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Brake cleaner is cheap and cleans PCBs really well

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duckduck:
Late to the party, but I'm now privvy to the dirty little secret: brake cleaner works great for cleaning PCBs and is cheap as chips (USD6 for 822 grams). I'm using CRC Brakleen Pro-Series Brake Parts Cleaner which is mainly trichloroethylene. Chlorinated hydrocarbons are famous for being toxic to the liver and central and peripheral nervous systems, depleting the ozone layer, contributing to global warming, causing liver and kidney cancers, and being great degreasers. I was cleaning up a used bass guitar amplifier last night. I got it for cheap because it was having issues with intermittent noise in the output. The PCBs had 15-year-old flux on them which easily wiped away with a Q-tip soaked with Brakleen. It didn't damage the lettering or soldermask. At an absolute minimum, I would recommend going outdoors and wearing safety glasses if you are going to use this vile chemical. I'm probably going to throw on my VOC respirator and put on gloves, too. Between the Brakleen, some Deoxit, and a little elbow grease, the amp is now noise free -- depending on your opinion of hard rock/funk/metal bass.  ;D

In the USA brake cleaner is also sold in non-chlorinated flavors. From decades of experience working on cars (as an avocation), I feel comfortable saying that it doesn't work worth a flip for degreasing. Check the label before you buy. My local Wal-Mart has stopped selling brake cleaner (and CRC-brand electronics cleaner, which does an amazing job of cleaning motorcycle plastics without damaging them). Not sure if they are gaining a conscience or (more likely) someone in corporate ran the numbers and there isn't enough money in it to justify the liabilities of shipping/stocking/selling such dangerous chemicals.

EDIT:

I learned about brake cleaner for PCB cleaning from YouTuber SDG Electronics.

EDIT EDIT:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichloroethylene
https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/documents/trichloroethylene.pdf

EDIT EDIT EDIT:

Cleaned up phrasing a little. I have tried IPA and even, as recommended by YouTuber Mr. Carlson, paint thinner. The IPA leaves white residue and the paint thinner takes a (relatively) long time to evaporate. I will have to try out some proper flux cleaner.

ChristofferB:
Toxicity aside (and I believe there are worse chlorinated solvents - they're all lousy for humans) - one thing to be careful with about chlorinated solvents is their tendency to make polymers and rubbers 'swell' - this might affect components and certain PCB substrates too.

Ultrasonicating high pressure o-rings in dichloromethane is common practice in my lab, but occasionally, depending on the composition you end up with an o-ring 1.5x the original size!

BrokenYugo:
Gotta watch the label, some of the non chloro is all petroleum based and supposedly works well, but a lot of it is mostly acetone. Probably the same story with the carburetor cleaners.

mawyatt:
Just ordered some MG Flux Remover, will have to remember this brake cleaner when the MG runs out!!

Thx for the note.

Best,

Tomorokoshi:
For basic cleaning CRC QD Electronic Cleaner is safe on plastics.

CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner is okay, but test on plastics first.

Ironically, CRC Lectra-Motive Electric Parts Cleaner is the most likely to damage plastics.

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