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Cleaning electronic components

Discussion in 'Electronic Repair' started by Daniel, Jul 6, 2005.

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  1. Daniel

    Daniel Guest

    I recently inherited a large tower computer. Unfortunately the person who
    owned it before must have been a heavy smoker. When starting it up, it puts
    out a pretty stale smell like cigarettes in an ashtray - YUCK. Anyway, there
    your standard mother board, power supply, network card, video card and two
    cooling fans. Any ideas on how I can clean up everything inside so the
    smell will not drive me out of the room. Guess I could just throw out the
    power supply for a start. How can I safely clean the electronic circuit
    boards to get rid of dust and smell?

  2. Kim  Sleep

    Kim Sleep Guest

    All you really can do is remove the Motherboard, and carefully blow as much
    dust off of it as you can with a can of canned compressed air. Clean the
    inside of the case, and cables as much as you possibly can. Remove the fans,
    and carefully clean the blades of the fan. As well, when you get everything
    back together, place a box of baking soda inside of the box.
    Eventually the smell will fade, but not quickly.
  3. Amazing as it sounds, most of the parts in there are totally unaffected
    by water. After all, the circuit boards have already been through a bath
    of molten solder followed by a rinse in a pretty strong solvent or else
    water, depending on the flux that was used.

    Take it apart, as far as you can.

    Spray something like "409" on all the sheet metal, and all the circuit
    boards, and rinse with plenty of hot water. Final rinse in the hottest
    water you have, blot it all off, and put it out in full sunlight to dry
    as quickly as possible. The warmth will help evaporation.

    Make *sure* everything is dry before you put it back together and fire
    it up.

  4. NSM

    NSM Guest

    Here's another way: get some toothbrushes and a can of carpet deodorizer
    from the dollar store. Blow or vacuum as much dust out as you can and use
    the brushes to get rid of any stuck on dirt. Sprinkle the carpet cleaner
    inside on the bottom of the computer but not on electronic parts. Give it a
    few days to absorb what it can and if you can leave it inside while you run
    the computer do so. Eventually vacuum it all out.

    Got rid of a lot of dead herring smell from a rental car that way - don't

  5. none

    none Guest

    Absolutely. We used to recover avionic components that'd sat on the
    ocean floor for days or weeks( downed aircraft) back in my service
    Every component had a specific process of cleaning, all started with
    fresh clean water soaks.
    Like you said though you gotta be sure it's bone dry before energizing
    the circuitry.
    409 works well, I also use something called "Mean Green". Kinda a
    cross between 409 and Simple Green.(Not as caustic as Simple Green and
    won't leave as much residue as 409.)
    I get it at the local Family Dollar stores or my local Wal-Mart.
    I rinse with luke warm water though.(I'm worried that the caps on some
    boards may be the cheap wax sealed not the epoxy ones.)
    I use compressed air to blow it off to minimize the wet time and I
    take care to avoid getting any water in any open transformer coils.(
    tough to get them absolutely dry without a dehumidification cabinet.)
    A hair dryer on warm or hot can speed the process up a bit before
    setting it out in the sun.( I live in a sub-tropic region in the
    south, hot as hell all the time, giving me the benefit of a fast dry
    time in or out of the sun.)
  6. N Cook

    N Cook Guest

    My motto is - If it aint broke don't poke.
    Its only a nasty smell, not harmfull tobacco particles.
    I would just tie some sprigs of lavender or similar over the fan outlet
    or a net bag with pot-pourri in it.
  7. Mike Berger

    Mike Berger Guest

    That's not my experience. Take a look at a radio control
    chassis after sitting in a dispatch room for 15 years where
    smoking was permitted. You get a brown coating on everything
    that's almost impossible to remove.
  8. Daniel

    Daniel Guest

    Thanks for all your helpful tips. I 'm sure I will use most of the them to
    get that nasty smell down erased. And I 'm sure a good blast from an air
    hose would do a lot to help also.

  9. none

    none Guest

    Obviously you smoke or did at one time. So of course you wouldn't find
    it that offensive.
    AND actually it is particles. The unit heats up and cooks off the
    nasty gunk/tar coating that that filthy habit left on there.
    For many it's not just a bad smell, it's a medical allergy.
    I have asthma and a severe medical allergy to tobacco.
    All I have to do to have an attack is just be around a smoker when
    they exhale, disgusting to say the least.
    The main reason I don't work in the repair business as well.
  10. James Sweet

    James Sweet Guest

    Take it apart and gently scrub the boards with warm soapy water, use
    something mild like dish soap for hand washing. Rinse everything off and let
    it dry for a few days then reassemble.

    I've run boards through the dishwasher too with success, though machine wash
    soap can leave residue. You can wash the power supply the same way, just
    take it apart first and remove the fan and anything cardboard.
  11. N Cook

    N Cook Guest

    No one has mentioned removing CMOS back-up battery before wet processing.
    I would not trust ICs to wet , encapsulation against capillary action is not
    for civil packages and IIRC not absolute guarantee for mil spec packages.
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