About Best Way to Clean a Circuit Board, Electronic devices, including circuit boards, accumulate dust, dirt particles, and other contaminants hazardous to these gadgets’ performance and efficiency.
Yes, cleaning a circuit board is a delicate and challenging task. However, it’s worth the effort as it ensures the device performs well and increases lifespan.
This article outlines the best way to clean a circuit board while maintaining safety standards.
Table of Contents
- Common Cleaning Agents for Circuit Boards
- Tools For Cleaning Circuit Boards
- Types of Circuit Board Contaminants and How to Clean
- Safety Measures When Cleaning Circuit Boards
Common Cleaning Agents for Circuit Boards
To efficiently clean a circuit board, you need an appropriate cleaning agent. Some common cleaning agents include;
1. Compressed Air
(Caption: Cleaning using a can of compressed air)
Compressed air can blow out dust particles resting on the board’s surface or open spaces.
Using a spray can spray the interior of the circuit board with short, pressurized air bursts through the device’s ventilation ports.
Alternatively, you can open the device with a screwdriver and clean the interior surfaces carefully if the ventilations and other openings don’t offer a sufficient surface area for cleaning the board.
2. Baking Soda
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) removes grime effectively as it has mild abrasive properties.
Hence, without damaging your board, it removes rust and other residues more effectively and hassle-free than your typical brush and distilled water.
Baking soda is an effective agent for treating corrosion because it neutralizes the acidity in the residue, dissolving the corrosion in the affected parts of the circuit board.
3. Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol contains fewer chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), than other standard cleaning supplies for circuit boards. Also, it’s inexpensive and evaporates quickly.
Remember that the isopropyl alcohol used for this purpose must have a concentration of at least 90%. This highly concentrated alcohol can damage your skin, so wear gloves and goggles for protection.
4. Distilled Water
Distilled or deionized water lacks ions that are conducive to your electric board. Also, because it’s a poor conductor, distilled water will not degrade your circuit board.
That said, distilled water gets easily contaminated, so avoid touching it, and always ensure you seal it any time you’re not using it.
5. Household Cleaners
You can also use phosphate-free household cleaners to clean your circuit board.
But while phosphates have useful cleansing properties and prevent corrosion, there have been concerns about their environmental effects.
For this reason, most cleaning solutions manufacturers have excluded it from their products.
(Caption: Image of WD-40 cleaning solution)
This cleaner and degreaser removes over 95% of common surface contaminants and dries quickly.
However, WD-40 cleaning fluid leaves an oily, flammable residue that can lead to a fire in case of sparks.
Therefore, you must exercise caution when using this product and wipe the surface to remove the oil to prevent its harsh side effects on your device.
Tools For Cleaning Circuit Boards
Here are some crucial tools for cleaning circuit boards:
Lint-Free Towels or Microfiber Cloths
(Caption: Image of microfiber cloth)
Towels are simple circuit board cleaning tools. Always choose lint-free towels or microfiber cloths to avoid leaving fiber debris on your circuit boards.
Soft Bristles Brush or Paint Brush
Cleaning brushes with soft bristles are ideal for tiny assemblies in devices’ circuit boards. Interestingly, brushing also helps texturize soft surfaces.
Note, though, the brush must be slim to penetrate the hidden parts of the circuit surfaces.
Alternatively, you can use a toothbrush or paintbrush if you don’t have a specialized brush.
Source of Heat From A Hair Dryer Or Oven
Cleaning solutions leave behind liquid residue, and that’s where a hair dryer, oven, or desk lamp comes in handy. With these tools, you can dry the cleaning agents and pollutants.
Types of Circuit Board Contaminants and How to Clean
Circuit board contaminants fall into two broad categories – dry and wet. Below are some common contaminants and how to clean them:
(Caption: Image of the contaminated circuit board)
1. How To Remove Corrosion
If your circuit board comes into contact with liquids such as juice, water, and oil, you don’t need to replace the circuit board.
Instead, clean them to prevent corrosion using distilled water, baking soda, phosphate-free household cleaner, soft-bristled brush, heat from an oven, lamp, or dryer, or lint-free towel or microfiber cloth.
Follow these simple steps to clean your corroded circuit boards:
- First, disassemble the device to access the circuit board and disconnect cables or chips. Also, you might want to take a picture to make reassembly easier.
