If you're sharing controllers a lot, it might be worth looking into cleaning them a bit more often than usual. Cleaning controllers is relatively straight forward, but there are some pitfalls to avoid worth knowing for Xbox controllers (and others) before giving it a go. We spoke with some sources at Microsoft for advice.

Products used in this guide

What you'll need

Again, cleaning tech and making it free of bacteria is easy and straight forward. All you need is regular isopropyl or 70 percent alcohol cleaning wipes, such as Clorox and Lysol. There are also plenty of other similar options if these aren't in stock, such as the VEO Active spray we've linked up here. If you can't find the pre-moistened wipes due to stock shortages, grabbing some rubbing alcohol or solution and dabbing it into a cloth is another option, just ensure to keep the chemicals away from younglings. It can smell quite strong too in some cases, so if you're not used to using those types of solutions, be sure to make sure you're in a well-ventilated space, with a window open for example.

What to avoid

We spoke to a few people at Microsoft to get some information on how best, and how best NOT to clean your controllers. The standard, basic Xbox controllers have no coating on them whatsoever, but some of the limited edition ones have intricate painted designs. The Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and some other similar controllers have a soft coating on them too, and you can feel it to the touch if you do a side-by-side with a standard, non-coated controller.

If you have a painted or coated Elite controller, do not scrub the controllers and risk damaging the outer layer. There's no need to scrub the standard ones either, simple swipes and dabs with appropriately moistened cloths and wipes should be more than enough.

Xbox controller cleaning tips

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

These are some best practices for controller cleansing, from Microsoft and the folks at Windows Central.

  • Wash your hands before getting started.
  • Alcohol type mists dry relatively quickly, so you'll want to pay attention to where you've cleaned to ensure you get it thoroughly sanitized.
  • Be sure to clean all over, paying attention to the seams between the different plastic covers.
  • If you're using an Elite Controller Series 2, you may want to detach the joysticks, d-pad, and paddles before cleaning, as to not knock them off and lose them accidentally.
  • If you go as far as cleaning under the battery door, be sure to let it dry fully before putting the batteries back in.
  • Again, avoid scrubbing too hard. Limited Edition controllers and Elite controllers have coatings on them that can be damaged if going at the finish too hard.
  • When you're done, let the controllers dry completely before use.

Cleaning essentials

It can be tough to find cleaning products that are actually in stock right now, and you may have more luck grabbing some Clorox or Lysol wipes from a local grocery store during your regular food supply run (while observing social distancing rules and being generally careful, of course.)

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!