Cleaning A MotherBoard

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k4lmp's picture
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I have an Apple //e Platinum that I am going through and cleaning up. I considered using it as a parts machine for my working Platinum, but it is in pretty good shape, so I thought I'd just go through it and clean it up. The motherboard has had a capacitor leak, which is a 10uf electrolytic. I am going to replace that cap, but I need to clean the acid off of the board. I have heard of people just using soap and water on pc boards, but this scares me. I even read where one guy put one in a dishwasher. How do you guys clean up your motherboards?

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Joined: Dec 19 2003
Posts: 832
Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

Compressed air followed up with a plastic brushing (a clean toothbrush), in a small tub, using anhydrous alcohol (it's for electronics cleaning).

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Joined: Jun 12 2011
Posts: 109
Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

I usually remove any socketed chips and put them through the dishwasher (no soap and no dry cycle).

On occasion, socketed chips are fragile or rare enough that I leave them in. Then I just give the board a good long time to dry after washing.

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Joined: Oct 9 2011
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

I usually go to town with flux cleaner and a new $1 soft bristle toothbrush. I spray the flux cleaner pretty heavy. While its dripping off I brush the board. I typically heat up the toothbrush handle using a torch or heat gun so I can put a right angle in the handle to save my knuckes from scraping on things. Then I use art qtips to clean off the areas between chips and paper towels for the large areas. Then I use a compressor to blow air to get the dirt that is "floating" out. Next I spray the board with 99.9% ISP and repeat the brushing and cleaning. Let it dry overnight and repeat with ISP. Finally let it dry overnight again.

Boards come out perfect.

Trick is don't rush it and don't think about wasting a $15 can of flux cleaner on one motherboard board. You will be amazed at the results.

I have heard about the dishwasher trick but never wanted to risk my marriage by trying it. LOL

Cheers,
Corey

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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

For small jobs like repairs to blown components, I use Acetone on a cloth. (like terrycloth) You have full control of where the cleaner goes plus the right amount of friction to get the job done.

Acetone evaporates quickly and is flammable so take appropriate precautions.

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k4lmp's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

Running the motherboard and bottom chassis through the dishwasher now. I have heard about a lot of people doing this, so I hope it works.

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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

Related war story:

I once bought an Apple III from a recycler. It had been sitting outside, exposed, but covered by an old plotter. It had grass growing out of the keyboard. But what made it really special was the inside. It was a rat nest - packed with straw and paper top to bottom. Gravity operating as it does, the motherboard was a mass of rat excrement glued to the motherboard with rat nest materials like some kind of nightmarish adobe.

I disassembled the system, knocked off the worst of the clumps and put the motherboard through the dishwasher. I had to replace the CPU and some RAM, but ultimately that board worked again. So, I'm a believer in the dishwasher. Wink

k4lmp's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

It came out looking brand new. I've dried it out pretty much as much as I can with a paper towel, and warm air. I have it setting on a dresser under a ceiling heating duct. No hot air, but it will have gentle dry air circulating when the heat runs. I am now working on the keyboard. Call me crazy, but it is in the dishwasher now. I will blow it dry with gentle air when done.

speedyG's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

Another possibilty not discussed here, is to clean the mainboard with dry-ice. Some professional cleaning companies use it for cleaning up cars and motors. It´s the most perfect method to prevent electrical parts from damage and for removing residy and oil rest from the board. - the disadvantage is the cost.... - but if you have a professional company close to your area and you combine the cleaning of the board with a cleaning of the car ( by negotiating with the workcraftsman who executes that task ) the cost can be probably reduced to the cost of the cleaning of the motorarea of your car performed anyhow....
but it´s for sure not the method for "home-use" and it can only be performed with expert and special tool in service unit
sincerely speedyG

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lefevere's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

after removing all movable parts
cleaning the moderboerd with isopropanol (90%), most effective and save

aceton can harm the plastics or printed pads of the board

water can be corrosive on cracks on resistors, soldering, ....

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speedyG's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

lefevere wrote:

after removing all movable parts
cleaning the moderboerd with isopropanol (90%), most effective and save

aceton can harm the plastics or printed pads of the board

water can be corrosive on cracks on resistors, soldering, ....

I agree with these statements and just explain them a little bit further:
At the first view the usage of a dishwasher sounds very well .