- Then, add 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to a quarter cup of water to make a baking soda solution.
- Next, dip the bristled brush into the baking powder solution, scrub the corroded areas, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. Then, rinse the board with distilled water and clean off any baking soda residue with a clean wet brush.
- After that, spray the surface with a phosphate-free house cleaning agent like Lysol or Clorox and let it sit for 15 seconds before scrubbing it with a clean toothbrush.
- Then, rinse the surface and dry it using a lint-free towel by lightly dabbing it to avoid damaging it.
- Next, preheat your oven to 170 degrees and turn it off before placing the circuit inside. Then, give it about three hours to dry.
- Lastly, remove your circuit board and reassemble it.
2. How to Remove Wetness From Your Circuit Board
Industrial substances, water, and other fluids may enter your device. When that happens, the good news is that you can clean these liquids and restore your device’s functionality. To do that, you will need the following items:
- A container
- Distilled or deionized water
- 90% isopropyl alcohol
- Blow dryer, desk lamp, or oven
- Soft-bristled brush
Now the preliminary steps for cleaning a wet circuit board involve the following general, straight-forward steps:
- Disconnect the device from the power source
- Rotate your device and shake it to drain the excess fluid.
- Remove the battery
- Drain water further by disassembling the device
Then, follow these advanced circuit cleaning steps if your gadget if the above steps prove ineffective:
- First, disassemble the device completely by disconnecting the cables, chips, opening connectors, and shields to access the circuit board.
- Then, submerge the circuit board in a vessel containing 90% isopropyl alcohol. Alternatively, you can also use deionized water if you don’t have isopropyl.
- Next, remove the circuit board from the cleaning liquid and scrub it gently with a toothbrush. Also, you can use ultrasonic cleaners to access any tricky areas.
- Now place the circuit board beneath a heating device such as a hair dryer, desk lamp, or oven to dry the moisture. Ensure you leave no traces of the liquid.
- Lastly, reassemble your device and confirm it functions properly.
3. How To Remove Solder Flux
Sometimes soldering flux can accumulate on the chips and pins of an improperly handled board, forming a yellow crust. When that happens, you will need the following items to remove flux:
- 90% plus rubbing alcohol
- Soft-bristled brush
- Lint-free/microfiber towel
First, wet the bristled brush with alcohol and use it to scrub the circuit board until the crust disappears. Then, dab the circuit board with a lint-free towel or microfiber cloth.
4. Dirt Spots (Spot-Cleaning)
You need the following things to spot-clean your circuit board:
- Cotton swabs
- A small bowl
- 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol
First, pour a small amount of isopropyl into the bowl and dip the cotton swab into the alcohol before squeezing the tip to remove any excess cleaning agent.
Next, gently brush the area with spots or grime using the cotton swab. Then, allow the board to dry for an hour before blowing it with compressed air to remove any alcohol or dislodged dirt.
Safety Measures When Cleaning Circuit Boards
Handling your circuit board carefully when cleaning it to avoid any damage is essential. Some safety measures include:
- Always disconnect your gadget from the power source
- Avoid standing near or on any liquid
- Wear protective gear such as gloves and masks and dry clothes
What Can I Use to Clean a Circuit Board?
Compressed air is the most widely used method of dislodging dry contaminants like dust and dirt.
Also, distilled water, baking solution, isopropyl alcohol, and phosphate-free household cleaners are other cleaning agents you can use to clean circuit boards.
Is it Okay to Clean Circuit Boards With Alcohol?
Yes, but only Isopropyl alcohol with a 90% or more concentration. It’s cheaper than most cleaners, evaporates quickly, and contains fewer chemicals.
Can You Use WD 40 to Clean Circuit Boards?
Yes, you can use WD-40, but with caution. Most experts don’t recommend using WD-40 as it’s a flammable, oil-based product that leaves oily residues when it dries.
These oily residues may worsen situations such as sparks that ignite a fire.
Now you know the materials you need to clean different circuit board contaminants. Also, you understand how to clean your board without causing any damage.
Knowing that you don’t have to replace your device in case of spills or accumulated dirt in your circuit board is good news. But what is more, it helps ensure your device’s efficiency and increases its lifespan.