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What Is The Best Way to Clean Your PCB or Electronic Components?

What Is The Best Way to Clean Your PCB or Electronic Components?

Circuit boards and electronic components can get contaminated from a variety of different sources during assembly which is why final cleaning is important.  There are many different agents and/or materials that need to be cleaned off to keep the circuit board performing properly.  If proper cleaning doesn’t occur, residues can cause corrosion or impede performance.

Circuit boards and any electronic components can be affected by residue from flux, oils and even fingerprints which is why it is necessary to remove them.

How Do You Clean Your Electronic PCB or Components Properly?

The best way to clean a PCB (Printed Circuit board) or any electronic component is contingent on using the right tools and methods. 

The following can be used to manually remove contaminants from circuit boards:

  • Compressed air
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • De-ionized water
  • Solvents or Solvent blends

Water can only be used on sealed components and water-soluble residues.  Otherwise, it will be necessary to use alcohol or a solvent.

Try the following to clean off the PCB manually:

First, disconnect any cables from your PCB.  With a brush, dip the solution you choose to use and then scrub the board to loosen the corrosion or dirt.  Holding the board or component at an angle, rinse with more solvent to flush the contamination towards the edge.  If possible, absorb the contaminated solvent into a wipe.

Lint-free wipes are helpful to pull away the wet residue.

Cleaning Flux From a PCB or Any Other Electronic Component

It is inevitable that when using flux for soldering, it will leave a residue.  No-clean or rosin-flux residues are safe to leave on.  Water-soluble residues, if left on, can cause reliability issues and ultimately damage the board. These residues must be removed with water, preferably deionized water. 

If you choose to remove no-clean resin or a natural rosin flux, you will need a solvent or a semi-aqueous solvent and clean by hand or a cleaning machine.

The type of flux you use can will have an impact on how you clean your device.  No-clean fluxes are harder to remove and will require a stronger flux remover with brushing or a heated solution.

Different Products and Solvents To Help Clean The Flux Off

There are many products and solvents available to do so:

Aerosol Spray With Trigger Grip and Brush:  A trigger grip spray bottle (such as the one pictured) is a great option as the spray-thru brush is continually cleaned.

Aerosol flux removers without Trigger Grips – The pressure helps to remove the flux and they typically have a straw attachment to spray the specific areas more readily.

Spot cleaning – A foam or cotton swab can be doused with any solvent or isopropyl alcohol and spot clean as necessary.

Automated Flux Removal Methods

For bigger cleaning jobs, there are different cleaning machines/equipment that can be used.

Ultrasonic Cleaning equipment:  This machine uses sound waves to help break apart and lift off the flux.  The Ultrasonic machine should use a flux remover that is not flammable.

Inline flux remover:  This machine acts like a carwash for PCB’s as the boards are placed on a conveyor that has a wash, rinse and dry zone.  Typically water-based flux removal agents are used.

Batch flux remover:  This machine acts like a dishwasher for PCB’s.  The boards are placed in a rack and a water-based cleaner is used that sprays the entire assembly.  The board is sedentary and goes through a wash, rinse and then the dry cycle.

Cleaning your circuit board or electronic components is necessary to enhance the performance and prevent damage.  However, the right cleaning method is equally important.

If you have any questions on the best way to clean your components or PCB, please contact or customer service team.  They will be happy to answer any questions.