how to clean circuit boards

Most 9+ best way of how to clean circuit boards corrosion

If you have a tower-style desktop computer with a large enclosed hardware environment, you have to know how to clean circuit boards and clean circuit board contacts from the outside. Sometimes, you will need to open it up for direct cleaning avoiding the hazardous situations for the electronics.

With the right tools and a careful method, you can mitigate these risks and clean circuit boards and peripheral cards safely.

There are a few different cleaning methods for this problem depending on the severity of the issue. Very light dust and dirt can usually be cleaned with compressed air thoroughly, while minor grime or corrosion can be cleaned with a spot-cleaning using baking soda.

Previously we found mostly used circuit board analyzer / surge protector after carrying a thorough research spending over 100 hours, but now you will find the mostly used circuit board cleaner right now. 

There are most nine best way of how to clean circuit board corrosion:

Clean circuit boards with isopropyl alcohol

best way of cleaning with isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is perfect for cleaning thermal compound off of your CPU/GPU.  You do not need to use anything else.  It’s reasonably non-toxic, cheap, and readily available almost anywhere.

You do not need to use that to clean your circuit board, use isopropyl alcohol instead. Put a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on a soft cloth or cotton balls, and wipe away the thermal paste. 

After cleaning finishes, allow the residual solvent to evaporate before applying more thermal compound and installing the heatsink.

Isopropyl alcohol is also really effective at cleaning brushed aluminum finishes on cases and such.

Dampen a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol. You should use isopropyl alcohol that is at least 90%-100% alcohol.

Prepare a small bowl and pour a little alcohol into it and dip the cotton swab in it. Then, squeeze out any excess moisture so that the swab is only lightly damp.

To dislodge the grime, brush the cotton swab across it. Grime that is built up near heat generators and on top of circuit pathways to be identified. Brush any buildup you find with the swab lightly until you dislodge it.

Allow the alcohol to dry. It shouldn’t take longer than an hour, usually much less. In the meantime, you can continue brushing at particularly troublesome grime spots to try to dislodge them.

Use compressed air to blow away any dislodged grime. Keep the canister upright and the nozzle several inches away from the circuit board. Spray in short bursts around the areas you’ve just spot cleaned.

Cleaning circuit boards with distilled water

cleaning circuit board with Deionized Water Bottle

Tap or rainwater contains ions that are the result of dissociating various salt compounds. If you were to washboard with this water, some of those salts would be left behind as residue as the water evaporates.

Over time, these salts will react with atmospheric humidity and cause corrosion in metal surfaces.

Pure water does not conduct electricity. Salt is the major impurity in the water, enables electricity conduction. When it is dissolved in water, becoming separated into different electrically charged atoms called ions.

The introduction of corrosion residue into that water may indeed make it conductive. So it is mandatory to clean and always ensure the disconnection of power source before working on anything electrical.

The introduction of about 5% contact cleaner into your water can help clean. Moreover, clean the board with the cleaner then rinse with the pure water.

Clean circuit boards with compressed air

cleaning with Dust-Off Disposable Compressed Gas Duster

After shutting your computer down and unplugging it completely from all cables, you need to spray compressed air into your computer.

To dislodge most free-flowing dust inside the machine and blow it right back out the ports, keep the air can as close to upright as possible. If no more dust blows out completely, you can use a series of short bursts indeed.

Moreover, insert the nozzle of the compressed air canister into the fan exhaust ports, which are usually located on the back of the console at the top. You have to make sure to keep the canister upright as you spray, and spray in short, contained bursts.

Then turn the canister upside-down or spraying for too long will cool the air and can risk freezing the components of your computer.

Now you will most likely need a Phillips-head screwdriver, but you could potentially need a flathead screwdriver or a hex head screwdriver instead at the opening stage of all hooks and screws.

Then, you must do slide the side panel back and off the unit gently. This should give you access to the circuitry.

Spray compressed air in short bursts onto the board, keeping the canister upright and the nozzle a few inches away from the circuit board to make circuit board green, with squiggly, silver lines on it.

More extensive cleaning required to remove grime and corrosion is especially large or is building up near a heat generator or on top of circuit pathways.

Clean circuit board with vinegar

LoveSome White Distilled Vinegar cleaning liquid

Vinegar is acidic, so its residue will cause corrosion. Definitely don’t use it. It is recommended to use Isopropyl alcohol as cleaner, and the simplest access most people have to it is often rubbing alcohol.

But it’s not pure isopropyl, and may contain fragrant oils which could leave residue that will attract dust.

Vinegar is mainly (80%-95% depending on strength) water with a lot of impurities and 50-20% light acid.

Electronics, acid, and water don’t mix. Pure water without minerals/chlorine and other impurities by itself isn’t harmful. But vinegar is far from pure.

Though it cleans off the residue indeed, it would leave various chemicals from the vinegar on the motherboard, that (together with the acid and water) would deteriorate the various metal components (like soldering joints and PCB wiring).

Rinsing of thoroughly with a lot (think 5-10 liters) of de-mineralized water would flush that away, but the damage could already be done, especially if you leave it to soak long (more than 10 minutes or so).

You can clean off the residue with iso-propyl alcohol (applied with a soft cloth) which is safe to use on the insides of a computer. Just let it evaporate after cleaning. Do NOT rinse with water!

Clean circuit board with baking soda

best way to clean circuit board by Baking Soda

To remove corrosion from the circuit board and when it is not required for normal cleaning program, baking soda is then be used of how to clean circuit boards easily.

