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Recovering Moldy Electronics? 512

cookiej writes "We just completed having our basement gutted and our house decontaminated from mold. The finished basement is gone, my office floor has been removed as well as 24' of drywall around the base of the room. So, we had a full home theater downstairs along with a couple of computers in the electronics closet that were completely immersed (rainwater, not sewage). We moved them to a sheltered area outside and covered them with a plastic tarp. Since the electronics were off when the water hit them, 1) do I have a chance of recovering them? 2) If so, is there a way to clean them with some sort of liquid bath that would not damage the electronics? and 3) I don't want to bring moldy pieces back in the clean house. How could I decontaminate the electronics themselves, pre-bath? Not looking to save the speakers, just the amp, DirecTV box, video switch, etc. Thanks for any help, here, Slashdot." Read on for more details of this reader's plight.

Early last month, we had about 10" of rain in the course of two hours. Many houses in our neighborhood were damaged. We had rainwater coming in our back door and cascading down the basement steps. We have two sump pumps that weren't keeping up (and of course, no battery backup) and as the water rose in the basement, it was getting dangerously close to the breaker panel. So I made the hard decision to shut down the main power and we got the hell out.

The water reached about 6' in the basement before it drained out. Once we got back, we could not move fast enough to get all the debris out before mold set in and boy did it.

Since we are not in a flood plain, our insurance for this is woefully inadequate. While I would love to just go out and buy replacements, there are far more pressing things to re-buy (washer/dryer, furnace, water heater, etc.) and if there is a chance I can salvage some of this it might be a nice change of luck.
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Recovering Moldy Electronics?

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  • Oh man (Score:5, Funny)

    by solafide ( 845228 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:20PM (#25447947) Homepage
    24 feet of drywall from the base of the room? He's got some big rooms.
    • by Chromal ( 56550 )

      Not really... a 7ft by 7ft room would have about 25ft of linear drywall along the base of the room, once you subtract out the door.

  • There is hope (Score:5, Informative)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:21PM (#25447951) Homepage Journal

    If they were not plugged in they can be dried out and probably used again. I've never seen mold growing on electronics, but if you have mold/mildew you can wash them with a mild bleach/water solution. After they are clean flush them with distilled water and let them dry completely.

    • Re:There is hope (Score:5, Informative)

      by mrbene ( 1380531 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:26PM (#25448011)

      "Completely" is the key phrase. Damage to electronics due to water is actually due to unexpected circuits forming and burning out components.

      So if it looks dry, wait another couple of days.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mysticgoat ( 582871 )

        I have successfully used a warm oven to recover a cell phone that had been immersed in a kayaking accident. Oven temperature was somewhere around 120F, left the cellphone in it for about 6 hours with the oven door open. I figured that this would be about the same as leaving electronics in a parked car in the sun, but with better ventilation.

        • Re:There is hope (Score:5, Informative)

          by supernova_hq ( 1014429 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:38PM (#25449427)

          Actually, I've found one of the best things to use is desiccant. It will provide an absolute zero moisture environment. Simply put some in the bottom of a bucket, then a layer of paper towel, then the electronics.

          If you want to re-use the desiccant you can put it in the oven. When it comes out, it will be one piece (no longer powder), but you can break it up pretty easily (like chalk).

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Vampo ( 771827 )
          6 hours at 120? would the microwave do the trick in 30' at defrost?
      • Re:There is hope (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:39PM (#25448577)

        Actually, you want to do a little more than "completely". If you use a bleach/water solution as suggested, the little drops will leave deposits of conductive material. RINSE thoroughly with distilled water, and use a hair dryer to blow as much of the distilled water off as possible. Any deposit left from water evaporating is going to kill whatever electronics you own when you plug them in.

        As a preventive measure, once it's all clean and squeaky like that, maybe spray a coat of polyurethane or some other waterproofing stuff that's non-conductive onto all parts that could conduct and aren't supposed to.

        Good luck!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RichiH ( 749257 )
          The ions from the bleach will be under whatever you spray on after the fact.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by gordguide ( 307383 )

          I highly recommend against use of a hair dryer to dry out electronics, and in most cases, anything else, hair excepted. You are very likely to damage the device with concentrated heat.

