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 Post subject: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed air
PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:29 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:36 am
Posts: 59
Location: Norfolk, UK
Hi all

As part of some recent PC problems I've been having, I am taking my PC apart and giving it a good clean out. Aside from compressed air, what other methods are recommended for cleaning the motherboard and other PCB boards? I was thinking/hoping to brush of the dust and dirt, but I presume a synthetic brush would cause static. How about a natural fibre brush like those made from animal hair, etc.? Is it OK to use those?

Are any other methods recommended?

Cheers

Max


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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 4:11 am 
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Location: Australia
Most of the online PC stores here have antistatic brushes for sale for a few bucks - I would look for one of those before using any old brush just in case. Destroying components or even making them unstable due to static damage isn't a lot of fun.


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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:57 am 
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What's wrong with compressed air? :)

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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:38 am 
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Compressed air won't clean off dirt caked on if it's been in a smoker's home. Even if you get most of it off, it will still stink like cigarettes.

On a motherboard I bought a long time ago (from a smoker), I took the heatsinks off and washed them with soap+water, and just used a jewellers screw driver to clean off the big pieces, and a toothbrush to scrub the rest off.

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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:58 am 
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Location: Essex, England
I have been using dirt cheap paint brushes (small ones, 1/2 inch + 1 inch) + vacuuming for years.

I had no idea there was such a thing as an "anti-static" brush for such purposes, but I suspect that such a thing is pretty pointless in reality.

My only suggestion would be to be careful whilst doing the cleaning job, such as don't move capacitors, don't touch anything you shouldn't with the bit of metal that clamps the bristles to the end of the brush, be careful with fans - they are much easier to damage than you realise and although it might be entertaining to make them spin at 10,000 rpm with a vacuum cleaner it buggers up the bearings as well as the motor.

As far as static is concerned all you have to do is be sensible, don't put on a fluffy woolen jumper and roll around on a carpet that is prone to static build up, don't touch the PCB with your fingers and so on, and I suggest turning off the PC, pull the mains cable and press the power button a few times as this will discharge the capacitors in the PSU and elsewhere.

I best add, I am a full time computer engineer, and I have brushed and vacuumed hundreds of motherboards, graphics cards, sound cards, network cards and stick of RAM over the years, I have never broken any of them, and I have never used an anti-static wrist band or any other anti-static device such as a mat - not that I am suggesting that you should do the same, I am merely stating that damaging PCB's whilst using a vacuum cleaner and brushing is far more challenging than many people believe, mostly because all PCB's made in recent years are coated with a lacquer that is there to stop static damage - NOTE: I am not stating that it is impossible, just that I have never caused any damage personally.

I have however broken or damaged some fans in my time, which is why I suggest using a great deal of caution.

One final point to make, static buildup and subsequent damage may vary a great deal where you are. Here in the UK we have carpets that don't create static easily unlike the ones made a few decades ago, and also static buildup happens much easier in low-humidity environments, the UK is generally not considered a low humidity place, and by sheer luck the brushes I have used over the years might have just been the right type to avoid static buildup and discharges - your mileage may vary.

A couple of suggestions about PC's and laptops that have been exposed to all of the vile chemicals caused by burning tobacco covered in additional evil chemicals added during a factory process, everything is sticky, dust and fluff sticks to the sticky smoke and simply put it builds up and clogs everything. I have often gad to remove the CPU heatink, remove the fan and soak the whole heatsink on boiling water with detergent to shift the orange/brown gunge and use a knife to carefully de-gunge each fan blade individually, you may even need to replace the fan as the bearing my be screwed up and it wont have helped that the fan has had additional weight added to it which wont have done the motor any good either. If you are going to remove the heatsink from the CPU, make sure that you don't damage the pins if you end up taking the heatsink off and the CPU comes out of the socket with it, and make sure you have some IPA and thermal paste to hand as you cant simply put the heatsink back on once it has been removed as the thermal paste dries hard over a few weeks/months.

NOTE: Compressed air in a can is very cold and can cause instant condensation and due to the cold can damage components because some may shrink and others may not although condensation is the main concern. Its ideal in very short bursts for small amounts of clean dust (not tar infested gunge) or for places that you cant get to with a brush, but be warned it can damage things.


Andy

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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:39 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:36 am
Posts: 59
Location: Norfolk, UK
Morning all. Glad I checked in here to see these replies. Did not expect to see them here after a month, so it was a pleasant surprise...!

The PC is working fine and quietly since the clean up. No issues and no damage caused by using a brush and vacuum.

I thought I might add a note about brushes... It just so happens that i am doing a lot of DIY and painting in the house at the moment. I wanted to get some decent paint brushes (I've always used any old crap in the past) and so did a bit of research. It turns out that you mainly get two different types of brush; synthetic and natural fibre. It's not so much a case of one being better, more that synthetic are used for water based paints and natural for oil based. I never knew that before, and now that I do I thought I'd share it.

So I ended up buying a set for DIY/painting, but whilst there I got a set for PC cleaning too; making sure they were natural bristle. I bought this set:

http://www.protoolsdirect.co.uk/hamilto ... -decorator

Great price. Good quality (should not lose any/many bristles). Good sizes. I've put some insulation tapes around the metal ferrules to prevent accidental damage.

Thanks for all the helpful replies and the input.

Max


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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:45 am 
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andyb wrote:
One final point to make, static buildup and subsequent damage may vary a great deal where you are.


Amen.

A good rule of thumb is to touch a ground point in your room before touching the PC. I'm not in a low humidity environment, but regularly hear static discharge when I remove my fleece (polyester) jacket in my office. I have a master power strip with a ground point - so, it's SOP to take off the jacket/touch the power strip (zap)/work on the PC.

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 Post subject: Re: Ways to clean mobos and PCB boards APART from compressed
PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:12 am 
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andyb wrote:
I best add, I am a full time computer engineer, and I have brushed and vacuumed hundreds of motherboards, graphics cards, sound cards, network cards and stick of RAM over the years, I have never broken any of them, and I have never used an anti-static wrist band or any other anti-static device such as a mat - not that I am suggesting that you should do the same, I am merely stating that damaging PCB's whilst using a vacuum cleaner and brushing is far more challenging than many people believe, mostly because all PCB's made in recent years are coated with a lacquer that is there to stop static damage - NOTE: I am not stating that it is impossible, just that I have never caused any damage personally.


How would you know if you damaged them or not. You can do damage to circuits that is not immediately fatal. And if an old piece of equipment you touched subsequently fails before its time, how would you know if you were or were not that cause. It was already old. It had been repaired at least once already. Even if the failure was a result of damage done by your handling, who would likely lay blame at your handling?

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