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Computer Components

Is Isopropyl Alcohol Safe for Electronics?

Isopropyl alcohol is not just safe for cleaning electronics, but actually one of the best ways of cleaning circuit boards and other types of electronic components. There are some important distinctions though.

Concentration

Use 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol. Lower concentrations contain more water, which will cause shorts in your electronics. This is probably one of the most important things to think about before you start using this type of alcohol on your electronics.

If you’re not sure which one to buy just purchase one that is advertised as isopropyl alcohol for electronics.

Power Off and Unplug From a Power Source Anything You’re About to Clean

Always turn off and unplug devices or circuit boards or anything electronic before cleaning them with isopropyl.

Application: Use only a little bit each time. Apply to a lint free cloth or cotton swab than directly on the component.

Evaporation

Let the alcohol evaporate before turning on or connecting the device or electronic board.

Caution with screens: Be careful with LCD screens because alcohol can damage their coatings. It’s not the best idea to use this type of alcohol on screens.

Avoid certain materials: Don’t use on components made of acrylic, rubber or certain plastics because pretty much any type of alcohol will degrade them.

Types of Contaminants

Isopropyl alcohol is good at removing:

  • Dust and debris
  • Oils from skin contact
  • Residue from adhesives or stickers
  • Light oxidation on metal contacts

Specific Components

  • Circuit boards: Alcohol is generally safe for circuit boards but avoid oversaturating.
  • Connectors: Great for cleaning USB ports, headphone jacks,and other connectors.
  • Keyboards: Effective for cleaning key caps and between keys.
  • Fans: Can remove dust buildup on fan blades.

Application Methods

  • Cotton swabs: Ideal for precise cleaning of small areas.
  • Microfiber cloths: Best for larger surfaces.
  • Soft bristled brushes: Can be dipped in alcohol for stubborn dirt.

Safety Aspects

  • Ventilation: Work in a well ventilated area because isopropyl alcohol fumes are not good for you and can even make you feel high or light headed.
  • Flammability: Keep away from heat sources and open flames.
  • Skin contact: Wear gloves to prevent drying out your skin.

Alternatives to Isopropyl Alcohol

Compressed air: For removing dust without liquid.

Electronic contact cleaner: Specialized products designed for sensitive components.

Distilled water: For less sensitive parts, when used very lightly.

Frequency of Cleaning

  • Regular dusting: Weekly or monthly, depending on the environment.
  • Deep cleaning: Every 9 to 12 months for most devices and electronic components. Human and pet hair and dust balls are some of the worst types of clogging debris for electronics.

Specific Device Aspects

  • Smartphones: Be extra careful around speakers, microphones and cameras.
  • Laptops: Avoid directly spray the cooling vents and fan intakes with alcohol.
  • Desktop PCs: Focus on dust buildup in cases and on components.

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