Exposure to salt air or acid leaks from the attached batteries makes corrosion on circuit boards. But it can be removed using mild abrasive qualities of the baking soda without damaging the board.

  1. Remove all cables from the circuit board and pull out any chips inserted into it. Take note of connectors where each one goes so that they can be properly reinserted after cleaning.
  2. Until the mixture forms a thick paste, pour a quarter-cup of baking soda into a small bowl and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Insert a flexible toothbrush into the baking soda paste and apply it onto the corroded parts of the circuit board. Scrub horizontally and in parallel with joints the circuit board gently with the toothbrush to loosen some of the corrosion.
  4. Now allow the paste mixture to adjust on the circuit board for 20 to 30 minutes. This mixture will dry during this time, which is normal.
  5. Spray clean water on the circuit board off to remove all traces of the baking soda.
  6. Do the same step 3 for 10 to 15 seconds, then follow step 4 to scrub the surface of the circuit board with the toothbrush. Do not scrub very hard since you already cleaned it once with the toothbrush
  7. Prepare an oven heated up to 170 degrees, then turn it off and place the circuit board inside. Then allow for two to three hours to remove all moisture to remain the board in the oven.
  8. Now it is the time to reinsert all chips into the circuit board accordingly and reattach all cables.

Clean circuit board with methylated spirits

cleaning with Denatured Alcohol

The methylated spirits are for the most part just plain alcohol (ethyl alcohol). Yes, the alcohol that is in your favorite tipple!

It’s incredibly strong round 90% of methylated spirits contains ethanol. But before anyone gets ideas, read on.

10% methanol makes this highly toxic, but it may also include isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone or other substances. These substances are added to deter people from drinking it.

The manufacture difference between the two alcohols is ethanol is made from grains, fruits and vegetables and methanol usually from wood stock.

Before to use, make sure that it is not for the drink which can cause blindness, brain damage, and death. While some people do drink it regularly, they are usually severely impaired after a while and others have died after their first try. Drinking 10 ml or less of it can cause blindness.

Also, you have to note that white spirit is not methylated spirits, whereas white spirit is derived from paraffin, a by-product of crude oil processing.

It is used for always spot test when using methylated spirits/denatured alcohol on fabrics and plastics and take particular care when using on lacquered surfaces. Avoid using on wood items.

Clean circuit board with hydrogen peroxide

Clean circuit board with hydrogen peroxide

This is not a solvent, it is a strong oxidizer. You are very likely to damage your components if you use this as a cleaner.

So basically, while cleaning the circuit board, you can use a little hydrogen peroxide instead of rubbing alcohol to clean a small button that rests under the trackpad.

Once reassembled the button is no longer functioning. originally it might have damaged a ribbon cable, but since the other trackpad functions still work, now I’m thinking it’s the button.

Do not think twice when using the hydrogen peroxide, I thought it was the same as rubbing alcohol for electronics.

It’s fixed! All were used 91% rubbing alcohol to clean the button. Clicking the button a whole lot while using a cue tip to apply the alcohol. Looks like it got rid of all the H2O2 residue and everything works fine now.

Cleaning circuit boards ultrasonic

Circuit Board Cleaning with Ultrasonic Cleaner

In the case of cleaning with an ultrasonic cleaning machine, the high-frequencies cause cavitation; and the violent implosion of billions of minute bubbles in the cleaning solution contained in an ultrasonic cleaner tank.

The bubbles are bonded to the bottom of the tank and excited to ultrasonic frequencies by generators.

In this method of cleaning circuit board, sound waves that have frequencies above the upper limit of the normal range of human hearing, which is about 20 kilohertz (20 kHz or 20,000 cycles per second).

We recommend to not use this method as this technique has lost some favor as it can cause damage to components or loosen connections, along with the dirt and grime.

But can be used in the most difficult circuits where it is hard to reach places underneath high-density components.

This method will not be feasible for SMD devices that have small gaps that are smaller than the surface tension coefficient of the cleaning fluid. Cavitation is not a gentle process.

To make sure of better ultrasonic cleaning, it has been calculated that temperatures in excess of 10,000°F and pressures in excess of 10,000 PSI are generated at the implosion sites of cavitation bubbles.

And it is measured in cycles per second, ultrasonic cleaners can produce from 25 kHz to 100+ kHz.

Lower frequencies create larger cavitation bubbles compared to higher frequencies.

Clean circuit boards with acetone

Cleaning circuit boards with Super Nail Pure Acetone

Acetone is not a good option for removing flux residue from PCB assemblies unless you are certain that the PCB solder mask and silk screening. AND all other components on the assembly are compatible with acetone.

Many plastics that tolerate isopropyl alcohol will be damaged by acetone. This keeps the solder strong for a long time even in adverse weather conditions.

So, you have to use acetone to clean the solder flux for the complete removal of the flux residue from the PCB.

Acetone is a strong chemical. It has some adverse effects too for the materials used in the PCB. It is not good to breathe for human skin.

You need to be careful while using the solution. You have to know its adverse effects and quantity to be used. And, lastly, use suitable equipment to apply acetone.

The solution is best used when soaked in a brush. It should also be washed quickly and systematically.

Moreover, acetone can remove the entire flux residue which no other solution can do so thoroughly.

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Ricky Edmund

Ricky Edmund is one of the professional marketer. He is working on product research, features analysis, future development, and consumers interest since 1999.

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