How to Clean PCBs and Electronics Using Ultrasonic Cleaners?

Dirt and dust can heavily affect the working of printed circuit boards (PCB), which are majorly used in various electronic devices such as computers, electronic appliances, and other multi-functional devices.

For many years there have been many queries regarding their cleaning issues. Being a delicate part, you cannot expect to clean and restore it manually. Thus it needs some skilled cleaning and recommendations.

ultrasonic PCB cleaner
The front of the DSi PCB. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For now, gadgets such as ultrasonic PCB cleaner can help to clean these delicate parts very efficiently.

And due to their easy usage, these are being used in various technological departments, industries as well as electronic repairing shops.

These ultrasonic cleaners for electronics are ideal for restoring and cleaning even complex PCB boards and also for various other electronic components in a safe and efficient manner.

Here in this article, we will be specifically talking about how to use these ultrasonic PCB cleaning devices to ease your task related to restoring old PCBs and electronics.

But before we proceed with how these ultrasonic cleaning machines work, let us take a quick look at how to clean electronic circuit boards with alcohol (without using any advanced machines).

How To Clean Electronic Circuit Board?

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(The Traditional Way)

PCBs are typically made from layers of fiberglass and copper that are glued together. Over time these contacts can get worn out or damaged.

It’s very much possible to repair the faults by using proper PCB cleaners, adhesive copper tape, and soldering.

However, you need to have a good knowledge of them before you get them repaired on your own.

Cleaning the PCB flux and your electronic circuit board is also important (especially after soldering) in order to enhance the productivity of your electronic product.

By using high-grade alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol), you can thoroughly clean these boards in just a few simple steps.

  1. Take a ceramic dish and fill it with recommended alcohol grade
  2. Take a clean, soft toothbrush and dip it in alcohol
  3. Gently scrub the electronic circuit board from both the sides
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 a few times until the board appears to be thoroughly wet and clean
  5. Now take the air canister to blow dry the PCB board. Your board is now clean and ready for use

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is one of the greatest PCB cleaners as it is inexpensive to use.

Unlike other cleaning agents, alcohol does not contain harmful chemicals that can damage your printed circuit boards when cleaning.

Plus, it evaporates quickly, so you need not worry about drying.

How Does An Ultrasonic Cleaner for Electronics Work?

Ultrasound technology has been used for many years in many fields such as medicine, electronic gadgets, the military, and much more.

The best thing about using these devices is that you can safely use them device for restoring varied electronic items like logic boards, PC and laptop motherboards, coils, circuit boards, laptop keyboards, etc.

You can also use the cleaner to clear PCBs after wave bonding, so you can easily begin the bonding procedure fast.

However, ensure that you permit the boards to cool down to less than 70 degrees before beginning the cleaning process.

Besides cleaning, this premium cleaning gadget certainly helps to improve SIR results, increasing reliability, and reducing rework.

How does it work?

Ultrasonic cleaner for circuit boards works on the rule of cavitation that occurs when small microscopic bubbles formed fall from colliding violently on the cleaning surface.

Consistent creation and collision of the bubbles work as a scrubbing agent, which in turn cleans the product very easily within no time.

The ultrasonic electronic parts cleaner machine operates at the frequency of 20-400 Khz allowing safe cavitation cleaning action that reaches all parts of the surface for cleaning the PCBs.

Furthermore, one can rest assured about the protection of their electronic parts as most of the units are provided with an “auto sweep” function that eliminates any potential damage that may be possible if you clean them any other way.

The truth is even your electronics like motherboards that have very delicate solder joints can also be safely cleaned in these devices as the process is very safe and highly advanced.

The cleaning process hardly takes 10-15 minutes, so you can save lots of time and money in the long run.

What are The Best Ultrasonic Cleaners for Electronics?

Ultrasonic cleaners manufactured by top brands like iSonic, Tek Motion, Flexzion, Vevor, and Mophorn is best to use commercial purposes, especially when you want to restore multilayer PCBs and other electronic parts.

These cleaning machines (available at the Amazon store) are highly versatile and can be used for cleaning various other industrial products (no matter metal or plastic).

Based on the capacity of the cleaning tank and features, these may come at a price range from $50 to $500.

We highly recommend checking your specific requirements and the consumer reviews before you pick one of them.

