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How to Clean an Electronic Circuit Board After It Got Wet

Updated February 21, 2017

Circuit boards can be found in some form inside all of our electronic devices. Despite our best efforts, these devices can get wet. Whether is if from spills to the occasional dunk in the sink or toilet, the outside casing is not the only part of the machine that can be affected. If water or any other liquid gets inside the device, it can reach the circuit boards and cause the device to stop working. Cleaning the board can sometimes restore functionality once the board is dry.

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  1. Unplug the electronic device immediately after the spill. Any sort of liquid can potentially cause a shock when combined with electric current. Protect yourself by removing any source of power to a wet device.

  2. Disassemble the device to expose the circuit board. Take the device apart carefully, according to its directions. You want to put it back together afterward, so the outer parts should stay intact.

  3. Soak up any remaining liquid with a lint-free cloth. Do not use paper products, since these could leave lint or scratch the board. Do not rub any cloth on the circuit board, since this could scratch or dislodge the parts. Place the cloth over the board and press gently. This will soak up the liquid.

  4. Remove the worst of any remaining particles by brushing with a toothbrush. This includes any globs of dried liquid. It does not need to be perfect at this stage. Remove any dust or loose pieces of dried liquid by spraying compressed air. Spray in one direction in quick bursts, since the canister can become extremely cold if used for longer sprays.

  5. Rinse the circuit board with clean or distilled water to remove any sticky materials. If your circuit board was wet by clean water and you did not have to remove dried materials, you may be able to skip this. Pat the board gently with a cloth to remove the majority of the moisture and allow it to dry completely.

  6. Clean any residue off the circuit board using a cotton swab. Moisten the cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol. Do not use a dripping wet swab. Swab gently in stubborn areas and be careful not to upset the components. The alcohol should take care of most of the work without rubbing.

  7. Remove and replace any obviously damaged components. Some of the parts may have been damaged during initial contact with the liquid. You will not see any damage from your efforts to clean if you took care to avoid displacing the parts of the board. Replace any parts that are visibly damaged.

  8. Reassemble the device and test it. Many devices, from cellphones to computer keyboards, can survive a brief spill or dunking by drying and cleaning them, and they will continue to work after you put them back together.

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Things You'll Need

  • Cotton swabs
  • 90% isopropyl alcohol
  • Compressed air
  • Lint-free cloth

About the Author

Nicole Whitney

Nicole Whitney began writing professionally in 2008. She has authored in-house training documentation for quality assurance in insurance applications. With many credits coming from a stint in classics, Whitney holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Assumption College.

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