How Do I Choose a Contact Cleaner?

Electrical Contact Cleaners dissolve oils, remove dirt and other particulates and refresh electrical connectivity on relays, switches and other devices. They safely remove grit from hot motors and dust from inside electromechanical relays and keyboards. They are also effective at removing contaminants from hard-to-reach areas on electrical connectors, power supplies, junction boxes and distribution panels.

The perfect contact cleaner should be nonflammable, noncorrosive, and have strong dielectric properties. Ideally, it could even be sprayed on energized electrical circuits without concern. It is also very important that the cleaning agent is safe for use on all component materials without the risk of damaging any delicate parts.

Step 1 – Know Your Materials

Although the capability of the contact cleaner is important, so is its compatibility with the parts being cleaned. When it comes to choosing the correct contact cleaner, first check for material compatibility. Does the device consist of just one type of material or is it made up of several materials with vulnerable components? Perhaps it has an LCD display made from transparent polycarbonate, contains inks, or includes rubber parts that may be damaged by aggressive solvents?  If you are unsure about the materials of construction, it is important to test the contact cleaner for materials compatibility before the extensive use of the cleaner.

Step 2 – Keep the Kb Value Low

Quite often a strong contact cleaner is used to ensure cleanliness. It can deliver excellent results and clean quickly. However, if an electronic device is made from a variety of materials, and in particular includes plastic components, it is better to use a contact cleaner with a low Kauri Butanol (Kb) value.  Too-strong contact cleaners may dissolve, craze or attack softer substrates; therefore, a milder plastic-safe cleaner is preferred. A contact cleaner with a Kb value of between 15-40 indicates that the contact cleaner is mild and suitable for most surfaces. Kb values can be found on the contact cleaner’s technical data sheet.

Step 3 – Test the Cleaner

To ensure the contact cleaner can be used without affecting materials you should conduct a ‘cleaning trial’ on a sacrificial or test part. Start with a mild cleaner first and progressively try stronger cleaners until the optimal cleaning result is achieved. Be sure to perform the testing in more than one area on the part to ensure it is safe for all the materials the cleaner may contact, either directly or indirectly.

You can conduct your own in-house cleaning trials or MicroCare can conduct an in-lab cleaning assessment on some of your sacrificial test parts.  The lab will conduct cleaning trials on your specific parts and contamination to ensure effective cleaning with the fewest risks to the parts.