PCB Corrosion: Causes And How To Clean And Prevent

When it comes to printed circuit boards (PCBs), corrosion can be a nightmare. Not only can it cause serious damage to your PCBs, but it can also be a major safety hazard. As electronic devices become more complex and sophisticated, preventing corrosion is becoming increasingly important.

As a leading PCB manufacturer, Fubon Precision understands the importance of preventing corrosion in printed circuit boards. We know that corrosion not only damages PCBs but can also pose a safety risk. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the best practices for PCB corrosion prevention, including tips and tricks for proper handling, storage, and maintenance. So whether you’re a seasoned engineer or a novice hobbyist, read on to learn how to keep your PCBs in top shape and avoid the headaches of corrosion.

What Is PCB Corrosion?

Corrosion is the natural process of oxidation that occurs when metal is exposed to oxygen, causing it to rust and lose its valuable chemical properties. Printed circuit boards, which are primarily composed of metal, are susceptible to corrosion over time due to their exposure to oxygen.

As a result, it is important to take steps to prevent corrosion, such as using high-quality materials and implementing proper handling, storage, and maintenance practices. By doing so, PCB manufacturers can ensure that their products are resistant to corrosion in PCB and will perform reliably over the long term.

PCB (Printed Circuit Board) corrosion can lead to electrical and electronic component failures, so it’s important to understand its causes, how to clean it, and how to prevent it. PCB corrosion typically occurs due to environmental factors, such as moisture, contaminants, and oxidation. Here’s a comprehensive guide on PCB corrosion:

Causes of PCB Corrosion:

Environmental Moisture: Exposure to humidity, condensation, or even direct contact with water can lead to corrosion. Moisture can seep into the PCB through unsealed openings or damaged solder joints.

Contaminants: Dust, dirt, and airborne pollutants can accumulate on the PCB surface, providing a conducive environment for corrosion. These contaminants can trap moisture and promote oxidation.

Chemical Exposure: PCBs can corrode if they come into contact with corrosive chemicals, including cleaning solvents, flux residues, or acids.

Electrochemical Reactions: Dissimilar metals on the PCB, like copper traces and solder joints, can create galvanic corrosion when exposed to moisture or contaminants. This occurs due to the different electrochemical potentials of these metals.

Sulfur and Chlorine Exposure: PCBs can corrode when exposed to materials that contain sulfur or chlorine compounds. These elements can react with the metals on the PCB and lead to corrosion.

Cleaning PCB Corrosion:

Power Off: Before cleaning a corroded PCB, ensure it’s disconnected from any power source to prevent electrical hazards.

Disassemble: If possible, remove components or connectors attached to the PCB to allow better access for cleaning.

Brushing: Use a soft-bristle brush or an anti-static brush to gently remove loose contaminants and dust from the PCB surface.

Solvent Cleaning: Use a mild, non-conductive solvent like isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or acetone to clean the PCB. Apply the solvent to a lint-free cloth or swab and wipe the PCB surface gently. Ensure the PCB is dry before reassembly.

Ultrasonic Cleaning: For more thorough cleaning, an ultrasonic cleaner can be used with an appropriate cleaning solution. This method can help remove contaminants from tight spaces.

Neutralizing Chemical Exposure: If the corrosion is caused by exposure to chemicals, neutralize the chemicals first before cleaning. Consult the chemical’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for guidance.

Preventing PCB Corrosion:

Conformal Coating: Apply a conformal coating to the PCB, which acts as a protective barrier against moisture and contaminants. Common coatings include acrylic, silicone, and urethane.

Sealing: Ensure the PCB and its enclosures are properly sealed to prevent moisture from entering. Gaskets, O-rings, and sealed connectors can help.

Humidity Control: Store and operate electronic devices in controlled environments with low humidity levels to minimize moisture-related corrosion.

Proper Material Selection: Choose materials with high resistance to corrosion, such as gold-plated contacts or components designed for harsh environments.

Regular Maintenance: Periodically inspect and clean PCBs to remove contaminants and address any corrosion at its early stages.

Galvanic Isolation: Avoid using dissimilar metals in close proximity on the PCB to prevent galvanic corrosion. Use barriers or insulating materials if necessary.

By following these practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of corrosion and maintain the performance and functionality of your electronic devices over time. It is also important to work with a reputable PCB manufacturer that understands the importance of corrosion prevention and uses high-quality materials and processes.

At Fubon Precision, we are committed to providing our customers with the highest quality PCBs that are designed to meet their specific needs and requirements. We use state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques and train a team of experienced professionals. Committed to ensuring the highest level of quality and reliability in PCBs, providing our customers with the best possible product foundation.
We take great pride in our work and are confident that our PCBs will exceed your expectations. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you with your next PCB project.