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How to Clean a Circuit Board of Corrosion

Whether you actively work on electronics projects and devices or just have different modern electrical devices and appliances at your home, you must know the PCBs or printed circuit boards are useful and important.

While these certainly offer a lot of functionality in a compact form factor, they are susceptible to damage in the form of corrosion. Since it can damage your PCB and even cause malfunction, we are here with a complete guide on how to clean a circuit board of corrosion. You can find all of the important related details as well as steps and tools needed for cleaning corrosion by going through this guide till the end.

What is PCB Corrosion?

As you would expect, a PCB uses a lot of metal for its connections as well as its components. And just like any other metallic object which you may use on a daily basis, these metal parts of a PCB are also susceptible to corrosion. This corrosion can damage the metal and even leave your PCB unfunctional due to which cleaning it is highly important.

Reasons for Circuit Board Contamination and Getting Dirty

Even though PCB or printed circuit boards are installed inside different electronics and appliances, they can still get contaminated and dirty. And if you are wondering about how this is caused, then the reasons for the same are quite simple. The primary reason why a circuit board may get contaminated or get dirty is that all devices have gaps and let air inside which also carries dirt, debris, and other contaminants. It can include both wet and dry contaminants which can corrode your circuit board over a long time.

Causes of Corrosion on Circuit Boards

Apart from the reasons why corrosion starts on a circuit board, you may also want to know the specific causes of why the contaminants are able to corrode your circuit board. By knowing the same, you can easily prevent corrosion for your circuit boards in the future. In most circuit boards, aluminum and copper are the primary metals used for all the conductive parts. Unfortunately, both of these metals are fairly reactive and can get corroded by getting in touch with airborne contaminants. Apart from air based contaminants, liquids can also cause corrosion on circuit boards. Both of these can be prevented by keeping your circuit board clean and away from such contaminants.

Detailed Tips on How to Clean a Circuit Board of Corrosion

Now that you know more about corrosion and how it takes place on circuit boards, you may want to clean the existing corrosion from your circuit boards. Although, since you are cleaning a circuit board of corrosion to prevent any damage, it is highly important to ensure that you do not cause any damage from the cleaning process itself either. Hence, before taking a look at the different cleaning agents, tools, and processes, make sure to consider the following safety measurements:

Safety Measurements with Circuit Board Cleaning

To ensure that your circuit board stays functional even after the cleaning process, keep all these safety measurements in mind:

  • Disconnect all circuit board connections before cleaning.
  • Remove all power sources like power adapters and batteries.
  • Avoid using tap water and keep your hands dry at all times.
  • While using isopropyl alcohol, wear gloves to protect your hands.
  • Handle the circuit board and all its parts gently since it can be quite fragile.
  • The cleaning process takes time and hurrying can cause further damage.

Chemical and Non-Chemical Elements Used to Clean Corrosion on Boards

Because corrosion does not come off quite easily, you may need to use some cleaning agents or elements for cleaning corrosion from circuit boards. This includes both chemical and non-chemical based options as given here:

1. Compressed Air

One of the safest cleaning agents for working on circuit boards is compressed air since you can remove rust from a distance. It can also remove any extra dust or debris from your circuit board since you are using high-pressure air.

2. Baking Soda

Since baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate, it even works on tough grime and breaks down the corrosion into smaller pieces. You can then easily clean all the corrosion and debris from your circuit board.

3. Distilled Water

Instead of using tap water, it is recommended to use distilled water for cleaning circuit boards since it does not damage any of the components of your circuit board. This can be great for cleaning your circuit board after you have used a chemical-based cleaning agent.

4. Isopropyl Alcohol

Speaking of chemical-based cleaning agents, isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol can remove all kinds of dirt, debris, flux, and rust from your circuit boards. It is recommended to go with 90% isopropyl alcohol for cleaning circuit boards since it offers the best results.

Tools Necessary to Clean Corrosion from Circuit Boards

Apart from having an effective cleaning agent, you will also need the right tools for cleaning your circuit boards. And since you do not want to damage your circuit board while cleaning it, going with the right cleaning tool is highly important which includes options like the following:

1. Microfiber Cloth or Rug

A microfiber cloth or rug can be great for easily removing dirt and rust as well as any chemical agents that you apply. And since you are using a microfiber one, it will not leave any lint behind.

2. Paintbrush

The soft bristles of a paintbrush can easily get into tight spaces without damaging the circuit board. In fact, these bristles are so soft that they will not even scratch your circuit board which is quite important for protecting your circuit board.

3. Blow Dryer or Hairdryer

Similar to compressed air, a blow dryer or hairdryer works without needing any contact. This can be great for properly cleaning and drying your circuit board which is highly important if you have used liquid cleaning agents and do not want to leave any residue behind.

Steps to Clean Corrosion from Circuit Boards

After you have arranged all the required cleaning agents and tools for working on your circuit board, you can go ahead and follow the given steps to clean corrosion from circuit boards:

  • You have to first open up a given electrical device or appliance and remote its circuit board by disconnecting all connections and power sources.
  • Make sure that you are referring to the right manual for the same while working with the right set of tools.
  • After removing the circuit board, use a cleaning solution like isopropyl alcohol or baking soda solution.
  • Now, use a soft brush to apply it on your circuit board and leave it applied until the rust and dust become soft.
  • You can then remove the grime using a brush and further use distilled water to remove the rest of the dust and corrosion.
  • If there is still hard corrosion left on the circuit board, you can further apply more isopropyl alcohol since it is a stronger agent.
  • Finally, clean with a microfiber rug and dry your circuit board using an air dryer before installing it back inside your electrical device with all its corrosion removed.


Since corrosion can completely damage a circuit board, cleaning it properly is highly important. And up above in this guide, we have not only discussed all the important information regarding circuit board corrosion, but we have also given a proper guide on how to clean a circuit board of corrosion. This includes all the important cleaning elements, cleaning tools, and cleaning steps needed to properly clean your circuit board of corrosion to get it functional back again. If you have gone through all the information regarding how to clean a circuit board of corrosion, make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. You can also post any questions down there if you have any!

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