          The first thing you need to know is the normal level of relative humidity in you area. If it's reasonably low (ie not monsoon season) then all you need is air circulation, not heat.

          I have recovered many water damaged items. A typical example would be full immersion of a digital camera, a rather challenging project due to it's

      • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:23PM (#25449329) Homepage

        Let me add my own experience too, wait a long time for the electronics to dry. Once it looks *completely* dry, wait one more year. Then in 2010, turn the stuff upside down, and repeat the process. In 2011, set it on its one side. In 2012, the other side. God help you if your stuff has more faces than a hexahedron!

    • Re:There is hope (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:00PM (#25448291)

      Bleach (chlorine) is a very bad idea. It will oxidize the metals very badly. Chlorine is incredibly corrosive.

      Better to use a pure non-oil based solvent such as denatured alcohol (pure alcohol). Remember, nothing oil based like acetone or gasoline. Rubbing alcohol contains a lot of water so it's not best either.

    • Re:There is hope (Score:5, Informative)

      by mea_culpa ( 145339 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:16PM (#25448425)

      I use MG Chemicals Super Wash Cat# 406B-425G [mgchemicals.net] for cleaning most PCBs. The important thing to consider is if the electronics are new enough and worth saving it probably as BGA components that water will lurk under for weeks. This chemical can has 3 power settings and setting it to HI with the straw will push the residual water out. I have recovered many water soaked laptops using this and failing to get under the BGAs will lead to failure later on.

      $15 per can at your local Fry's

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @10:00PM (#25448751)

        This chemical can has cheezburger

        There, fixed that for you.

      • Re:There is hope (Score:4, Informative)

        by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:36AM (#25449679)

        That lurking moisture is why pure alcohol is so important. Alcohol will not dry water but it will sneak about and displace water so that a fan can dry the parts out. Simply repeat the dunking in alcohol a couple of times and the blowing out with a fan. You can ask your local pharmacist for pure alcohol and explain why you need it.
                I used to use under water metal detectors and those critters are known to flood now and then. In salt water time is an even greater factor but usually those circuits could be saved by a quick flushing with fresh water followed by drowning them in pure alcohol and blowing them out.

    • Re:There is hope (Score:5, Interesting)

      by plover ( 150551 ) * on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:32PM (#25449375) Homepage Journal

      No! Bleach BAD. Bleach will oxidize all the metals, including the ones you thought couldn't rust!

      I have washed boards in the dishwasher before (no soap!) but that was for spilled liquids. With the presence of mold, you have a different problem.

      First, remove any batteries on the board (coin batteries are common,) as they create a sparking hazard. Use pure isopropyl alcohol (not the 66% stuff) which will mix with remaining water and should help you both clean up and kill the mold. I'd start working over an empty pan, and pour alcohol over it as I cleaned it. Brush everything possible with a natural fiber brush (not a plastic bristled brush that may dissolve.) Get under components with a pipe cleaner. And no smoking around the alcohol, of course! When it's done, drain it. If you have access to it, thoroughly blow it dry with dried compressed air (air from an ordinary shop compressor will contain water and/or oil.)

      Once the visible alcohol is gone, you'll still need to dry the board. It will take time, warmth, and air movement. An oven at the "keep warm" setting (no more than 170 degrees) shouldn't damage the plastics, but not while it's still evaporating alcohol fumes. A fan and some incandescent light bulbs (desk lamps up close) would probably do just as good. Warm sunshine is very good, too (and helps kill mold) but the humidity outside is usually pretty variable, so you wouldn't want it to remain outside in the evening to collect dew.

      However, be prepared for disappointment. If there are electrolytic capacitors on your board, there's a good chance they were already destroyed by the water. They are not typically sealed to ward off immersion in liquids.

      • Re:There is hope (Score:4, Interesting)

        by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) * <jwsmythe@jSLACKW ... com minus distro> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:44AM (#25449721) Homepage Journal

        I'm just chiming in here.

            A few people mentioned bleach being bad. Yes, it is.

