How to Clean Electronics With WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner

How to Clean Electronics With WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner

Cleaning electronics components is an exercise in frustration. Just like any other piece of equipment, electronics get dirty and grungy, but also have some unique attributes that make cleaning difficult. First, the elephant in the room – liquids and electricity do not mix. We know this because we have all read the warning tags, and while “Do not blow dry hair while in shower or bath” may seem obvious, even a small amount of liquid on a circuit can render it useless. This is why the radio in your car rarely gets cleaned, even though the buttons and dials may be sticky and gross. But there is a solution: WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner.

Corrosion is the enemy

Automotive electronic components like lighters and window switches.

Automotive electronic components like lighters and window switches get stubborn over time. A good cleaning can usually fix it.

Beyond the obvious casual build-up of crud, electronics are subject to corrosion that is special to electrical components. This is due to the fact that the flow of electricity has a bad habit of grabbing onto all kinds of compounds from the air. Over time, this forms a chalky powder that is actually a lot harder than it looks. As the connection is diminished, the build up of corrosion further reduces the flow of electricity, compounding the situation. Furthermore, replaceable batteries release hydrogen gas, which can cause the battery seals to leak, which lets the potassium hydroxide, which can cause severe burns and damages your components. 

Contacts and plugs like this one from a Ford Mustang get corroded and dirty too. This can cause all kinds of drivability issues. A few shots of WD-40 Electrical Contact Cleaner can fix that right up

Contacts and plugs like this one from a Ford Mustang get corroded and dirty too. This can cause all kinds of drivability issues. A few shots of WD-40 Electrical Contact Cleaner can fix that right up. Once you clean them, it is a good idea to coat them with dielectric grease to prevent future problems.

 

Modern cars have lots of harness plugs that can benefit from a good cleaning.

Modern cars have lots of harness plugs that can benefit from a good cleaning.

Cleaning the right way

Cleaning electronics and their components requires a special type of cleaner in order to keep from damaging the components. WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner is the perfect tool to keep your sensitive electronics clean and free from corrosion and gunk. This cleaner is made from special chemicals that evaporate quickly while breaking down gunk and corrosion, making it perfect for just about any electrical device. 

It also works great for removing flux after soldering. When you solder a connection, the flux tends to burn off, leaving a sticky brown residue. A few blasts of WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner will blast that flux residue away with a quickness. 

This remote control for an aerial drone was left with the batteries in place for well over a year. They leaked and now we have a mess.

This remote control for an aerial drone was left with the batteries in place for well over a year. They leaked and now we have a mess.

 

After removing the batteries, the contacts were blasted with WD-40 Electrical Contact Cleaner, and the corrosion just melted away.

After removing the batteries, the contacts were blasted with WD-40 Electrical Contact Cleaner, and the corrosion just melted away. It works great now.

This is not just for the garage, where it can be used to clean electric motors, switches, contacts, electronic tools, and plug and terminals in your vehicle, this is a necessary tool for your entire life. Cell phone not getting a good connection with your charging cord? A few blasts will help. Scratchy pots (volume knob, etc) on your amplifier, guitar, or stereo? Skip the expensive repairs and take care of it yourself with WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner. 

Beyond the garage

We recently purchased a used bass guitar amplifier, and while it is in excellent condition, a couple of the knobs are scratchy. When you adjust the knob, it turns just fine, but there is a scratchy static noise that comes through the speakers. This is very common for amplifiers and guitars, and the average cost to repair or replace a single potentiometer (that’s the technical term) can hit you at $150-300. We decided to give the WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner a shot at fixing this. In fact, we tried it on several amps and guitars, as a few of these are vintage hollow-body guitars that would be on the upper end of the repair cost. 

This amplifier works great, but when the volume knob is turned, it makes scratchy noises. This is an indication of carbon build up on the switch.

This amplifier works great, but when the volume knob is turned, it makes scratchy noises. This is an indication of carbon build up on the switch.

WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner is safe for most paints and surfaces, but if you are even a little concerned, then you can take precautions against it by using a rag or towel to keep it from running over the surface. First, we removed the knob cover. Most of the time, these just pull off, but some knobs have set screws (non-guitar stuff), this gives you access to the potentiometer shaft. In most cases, you do not even have to remove the component, which is a huge bonus. 

The knob was removed (this one has a set screw) to give better access to the potentiometer.

The knob was removed (this one has a set screw) to give better access to the potentiometer.

Flip the Smart Straw up into position on the can. You want the straw for precision cleaning. The fan nozzle is for big jobs such as fogging down a stereo or circuit board. Direct the Smart Straw to the base of the pot shaft and give it a good blast. 

We just blasted the shaft with the cleaner, there was no damage to anything.

We just blasted the shaft with the cleaner, there was no damage to anything.

Immediately start turning the knob to work the cleaner into the pot. You can spray and twist at the same time. WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner can be very cold and irritating to the skin, so wearing a latex or nitrile glove is recommended. 

Then we turned the knob back and forth to make sure the switch was clean and left it dry for a few minutes.

Then we turned the knob back and forth to make sure the switch was clean and left it dry for a few minutes.

Let things dry for a few minutes. WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner dries very fast and leaves no residue. At this point, you can test out your cleaning job. In most cases, one treatment does the job, but if you have a really dirty component, it may take a few more cleanings to get the job done. 

This is a great way to get the best performance out of your electronic devices. WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner is safe for all electrical contacts, even sensitive electronics. Do not use WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner directly on certain vehicle sensors, such as MAF sensors, which require MAF cleaner. 

Check out all the chemical & lubricant products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how clean electronics with WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

about author

Jefferson Bryant

A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.

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