10 Important Caveats When Cleaning PCBs
Without question printed circuit boards (PCBs) are extremely fragile pieces of equipment. To that end, cleaning them requires proper attention and care. Here are some mistakes to avoid when cleaning PCBs: 1) Avoid using regular vacuums. In addition to possibly being too powerful (air-pressure wise), they may carry a charge that can be damaging in terms of ESD. Instead, use smaller units specifically designed for electronics. 2) Use liquid detergents and water with extreme caution. Some delicate components (older crystals) may be irreparably damaged; this goes for things like labels. 3) Use heat to dry "washed boards" only in controlled amounts. The use of an oven, for example, may be okay, as long as low heat is used and the oven is turned off when the board is put in it. 4) Let only those persons who know what they are doing clean PCBs. This is not something to delegate to just anyone. 5) Read up on the dos and don’ts of PCB cleaning before attempting it. 6) Don’t be afraid to clean up sticky grime, paint, solder flux, etc. These types of debris can impair function in the long run. 7) Corrosion (especially from battery acid) should always be cleaned up. Not doing so risks undergoing continuous damage. 8) Take proper ESD precautions. Some people forget that ESD is still an issue when cleaning PCBs. 9) Avail yourself of the latest products and services. Some of them may save you money and time. 10) Don’t forget to remove any components (even if it involves de-soldering something) that may hamper the cleaning process. Conclusion PCBs, like everything else, do get dirty. While cleaning them can be risky (if damage is brought about), not cleaning PCBs also carries risks, especially if performance is in question, damage has already occurred (for which debris may be blamed), or debris can clearly be seen with the naked eye. Cleaning a PCB can be safely, conveniently and efficiently done, if you follow strict protocols and take all the necessary precautions.