            My step son died in our home, in his bathroom Natural causes, don't be gruesome please. As much as I don't like saying it, there was a smell left behind. The coroner's office couldn't give us any advice. When people die, they leave behind a smell pretty quick. For them, they change clothes on the way out of work and don't take them home.

            We tried a variety of things to clean the bathroom. After trying so many solutions, I decided to spray the entire room down with 50/50 bleach and water mix. It helped to get rid of some of the smell, but on most of the metals it touched, it corroded them almost immediately. Things like sink fixtures, outlet screws, door knobs. Think, anything metal that may be in an otherwise emptied bathroom (towels, floor mats, and even the shower curtain had already been removed).

            So, yes, bleach is bad.

            I've repaired some electronics that have had exposure to some liquids. Usually rubbing alcohol works well. It'll dissolve nasty things like dried soda and some corrosion. I usually use a Q-tip to do the actual cleaning. It can be rather bad on it's own too, so it's a very manual process of cleaning, rather than what the original poster seemed to want (dump it all in, bring it all out, and turn it on). Depending on how nasty it got, you could spend an hour just cleaning out the insides of a single remote control.

            Any (ANY) power will lead to corrosion. Most people think the A/C power, but laptop batteries, and even the BIOS battery or other onboard batteries will cause corrosion too.

            My wife left one of our cordless phones out where the sprinklers hit. Our water is filtered very well. She didn't realize it until the next day. The corrosion from the phone battery pretty much destroyed it. I managed to clean up a lot of the corrosion as outlined above, but not enough to make it work right again. I told her about the battery and corrosion. Our baby dropped the other cordless phone in the toilet. She fished it out within a minute and pulled the battery out. I just left it to sit in the sun for the rest of the day and it worked fine after that. The same quality water, and the toilet was probably worse exposure, and just removing power from it saved it.

            Unfortunately, my advice for the original poster is, suck it up and replace anything that you can't get going again fairly quickly. You'll spend a lot of effort on nothing otherwise. Remember that basement theaters are cool, but not when there's a potential for flooding, which can happen anywhere.

        • Re:There is hope (Score:5, Informative)

          by teaserX ( 252970 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @01:06AM (#25449847) Homepage Journal
          "...with 50/50 bleach and water mix"
          There's where you went wrong. A bleach solution of 200ppm (parts per million) is sufficient to kill molds,yeasts, and any kind of odor causing bacteria. It's unlikely to have any affect on metals if rinsed. It's even safe to drink if you don't over do it. A 50/50 mix is used specifically for its oxidizing properties. Like making your undies *really* white.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      Vinyl phonograph albums DO mold (this happened to a friend's collection after their roof got partly knocked off -- they were almost at ground zero for the Northridge quake). They can be cleaned with soap and bleach, but may not be playable again, depending on how "soft" the mold made the vinyl.

      I was given some SCSI cards, RAM sticks, and I/O cables that had cig smoke, mold, and gods know what else stuck to them. I washed them with dish soap and pet-urine deodorizer. They still work.

  • The devices that simply have circuit boards and cables can possiblly be saved by disassembly followed by thourough cleaning (I wouldn't worry too much about the cleaning agent damaging the boards, PCB assemblies are pretty tough generally just get the boards rinsed and dried thouroughly before reassembly). I wouldn't hold out much hope for cleaning the TV without destroying it though.

  • Rubbing Alchohol (Score:4, Informative)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:22PM (#25447961) Journal

    Pure rubbing alcohol might be your best best.

  • by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:22PM (#25447963)
    Even though there was no power applied to these devices, the dissolved minerals in the water are enough to facilitate electrolysis between dis-similar metals and destroy the devices. You will be better off replacing the lot.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Muhammar ( 659468 )

      It depends on the degree of corrosion. Since corrosion cannot be repaired, there is only a prayer. Make sure your electronics is completely dried out, then power it up outside your house on Halloween night. Kids will appreciate the sparks and smoke.

      As for disinfecting it: mold is heat sensitive - it likes cold wet dark environments best (in sealed cask, furry adipocere!) - so having your electronics running outdoor for a day or two should take care of disinfecting the inards. You wash the case from outsid

    • Exactly. I forgot to mention that.
      That's why time is so important in these matters.

