Pinball: Just how dirty can a machine get?

Seriously Worn Flipper Rubber
New Flipper Rubber (clean playfield, too!)

At left is a before and after picture of the flipper rubber on my Addams Family pinball machine. The before picture is of grime and wear build up after, maybe, 18 months of home use play plus one weekend of fairly heavy play at the Makers Faire (15,812 flips on that flipper in one weekend).

As can be seen in the before shot, that is one beat to hell piece of rubber. It is cracking and even starting to split.

The black goo appears to be a combination of dust and something else — carbon goop from the electrical bits in the machine — that builds up over time within a machine.

Now, keep in mind, that blackened, crackled, bit of rubbery nastiness is pretty much exclusively from home use only! Imagine what it looks like in some skank-hole bar full of cigarette smoke! I used to maintain a machine in exactly such an environment and the addition of cigarette smoke so fouled the machine that optical switches would start failing after about four months. A simple cleaning fixed it (but not my lungs — I still occasionally flash back that godawful Village Idiot smell. Oh, how I miss it.)

Grime Around Electric Chair
Grime Near Flipper

Said grime layers the playfield too. While the open areas gradually grow dingier and dingier over time, the areas where the ball rolls along something will build up a very distinctive line of grunge.

While that grime is clearly something that needs to be cleaned up to keep a machine in tip top condition, keeping an eye on the grime-lines can actually be useful.

For example, that the grime line next to the flipper wavers a bit in the transition from lane guide to flipper indicates that I really ought to make sure that the flipper is in exactly the right spot and the lane guide is not starting to warp from over a decade of poundings. While it isn’t affecting game play in a negative fashion, I certainly want to make sure that nothing is loose and, thus, may fall apart and cause bigger problems in the near future.

Cleaned Playfield

Fortunately, Addams Family is a “diamondplated” playfield. Basically, the entire playfield is covered in a coating of varathane. Cleaning is just a matter of a good scrub down with a plastic cleaner.

And the best plastic cleaner I have found is pictured at right; Novus #2 is perfect for cleaning diamondplate pinball playfields and various plastic bits.

In any case, the Addams Family looked and played quite beautifully over the weekend; a perfect addition to the Holt’s awesome annual Halloween Party.

3 Comments on "Pinball: Just how dirty can a machine get?"

  1. Do you think that “Fine Scratch Remover” would help a) unscuff the top of my Mac mini and/or b) get light fingernail scratches of the bottom of my iMac bezel? Does it work by filling the cracks or taking off more of the surface?


  2. It is definitely a light abrasive (or heavy abrasive in the case of #4), so it does work by taking an incredibly thin layer of material off the surface (or, in the case of a pinball machine, removing the layer of dirt on top of the varathane).
    It is really quite amazing at scratch removal, though. I have used a combination of #2 and #1 to fix CDs.


  3. Hi,

    I’ve recently bought an Addams and the triple-pack of Novus polish and was thinking that I should go the whole hog and remove all playing field items. The flasher light holders seem firmly attached and I can’t figure out how to remove them. Is there a trick, or does one have to desolder the connections?



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