... but (!):


if using a dishwasher there are several more unwanted effects:
the cleaner of the dishwasher contain a high percentage of tenside...
they crack the waterskin and reduce the water surface tension and make water more "fluid"...
Apple used throughout all its production time so called "low cost" sockets
this causes the water to "creep" into the sockets and below slotcontacts where the water needs
very much time to dry and where it starts to kickstart corrosion
because tenside also react with metal very active

So at the first sight the board looks very neat and clean ....
but within the sockets and the trimmers the corrosion starts to make much more progress
than it has done before.... causing more malfunctions after few months....
besides: drying takes much more time than you believe, because it´s not the problem of the viewable parts you see outside.... - but more a problem within the inside of the components, where you don´t see that they are still wet...
if you have seen how tenside in dishwasher gets glas to turn blind after several months
you can just imagine a little bit the harm that goes off within the sockets....

just my simple opinion .....
sincerely speedyG

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Joined: Jan 19 2011
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

I've been cleaning circuit boards for decades.
I use Simple Green detergent (non-toxic, biodegradable) and soft water.
An air compressor or fans to help dry off.
Here's a video of me cleaning a vintage synthesizer's boards and keyboard.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwRlZyIG6rg

The only problems I've ever experienced are from certain capacitors (large foil wound types) or ceramic body ICs (which can absorb moisture.)
Past that, never any issues.

I've not tried a dishwasher and have no intentions of doing so.
When I wash a board, I limit the time it's exposed to water and I'm afraid of the lengthy time a dishwasher takes.
I also protect or remove parts that would obviously have problems: transformers, fuses, relays and sometimes certain switches.

Cleaning computer keyboards is quite another story.
Rarely have I seen a keyboard that will not become damaged by water.
Perhaps some earlier ones will do okay, but later membrane types can be problematic.

k4lmp's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

Well, the keyboard is not a membrane type, it has the mechanical keyswitches. I used an air compressor, with the regulator set for low pressure to blow dry everything, including the sockets. I didn't use any detergent in the dishwasher, as Speedy said, I was afraid of the additive that keeps the dishes from spotting, staying on everything, and causing problems. Just plain water. We have never used any of the liquid drying agent that you pour in the little compartment in the door, just the little tablets that you put in the detergent cup. I was leery of using anything like that, so just used water only. I guess time will tell. I have them both sitting right under a heat vent, where the air is very dry when the heat runs, and am cycling the keys on the keyboard every little bit. I'll let you know how it turns out. My dad knows someone who works on radios for emergency services for one of the local counties in the area. He said on the old Motorola stuff, if the boards were nasty, and problematic, he would put them in a sink of soapy water, and clean them, and then immediately dry them. This guy is sharp when it comes to radios. Anyway, I guess we'll see what happens. I have to clean up the rust on the bottom chassis where the acid leaked, and am going to put a coat of paint on the inside part, as the outside looks perfect. Then I will start re-assembling it. I'll update the post when I get it back working (if it works) Smile

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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

speedyG wrote:

the cleaner of the dishwasher contain a high percentage of tenside...
they crack the waterskin and reduce the water surface tension and make water more "fluid"...
Apple used throughout all its production time so called "low cost" sockets
this causes the water to "creep" into the sockets and below slotcontacts where the water needs
very much time to dry and where it starts to kickstart corrosion
because tenside also react with metal very active

I definitely agree that you should not use soap when washing electronics in the dishwasher.

And I agree that the some parts can take a long time to dry - I usually give it a week after cleaning before I reassemble.

However, I have been doing it for years and don't seem to have had an unusual failure rate with boards that have gone through the dishwasher.

I've also put very dirty Apple keyboards through the dishwasher and they have all come out clean and functional (but they do take a long time to dry).

Sample size is small, so I could just be lucky.

k4lmp's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

This has turned out to be a restoration project of sorts. I stripped the case down completely, as the bottom chassis had some rust where the acid from the capacitor had leaked. I took a wire wheel and cordless drill and cleaned it up. I primed and painted the inside portion of the bottom chassis, after taping off the outside part, as it is in great shape. I painted the inside part semi-flat black. It looks really good. Just giving the paint a few days to completely cure. I replaced the electrolytic capacitor last night, and I am ready to start re-assembling the Platinum. The MB and KB have been drying for almost a week now. I will probably start re-assembling tonight.

k4lmp's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

It lives! I re-assembled the keyboard and motherboard into the chassis, re-attached the power supply, put a few cards in, and it booted up. I even put a SoftCard in and booted CP/M. Now to re-populate with the cards I want in permanently, and put the lid back on. The dishwasher worked great, but, I made sure to give everything plenty of time to completely dry.

k4lmp's picture
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Re: Cleaning A MotherBoard

All put back together, and running great. I am using a GBS-8200 tied to the RamWorks III RGB daughterboard, and have it connected to a 15" LCD monitor. I did all the tests on the Master Diag disk, and all checked out OK. It didn't quite know how to check my CFFA3000, though. Smile