Considerations When Buying An Ultrasonic PCB Cleaner

Ultrasonic electronics cleaners for PCB assemblies and circuit boards come in a wide range of sizes and functionalities.

Even with a bit of knowledge about physics, a DIY ultrasonic PCB cleaner can be made at your own convenience if you wish to do so.

In case you want to clean small size PCB boards or parts, you can get a portable cleaning device that comes at a low cost.

However, for larger operations and PCB sizes, there are advanced ultrasonic PCB cleaner machines with varied sizes available.

As no same cleaner work in a similar manner, and also they vary in price, you should invest some time in getting the right cleaning device as per the features you need.

Since many brands with different functionalities are available in the market, it makes sense to browse and choose the one after checking the reviews.

Do not forget to compare different models and top brands before you make a final buying decision. hopefully, after a bit of careful research, you can easily get one online that best suits your requirement.

What Type of Ultrasonic Cleaner Solution to Use for Electronics?

Although plain tap water can be used for cleaning, using an ultrasonic cleaning solution is highly recommended if you want to clean the most stubborn stains from your items.

The good thing is you can buy these PCB cleaning fluids and solutions online or can make a solvent at home for cleaning your PCBs and other electronic products.

iSonic concentrate is one good option just in case you want to buy a good fluid for removing flux from PCBs.

The brand is well known for manufacturing the most reliable ultrasonic-safe products that are good to use at home as well as in industries.

For using the iSonic solution or powder, all you need is to dilute it in water and add it to the ultrasonic machine.

Electronics And Water: Should You Worry?

The majority of people have the wrong credence that PCBs or electronic components should not be immersed in the fluid.

However, this is not true with ultrasonics and electronics!

Since an ultrasonic cleaning device cannot work without water or a cleaning solution, you cannot clean your electronic parts into it if that was correct.

The fact is – that water is dangerous for electronics only when your electronic component is plugged-in. While it’s unplugged, these can be placed safely in a cleaning liquid.

For safer outcomes, the only thing you need to remember is to dry out the parts safely using a dryer that uses the ultrasonic drying method.

Is Deionized Water Safe for Cleaning Electronics?

Deionized water is a type of water that’s processed through an advanced filtration system.

The filtration process removes all the impurities and leaves behind 100% pure water, which is about four times as pure as distilled water.

Deionized water for cleaning is a relatively new concept, which is being used popularly to clean various objects at home as well as in industries.

Using deionized water in the ultrasonic electronic cleaner is safe as well as efficient for cleaning the electronics.

However, you need to be careful in order to avoid the deposition of eliminated deposits back to the contact points of the parts when you remove the electronics from the water bath.

After you have safely washed and removed the electronic parts from the ultrasonic bath, you need to clean the contact points using a chemical cleaner.

This will avoid the deposition of the contaminants to the most critical contact points which may cause issues while operating your electronics.

How Do You Remove Moisture From PCB?

Removing moisture from PCBs needs them to bake at about 105 C or higher, depending on how much moisture you want to get removed.

Keeping your electronics and PCBs safe from moisture is also important and can be done by applying a conformal coating and then placing it into a protective enclosure.

What are the Other Good PCB Cleaners I Can Use for Cleaning?

The easiest way to remove deposited dust or other light debris from a PCB is to simply brush it with an old toothbrush or a paintbrush.

Make sure you use a clean, dry brush for cleaning, and if required, use a proper PCB cleaning fluid.

Many people recommend cleaners like wd40, acetone, nail polish remover, wd40, hand sanitizer, etc., for cleaning flux and removing PCB coating before soldering.

However, you should know that these can be strong chemicals to use on sensitive electronic components.

Some of these may adversely affect the materials used in the making of PCB and may also cause corrosion. Hence, we do not recommend using them unless you are very sure.

The bottom line

Ultrasonic cleaners offer a clear advantage over spray washing. In fact, this is the safest way by which you can remove contaminants that are susceptible to damage PCBs and other electronic parts.

These ultrasonic cleaner machines also work good remove the flux, tenacious residues, dirt, and grime within a few minutes.

However, the device needs a good cleaning solution to get the desired cleaning results.

Why not choose the best ultrasonic cleaner along with the right solution for cleaning electronics and spare parts?