I know officially ‘referber’ isn’t an actual title nor is it an official word

Googling such reveals a bunch of baby care tips and then some guy named Bob Ferber, so for now this is my make shift title and you can all follow along with me.

Useless information aside, my day job consists of refurbishing video game controllers and get them back to gaming ready for the stores. The criteria is sometimes a bit too strict, where other days it’s so lenient that I’m surprised I don’t get any back because specific problem was basically just covered by a band aid. Through my day to day opening and repairing controllers (at the moment, specifically Xbox One), I’ve noticed something about some of you guys out there.

You’re Fucking Nasty (and so is your controller)

Yeah, swearing is a great way to begin this, and I’ll tell you why. Every time my fellow ‘referbers’ open a controller and win the nasty lottery, a single thought crosses our minds. “The fuck did they do with this thing?!” My absolute favorite catchphrase has become “I’m sick of having to clean these nasty ass controllers…” Day in and day out, we come to terms that people, gamers specifically, have nasty habits and or don’t do basic cleaning, which in the end, makes the controllers disgusting inside and out.

Not to say that some of the nastiness is accidental, or just plain negligence against the peripheral, because I’m sure the coke spills are accidental (and if not, you should be punished for your heinous crime) and that staining from what I can only assume is hairspray or cologne/perfume you carelessly sprayed within range of the controller. But some of these entries just seem to nasty to be an accident. I can’t imagine people accidentally painting or texturing any portion of their room or over on their hobby table without making sure everything important is covered. You the essentials, the floor, the furniture, the expensive electronics. However this seems to happen a whole hell of a lot, so much so that I can’t really excuse it.

Ways to Not be Fucking Nasty

The beauty about what I do, which sometimes is hard to see anything beautiful after scrapping away what I assume is dead skin cells or congealed grease, is that I can without a doubt inform others around me and those of you who read this on how maybe, just maybe, you could keep your controllers clean.


The majority of what we see on a given day is just what I mentioned above: Dead Skin cells or grease. Not sure what it really could be, the lab hasn’t finished analyzing it yet since every attempt at extracting a sample fails when on tech gets eaten. The problem is, it’s somewhat obvious when you know where to look and it hurts so much that not a single person cares when they do see it or they just don’t give a fuck since they’re selling it off. The cracks of the controller, the seams that separate the top half of the shell and the bottom, as well as the side panels on the Xbone controllers that hide the screws, all get caked with this alien gunk. It’s clear as day when you just gaze into the seam, in fact I just checked my main PS4 controller and I spotted a tiny bit from lack of proper cleaning.

See I’m just as guilty as some of you guys. The only difference is, the ones we get look like you used it as a scratching post for you palms. It could be years worth of dead skin just left unchecked. It could very well be food crumbs. Heck it could be any known and unknown substance you may ingest or eject in the comfort of your own home. I don’t judge you…. at least until I have to clean your nasty ass controller, then I judge you hardcore.

The Solution:


Dental Picks. Plain and simple. I saw a set online for just about $4 give or take what shipping you do. That easy, gently run the pick in the seam pretending it’s a X-Wing running the trench on the Deathstar. Nothing more complicated than that.

Oh… Also start washing you hands before gaming, maybe don’t snack on crumby or greasy ass foods when playing. Now I KNOW that’s too much to ask of some people, but it’s the least I could ask of some of you. You never know just how nasty this crap is to clean until you have to repeat it every. single. day. Just be considerate to those others who might have to use your controllers, if you are the sort that likes to upgrade during sales or just for a new color.


The reason I plead for this is because that tiny bit of gunk can eventually get inside, clump up under buttons, mess with the chips that are set on the motherboard and daughter-board. It gets SUPER gross, it sticks to the plastic like it’s a long lost relative and never comes off without having to scrub every bit with alcohol and degreaser.  And if you can afford a $59.99 game or 10-20 bucks on DLC, then you can spare $4+ to just keep it routinely cleaned. As well as just giving a quick and lite swab of rubbing alcohol. Just saying.

