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Thread: Cleaning vintage computer motherboards

  1. #1

    Default Cleaning vintage computer motherboards


    What is the best way to clean the motherboard of a vintage computer so that it can be restored to it's original circuit board shine? Most of my collection of computers have been air dusted inside but never fully cleaned.

    What is the best method?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Melbourne, Australia

  3. #3


    I have washed boards with dish soap and a fine brush before as outlined in the above threads. I wouldn't try the dishwasher as it may be so violent that it throws the board around.

    Remove the battery first as it does not like getting wet. Use a small amount of dish soap in warm distilled water; brush it over the board and then rinse thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) with distilled water. Never use tap water or even rain water as the salts will stay behind and cause conductive tracks to form between the smaller pins on the IC's.

    I then blew out most of the water using an air compressor, stood the board up on its edge in the sun for about 2hrs, rotated to the other edge (etc etc) until completely (again I mean completely) dry.

    Most people go wrong with these methods because a) they don't dry the boards before powering back up, b) the IC's / board have some damage which allows water inside them and then causes more damage or c) don't rinse thoroughly with clean distilled water.

    Remember water will tend to hide under SOIC's and any large PCB componants like ISA slots, memory sockets etc. That is why I used a compressor; it's the only way to thoroughly remove water from these areas.

    As above, proceed at your own risk.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Massachusetts, USA


    An air compressor seems to be a somewhat expensive device. Would a can of compressed air do the job?
    I have read posts of at least one person who suggests using a space heater.
    My Retro Computing and Vintage Gaming Blog :

  5. #5


    If you have to do any more than a little cleaning the cost of canned air adds up. You don't need a "shop" air compressor, just something like this. (I have one of these and it's awesome...has much more force than canned air and it never runs out.)

  6. #6

    Default Fixing the Links

    Quote Originally Posted by modem7 View Post
    I've fixed the links directly in the quote.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Central Florida


    I use canned air works fine. Just never vacuum a motherboard. The air being sucked in through the plastic nozzle can generate a static charge. Especially with low humidity.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Connecticut, USA


    I have washed plenty of boards in the dishwasher. Alot of them came out with that pcb shine again. But not all. Some of the worst with industrial grit or rust residue need hand scrubbing. But I use that method. Just dont use the heat dry at the end.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Blog Entries


    Dish soap and water plus air drying work for me. My basement is pretty dry and a couple days is all they need.
    What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
    Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
    Boxed apps and games for the above systems
    Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Dutchess County, New York, USA


    You can buy a small "pancake" air compressor and a cheap hose kit from Harbor Freight for about $55, use a 20% off coupon and save more.
    Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts


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