Get out the hot soapy water, and some rubber gloves, its time to clean up this mess! If you get cabinets like I do, they are filthy! Inside are weeds, dirt, broken wood, coins, screws, and other odd things.
Step 1 is to get all the big things out, this you can do by hand and toss em in the trash or keep them if they look useful (such as screws, bolts, washers, etc...).
Keep the coins to use when playing the game.
Step 2 is to break out the Wet & Dry Vac and vacuum everything out. Now that the basic two steps are done, what you do next depends on how dirty the machine is. My Stargate was caked with mud on the outside of it, so I moved it to my driveway and hosed the whole thing down. You should use caution when doing this. Games made of MDF or Particle board will SOAK up water like a sponge and then become very brittle!
After hosing it down, I took a sponge and some hot soapy water and hand washed it. If you do hose down your game, make sure there is no water left sitting inside the cabinet as it will damage the wood. I live in Arizona where it gets to 110F so I can just leave it outside to dry out. If you don't live where its 110F, you might be able to use a large fan or air compressor.
I highly recommend using a Wet & Dry vac to get the water out and to dry areas off. An Air Compressor could also work for speeding up the drying process. If you have Stickers or other things glued on to the cabinet or other parts you can use something like "Goof-Off" or its equivalent to get them off. If you want to save the items you are removing, you may want to find a less destructive way (I don't know of one yet).
Buttons are easy to clean if you can disassemble them. I like the old style buttons that have a "C" clip on the bottom of them. Pop the "C" clip off, and the button separates from the base. I then use Hot Soapy water to clean them.
If they are really dirty I will use 409 on them. If they look too bad, replacement buttons should be easy to come by. Just be sure you get the same size. If you want to modernize the game, you can even replace the buttons and switches for the newer style of buttons that have micro switches attached.
I personally like the old Leaf style switches and want to keep them that way. Leaf switches can be cleaned using rubbing alcohol and a q-tip, or you can use a business card. I prefer the q-tip method as it does a better job. Just be careful not to bend the leafs too much.
If you look at the switch you will see two round discs on the insides of each leaf. If one or both of these are missing, then its time to replace the switch (Vary rarely do these come off, they are attached very well). You will also notice that they may be scratched up (some are even gold coated). I haven't tried "Fixing" these, but if I need to or someone has, then I'll put the information up here.
Joysticks will vary as to the best way to clean them. You will want to dismantle it. Don't loose the parts and pay attention on how everything fits together as some joysticks are impossible to come by! You may have to replace or fix the rubber grommets on some joysticks.
Once you clean the joystick up, you may want to grease up the joystick (was there grease when you cleaned it?). Whether or not you grease the Joystick up, depends entirely on the way the joystick works. My Donkey Kong joystick needs grease. Use it sparingly, do not over apply it.
Screws, Bolts, etc... I just replace them with new ones. What's wrong with this? well, sometimes you can't find a direct replacement.
Sometimes you can find a close match, sometimes not. Don't throw anything out until you have a replacement in your hot little hands. Once everything is clean, its time to start repairing the cabinet by replacing broken wood and filling holes. I use Bondo to fill in cracks, holes, and other minor abrasions.
In the case of my Robotron I need to replace the entire top piece of wood. Lucky for me the wood is so water damage that I can remove most of it by hand. Look on my Robotron Restoration page to see how that goes. Other things that might need to be replaced are the back doors, wood used as brackets, etc...
Anything you want to look like new should be replaced or repaired. After filling in the holes, its a good idea to sand everything down. Vacuum again after sanding. You may need to repeat these steps multiple times to make sure the sides are perfectly smooth and level.
Now its time to decide if you want to repaint the cabinet. If you are going to paint, Prep work is CRITICAL for a nice paint job.
This is also the best time to do paint since everything is out of the game. In the case of my Stargate (and probably Robotron) I am going to sand the entire thing down and repaint it. I am used Paint Stripper and then a Two Handed Sander to remove all the old paint. Check my Stargate and Robotron restoration pages to see how things are going.I don't have that much experience painting these things yet, so as I find more information I will put it in here.
Look at that shinny new cabinet!, its time to replace all those broken/worn out parts....