 As for the Rest of YOUR Problems

To be fair, as I admitted above, my controllers aren’t in the sparkling, pristine condition I wished I had to deal with daily. I know shit happens and they get dirty but there are easy ways to avoid replacing a controller because of the messes you make on it stop it from working properly, and prevent ‘referbers’ like me from needing a sanitize bath after a days work.

Listed below are ways you can keep your controller from being a nasty ass controller:

  • DO NOT drink sodas, water, beer, or any liquids near the controller because chances are you WILL knock it over trying to set the controller down, and it WILL spill all over you, your desk, and your controller. Sure you can change clothes and wipe the desk down, but this makes the controller buttons sticky and eventually unresponsive. You also create water damage and the motherboards just end up getting trashed.
  • QUIT Petting your animals with the controllers! I get this sounds ridiculous, but if you saw the amount of foreign animal fur clumped and sticking inside the controllers, you’d assume someone likes to call their dog a “Good Boy” by giving him an Xbox rub down. Maybe store the electronics in a room the animal can’t be in or have a case which stays closed. It’s inevitable that your pet orangutan will want to play Team Deathmatch with his buddy in the Zoo but you can keep it minimized.
  • TREAT your controller as if it was your phone. Would you leave your phone out while the painters sprayed your room that hot pink you always wanted as a kid but could only afford in your 30’s? I wouldn’t, also I hate pink but that’s just about preference. If something is going to be sprayed, slathered, or lightly brushed upon your walls or yourself, please keep in mind you will damage a $50 piece of equipment. You really don’t have the cash to just go trade it in and hope they also have a hot pink controller.
  • STOP mashing the buttons. If they aren’t responding well, first think if you made any of the mistakes above, then realize that it is a hardware problem. The circuit could be damaged, a piece could have broken loose that needs to be re-soldered or the plastic of the bumpers snapped because you already hammer down on them because you have rage during an online match or a gut reaction to seeing another player you need to take down. Mashing it will not make it work better. It will make it worse. Get it looked at before you determine your grip strength just isn’t what it should be.


  • IF IT’S BROKEN, STOP USING TAPE. Can’t stress that enough. I know a wise sage once said “Duct Tape fixes everything” but this sage didn’t realize the tape leaves residual adhesive gunk. It’s hard as fuck to get off without scratching the controller with a knife or pick. You can’t assume since a part is loose, that taping it will solve your issue. In fact it stands at the same exact point, you just feel better.


  • DON’T try to paint your controller yourself, unless you have the skills to do so. There are professional custom guys for that. Giving your kid a arts and craft project because either they or you want a sick midnight blue colored case, or you want a pot leaf parade all over your controller. Crayons, wax candles, and permanent marker covered cases have past my bench, and trust me they look like SHIT. If you claim you can paint it with actual paints better than the manufacture, I thought so too when I had the Guitar Hero controller. Yeah if I had a picture, it would go right here and prove just how wrong I was.

And the most important tip

  • If you make a mess of the controller, DON’T just say you’ll get it later. Clean it, wipe it down, do something before it sets in. You know how many face plates I have to scrape because it’s stained with some mystery substance that wont scrub clean? No because you don’t work with controllers like this daily. It’s easy, even if you need to wait for the match to end, once it does, stop, exit the lobby, and get it cleaned. Can’t imagine caked on mess feels great while trying to move the payload in Overwatch.

To Wrap Up

If none of this sinks in, which hopefully all 10 of you who read this will tell 10 friends, who then tell 10 of their friends that I’m a whack job, then maybe I’ll start seeing less of those nasty ass controllers.

It’s like cleaning your room, brushing your teeth, or grooming your pert orangutan. It should be habit, a ritual that proves that you like the things you buy enough to keep shit clean and make it last. My best friend has consoles from the early heyday of gaming and they are in great shape and are clean because he respects his collection. Just realize this: You spent $50 on this piece of technology that let’s you play your game, same goes for you mouse and keyboard, they get dirty too. Do you just budget $50 for every 3 or 4 months to replace the controller? I know you do that every year or two with phones, but why just keep mindlessly throwing away money on controllers when you could just take care of them.

Please, just don’t make me have to handle your nasty ass controller in the future.



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