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Cleaning Motherboards: What Tools and Materials should I Use?

What are the best methods and tools to clean a motherboard? I am new to repairs and find it best to repair what I own than buy something new, if I can. However, I am new to it and could use help.

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Hi @mat223740 ,

They tools and materials highly depend on what you want to clean and often you need to use these tools. I am pretty sure that you need to have all the essentials which are:

-Isopropyl Alcohol (99% or above)

-Cotton swabs

-Foam swabs

-Toothbrush

-Compressed air

You can get most cleaning jobs done with these simple and inexpensive tools, from removing flux and thermal paste from the boards.

Canned compressed air is quite expensive for what they are but you can use them as a freeze spray for short detection if you spray them upside down. I use a 9L air compressor to blow off the dust of the boards before any repair job.

If you are a bit more serious about repairing electronics, or you are planning to repair motherboards on a daily basis you can invest in an Ultrasonic Cleaner. There are hundreds of different models available. I highly suggest purchasing one with a big enough tank (3 litre or more) to fit all sorts of motherboards in it. I also recommend getting one with a 'degas' function which gets rid of the air bubbles in the solution before the cleaning process, resulting in a cleaner result.

Stay away from the cheap Chinese jewellery cleaners. When it comes to cleaning solutions, again, huge availability in different products, just make sure you get one which is designed to clean PBCs and not rust remover for mechanical parts.

After ultrasonic cleaning I usually submerge the boards in an alcohol bath to displace water that may be trapped under the chips and then bake them in the oven to dry them out. You can also use the compressed air to dry the alcohol off but sometimes the friction can cause static sparks and could damage some delicate circuits. So be careful.

Hope this helps!

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Just to add to the excellent honekrisi answer, the ultrasonic cleaner should have the sweep function that generate multiple and variables ultrasonic frequencies during the cleaning to protect the delicates components on the logic cards. Many techs use the Crest ultrasonic cleaners that offers all theses features.

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I found that using a toothbrush works really well, rubbing some isopropyl works too, I would use a antistatic strap as I once fried a board (whoops) but you should be good :)

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A soft anti static brush and maybe some isopropyl alcohol. If you are removing the board out of the case (assuming it is just a plane ATX board) you would probably meet a screwdriver (Philips or flathead or possibly even Torx) and some thermal paste for the CPU and some care. Also, it would not hurt to have a anti static wristband but you could get away with just touching a grounded surface but a proper wristband is better. That is about all I can thing off of the top of my head.

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A simple cheap natural bristle (not the stiff plastic bristles) paintbrush works just fine for most cleaning.

A little canned air finishes the job in most cases.

Just take it easy with the brush, as it's not hard to knock off very small components that aren't soldered well.

A light touch is all that it takes.

That said, I've had a motherboard from a chain-smoking household that had such a coating of nicotine tar on it that I used a liquid spray called boardwash to spray the whole board and then used the paintbrush to lightly scrub the board.

I then rinsed the whole board with water in the sink, and after using compressed air to (softly) mostly dry the board, set it outside in the sun all day to dry.

I didn't power-on this board for a week, and when I did it was fine, and hardly smelled at all.

I can no longer find boardwash at the electronic supply store, but another product called Flux Remover does just fine.

Just remember, if you do use any liquid, DO NOT power on the board until well after it is COMPLETELY dry.

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