A malfunctioning gadget often has problems with its wiring connections that are mainly found on the printed circuit board. Immediately, a user takes it to the technician, only to find out that it was covered with dust particles and just needs cleaning. This is why it is important to know the basics of how to clean a PCB.
A printed circuit board is a delicate object to handle. At a first glance, one might imagine the complexity of the wires interconnected and may rethink of cleaning it. However, a little knowledge, patience and skills are what you basically need to safely clean a PCB.
Many kinds of dirt and other particles can affect the functionality of the PCB. This means that a specific cleaning method is required for a specific scenario. To clean a printed circuit board, one must first identify what is the specific situation to be dealt with. It can either be a cover of dust, a corrosion of the metals inside, solder flux, etc., and there are various ways to clean them.
For dust particles covering the PCB, it is recommended to use a simple brush, depending on the board size. It can be an old toothbrush, a small paint brush, or even a vacuum brush. An automatic electronic vacuum designed for PCB can also be used. This is done by regulating the amount of air which is just enough to blow off the dust to avoid breaking the board.
The next that you should deal with is dirt mixed with sticky elements such as wax or oil. This scenario requires thorough cleaning because dust and other particles are easily attracted to oil or wax’s tackiness. To do so, examine the board first. Make sure to take note of the parts that should not be removed or should not come in contact with water. Reading a PCB manual is also helpful.
Second, undo any components that are plugged into the board. It can be unsoldered to be safe. For the cleaning of the board itself, obtain a solution of a non-phosphate cleaner which can be bought at supermarkets and put it on the board and leave for about 15 minutes. Slightly brush it and rinse with water thoroughly.
Let the board dry by carefully wiping water off or using an air compressing machine to let the water evaporate. Subject the board into heat to ensure that it gets dry. It is advisable to use an oven. Preheat the oven into about 75 degrees Celsius, then turn it off and put the board inside it overnight. When completed, inspect for any damage.
Corrosion is among the most serious problems one may encounter if the PCB is not cleaned properly and immediately. When a metal undergoes corrosion, a chemical reaction destroys it. The printed circuit board, which is made of copper, is not an exception. To deal with corrosion problems, identify first what is the initial cause. If a leaked battery is the source, use a mixture of water and baking soda. This will create a paste-like solution.
Softly rub a brush and leave it for 30 minutes. This will help stop the penetration of the acid from the battery; then clean start cleaning it. The cleaning method ideal for filthy and tacky particles can be directly applied if the reason for corrosion is water.
Solder flux is also a common problem. This is observed when a yellowish or brownish lump is seen. This flux is characterized as acidic, and thus can affect internal pins, traces, and other related circuits. This can be easily done by using professional and commercial cleaning brands. For a beginner, and those who want to maintain their boards often, an isopropyl or rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush can be used. Let it dry by wiping it with a clean towel.
Taking care of printed circuit boards is very important and everyone who owns a gadget must have a little bit of knowledge about the basics of cleaning it.