How to Clean an Electronic Circuit Board After It Got Wet

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Accidents happen, and electronics often get wet when dropped in water or exposed to rain. Cleaning a wet electronic circuit board quickly and properly is important to avoid permanent damage. This guide explains the steps to safely clean an electronic circuit board that has been exposed to liquid.

Materials Needed

To properly clean a wet circuit board, you will need the following materials:

Dry Cleaning Materials

  •  Paper towels or clean cloths
  •  Q-tips
  •  Compressed air or air duster spray
  •  Isopropyl alcohol (99% is ideal)
  •  Soft brush or toothbrush

For Extremely Wet Situations

  •  Distilled or deionized water
  •  Tweezers or needle nose pliers
  •  Baking soda

Immediate Action Steps

As soon as you realize your circuit board has gotten wet:

  1. Remove power source – Unplug from wall outlet if necessary
  2. Remove battery – Take out any batteries powering the device
  3. Carefully disassemble device to access circuit board – Use proper tool to avoid damage
  4. Drain excess liquid – Hold board at angle to drain out as much liquid as possible

Thoroughly Drying the Circuit Board

  • Use paper towels or clean cloths to soak up any pools or puddles of liquid on the circuit board
  • Gently blot top and bottom of board to absorb moisture
  • Use compressed air to blow lingering droplets out of tight spaces and crevices
  • Use Q-tips to absorb moisture from hard to reach areas
  • Allow board to air dry completely before reconnecting power (may take 24-48 hours)

Cleaning with Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) helps displace moisture and clean away any dissolved particles left behind after water exposure.

To clean with IPA:

  • Apply a small amount of IPA to a cotton swab or soft brush
  • Gently scrub any corrosion, residue, or sticky spots on the board
  • Use compressed air to accelerate drying
  • Allow board to fully dry before reapplying power

Cleaning Extremely Wet Boards

For boards exposed to large amounts of water or that were submerged, additional steps should be taken:

Rinsing

  • Fill container with distilled or deionized water
  • Submerge board to rinse away any particles and impurities
  • Use tweezers or pliers to gently agitate or scrub debris

Drying

  • Remove board and drain excess water
  • Blot dry with paper towels or air dry
  • Use isopropyl alcohol and compressed air to remove lingering moisture

Baking Soda Bath

  • Create a diluted baking soda bath by mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda per 1 cup of water
  • Submerge board and let soak for 30-60 minutes
  • The baking soda neutralizes any remaining corrosion
  • Rinse board with clean water afterwards

Reassembly and Testing

Once the circuit board is completely dry:

  • Carefully reassemble the device
  • Reconnect power source
  • Power on and test functionality
  • Monitor for issues – additional cleaning may be required if corrosion is severe

With proper technique, an electronic circuit board can be cleaned after water exposure and restored to working order. Quick action is key to limit any permanent damage. Be sure to fully dry boards before reconnecting power.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it safe to power on an electronic device before cleaning and drying out the circuit board?

No, do not reconnect power or attempt to turn on an electronic device before thoroughly cleaning and drying the circuit board. Powering on electronics with lingering moisture can cause short circuiting, corrosion, and permanent component damage.

2. How long should I wait before reconnecting power after the circuit board gets wet?

You should allow at least 24-48 hours of air drying time before attempting to power on an electronic device after water exposure. This gives sufficient time for any residual moisture deep in crevices or under components to fully evaporate. Reconnecting power too soon risks short circuiting.

3. What percentage of isopropyl alcohol should be used to clean an electronics circuit board?

99% isopropyl alcohol is ideal for cleaning wet circuit boards. The higher the percentage, the better it can displace moisture. 70% or 91% alcohol can also work but may take longer to fully dry. Avoid using rubbing alcohol, which contains additives.

4. Are there any DIY solutions like rice or silica packets that can dry out a wet phone?

Home remedies like rice, silica gel packs, or cat litter are not recommended. They are ineffective at drying compact electronics and the dust/debris can further contaminate the board. Best practice is to use clean absorbent towels, compressed air, isopropyl alcohol and allow extended air dry time.

5. How can I avoid getting my electronics wet in the future?

  • Use waterproof cases or dry bags when taking devices near water
  • Keep electronics away from sinks, tubs, pools, sprinklers
  • Install moisture sensors in leak-prone areas
  • Handle devices carefully around children and pets
  • Never use electronic devices in the bathroom
  • Turn off and store devices when not in use

Taking preventative measures helps minimize the chance of electronics getting wet. But if an accident does occur, following these cleaning steps can often salvage wet circuit boards. Let us know if you have any other electronic water damage questions!