Cleaning Circuit Boards: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

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Cleaning Circuit Boards: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
Cleaning Circuit Boards: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

If the speed at which your computer processes data is much slower than normal, there is a good chance that there is dirt or rust on the circuit board and you need to clean it. Depending on the severity of the problem, there are a few different treatments for it. Dust and dirt can usually be treated with compressed air, while dirt or rust can be cleaned separately. However, severe rust should be treated with baking soda.


Part 1 of 3: Using compressed air

Clean Circuit Boards Step 01

Step 1. Turn off your computer

Turn off your computer and disconnect all cables. Spraying compressed air into your computer while it is still running can potentially damage its components and cause your own electrocution.

You can turn off your computer by clicking the main menu, selecting 'Shut Down' and confirming your selection in the pop-up window that appears

Clean Circuit Boards Step 02

Step 2. Inject the compressed air into the central processing unit (CPU) with short bursts of air

Insert the nozzle of the compressed air canister into the exhaust ports of the fan, which are usually located on the top back of the console. Make sure to hold the can upright as you spray, and spray in short and brisk blasts.

If you turn the can upside down or spray for too long, the air will cool and the parts of your computer could freeze

Clean Circuit Boards Step 03

Step 3. Use a screwdriver to open the CPU

Use a screwdriver to remove the screws on the back of the CPU that secure the side panel to the device. Then gently slide the side panel back and away from the device. You can now get to the circuit board.

You will probably need a Phillips screwdriver, but you may need a flat head screwdriver or a hex screwdriver instead

Clean Circuit Boards Step 04

Step 4. Spray compressed air on the circuit board

The circuit board is most likely green with squiggly silver lines on it. Spray compressed air on the board in short bursts, holding the can upright and the nozzle a few inches from the circuit board. This also gives you the opportunity to look for dirt and rust that may need a more extensive cleaning.

A particularly large amount of dirt and rust or a build-up of it near a heat generator or on the circuit paths must be removed

Part 2 of 3: Cleaning circuit board stains

Clean Circuit Boards Step 05

Step 1. Dampen a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol

You should use isopropyl alcohol that contains at least 90% to 100% alcohol. Pour a little alcohol into a small bowl and dip the cotton swab in it. Then squeeze out the excess moisture so that the swab is only slightly damp.

The swab should not drip or leave puddles on the circuit board. Excessive moisture on the circuit paths can cause damage

Clean Circuit Boards Step 06

Step 2. Run the swab over the dirt to loosen it

Look for debris near heat generators and on top of circuit paths. Run the cotton swab lightly over any grime you find until it comes off.

Work with patience instead of force. If you've been working on the dirt for a while and can't get it off, don't apply any more pressure. You just have to switch to using baking soda now

Clean Circuit Boards Step 07

Step 3. Let the alcohol dry

Wait for the alcohol to dry. This will not take more than an hour, usually much less. In the meantime, you can continue brushing on particularly tricky dirt spots to try and get them off.

Alcohol dries much faster than water

Clean Circuit Boards Step 08

Step 4. Use compressed air to blow away the loosened dirt

Hold the can upright and the nozzle a few inches from the circuit board. Spray in short bursts on and around the areas you just cleaned.

If you see battery rust or stubborn dirt that won't come off, you probably need to use baking soda to remove it

Part 3 of 3: Removing heavy rust

Clean Circuit Boards Step 09

Step 1. Try to lightly rub the rust away with a pencil eraser

If your circuit board has a lot of rust that you didn't get clean, you can try lightly rubbing it off with a pencil eraser.

  • This is a good temporary solution so you don't have to use baking soda, as it can damage the circuit board if not used carefully.
  • The eraser method is also particularly useful for cleaning circuit boards with copper components.
Clean Circuit Boards Step 10

Step 2. Mix baking soda and water together and apply to rusty areas

Mix baking soda and a little water in a small bowl until you have a liquid paste. Then dip a cotton swab in the mixture and gently apply it to the rusty parts of the circuit board until they are completely covered.

The swab should be almost dripping so that as much of the mixture as possible soaks into the rusty spots

Clean Circuit Boards Step 11

Step 3. Let the paste dry for a day and then remove the rust

Wait for the paste to completely dry on the circuit board, which usually takes about 24 hours. Then moisten a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol (90% - 100% alcohol) and squeeze out the excess. Use the damp cotton swab to lightly remove the dried paste and rust. Be patient and do not apply too much force.

Clean Circuit Boards Step 12

Step 4. Replace the battery that caused the rust

Rust is usually caused by acid leaking from a battery near the circuit board. You should be able to find the leaking battery pretty easily as it will also be full of rust. Remove the battery with rubber gloves, remove any rust left by the battery in the battery holder and insert the replacement battery.

  • You can recycle your old battery by taking it to an electronics store or recycling center, or by sending it to a specialized recycling service.
  • The information you need to find a replacement battery can usually be found in your computer's documentation and on the battery itself.
  • If you can't find the information you need to replace the battery, you can put the battery in a bag and take it to an electronics store for identification.

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