Why isopropyl alcohol used for cleaning the PCB?

Isopropyl alcohol is a great circuit board cleaner because it is cheap, widely available and evaporates quickly. Compared to other cleaners, alcohol contains fewer chemicals. It is also relatively non-toxic.

Isopropyl alcohol used to clean PCBs should be 90% grade or better. A lower grade is not safe for electronics.

What is isopropyl alcohol?

Isopropyl alcohol is also referred to as IPA, isopropanol and 2-propanol. It dissolves and removes light oils, fingerprints, cutting fluids, flux residues, carbon deposits and mould. It is mixable in water.

Isopropyl alcohol is available in a large number of varieties and grades. Grades are differentiated by the amount of water in the solution. 90% grade means, for example, 90% alcohol to 10% water. The more water isopropyl alcohol contains, the longer it takes to dry.

The general term “rubbing alcohol” is often used for isopropyl alcohol. If you need to clean a PCB, you should avoid products labeled that way. “Rubbing alcohol” does not refer to a specific grade. It may even be a different type of alcohol, like ethanol. It could also contain other ingredients (denaturant, fragrances, colorants) that are potential contaminants.

ASTM D770 is the standard specification for isopropyl alcohol published by ASTM International.

Isopropyl Alcohol

What are the most effective uses of isopropyl alcohol?

Alcohol mixes with water and then evaporates with it. This makes it the best way to remove and prevent corrosion damage from liquid spills on PCBs. If a circuit board has been exposed to water or other liquids, you need to disassemble it first. Then, submerge it in 90% alcohol, clean with a soft-bristled tool and leave it to dry.

It also works as a solder flux remover. Flux can accumulate on the pins of soldered chips. To remove it, dip a brush in alcohol and scrub the PCB gently. Keep scrubbing until the solder flux residue disappears. You should dry the circuit board with a small towel or microfiber cloth.

Is it safe to handle?

Isopropyl alcohol is considered safe if handled properly. Still, precautions need to be taken to avoid accidents. The work area must be ventilated, to avoid the accumulation of vapours. Alcohol vapours may combust and are hazardous to breathe.

High-percentage alcohol draws protective oils from the skin. Prolonged exposure can cause itching, dryness and skin rash. Make sure to handle it with gloves made of solvent-resistant materials. Use goggles or a face shield if there is a risk of splashing.

Isopropyl alcohol brands and products

ConRo Electronics, as an electronic manufacturing and cleaners distributor, offers a wide choice of IPA from major manufacturers such as Surclean and Ambersil

We’ll show you how to improve product reliability while increasing performance and lowering costs. Our team of technical support specialists will provide your company with dependable global supply, unrivalled efficiency, and superior technical support.

Feel free to contact us on 0208 953 1211 or send us an email to info@conro.com

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