      Of course if the corrosion was minimal, it still might work without problems. It would just get hotter because of the additional resistance. So check your heat sensors. Especially those not it the bigger chips, because these will not have been affected that much by corruption. Of course an external sensor on a on-board hot spot would be perfect, but who has that available?

      If the electrolysis is worse, you'll get power fluctua

      • Oh, and that hot spot would be the voltage regulator (mostly to be found between the cpu and the rear ports). You recognize it by the large capacitors and small heat sinks an between them.

        And it has a comical courtship behavior, where it jitters its heat sinks in a rhythmic fashion and lets its capacitors glow red to impress a possible mate. ;)

    • by Jake73 ( 306340 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:25PM (#25448489) Homepage

      Look for a product called Corrosion X.

      It's somewhat like WD-40. It is non-conductive and can be sprayed directly on electronics. It forms a hydrophobic barrier between the electronics and the elements and may help.

      It is typically used as a preventative. Often used in the aviation market to protect wing/fuselage interiors, it is also sprayed directly on avionics to reduce corrosion.

      It's cheap and is worth a shot.

  • Ethanol (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:23PM (#25447975)

    Copious quantities of ethanol will help, possibly in more ways than one. :)

  • I'd try... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...Isopropyl Alcohol, aka rubbing alcohol. It's cheap (1$/pt?) and should sanitize your gear nicely. Given the size of the job, you might get a few gallons and dunk your gear.

  • Um? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:23PM (#25447981)
    Have you tried nuking the fungal infection from orbit? Should do the trick right nice.
  • rubbing alcohol (Score:4, Informative)

    by SirusTV ( 1001138 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:27PM (#25448029)
    Rubbing alcohol is your friend. as close to 100% as you can get. Use an old toothbrush and rubbing alcohol right on the circuit boards. I've saved routers, videocards, motherboars with this method. Acetone works too but can melt some plastics and ruin paint and rubbing alcohol can be gotten at any local grocery store.
    • That method is fantastic also for preventative maintenance of over-the-hill electronics and works wonders with beer spills. Flux is corrosive and it's been sitting on your circuit boards since they came out the pick-n-place.

      Just give the boards two or more runs because of the white residue which will appear if you use impure alcohol(70-30) and/or from chemical reactions from the soldering process.
  • Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idesofmarch ( 730937 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:28PM (#25448039)
    I have been through a mold contamination myself, and having made some bad choices, let me assure you. Better safe than sorry. If you leave moldy stuff in your house, it will spread through the whole house via A/C. Just toss it.
  • Consider anything with IC pins, surface contacts, etc. to be a write-off. I /suppose/ you could save some of the passives, like RCA and speaker cables, if you soak their ends in contact cleaner.

    Consider buying a generator and/or better pumps and moving your electronic gear to higher ground... :/

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Sorry but no sump is going to handle 5"/hour, that's worse than monsoon rainfall and reasonably priced (and powered!) pumps just aren't sized for that kind of freak event. I mean when Hurricane Ivan made landfall only a handful of places got 2"/hour.
  • by crowtc ( 633533 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:29PM (#25448051)
    I've had a lot of luck cleaning mold and other contaminants from electronics by disassembling the item as completely as possible, cleaning each peace with a gentle liquid cleanser of some kind (i.e. Windex) and a soft brush, then rinsing it thoroughly with distilled water.

    I was recently able to recover a number of computers that had been in a fire and had been sprayed with water from a fire hose. They were a mess, but so far they all work (10 months and counting)
  • Solid-state stuff, if cleaned properly (i.e., with copious amounts of distilled water), should work just fine after *brief* immersion, as long as no power was applied (which is not the same as being turned off).

    You can kiss the hard drives goodbye, and capacitors may be a big issue. How quickly did you get it out the door?

    As far as the question of admitting dirty mold into your house, molds are everywhere in the environment. (Try leaving bread dough out without adding yeast and see how long it takes to sta

    • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cookiej ( 136023 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:04PM (#25448321)


      Finally, where do you live? 10" of rain turns into 6' of water in a basement when you don't live in a flood plain? Why would anyone build a basement in an area subject to such problems? (I live in an area without basements, both because of shrink-swell soil and high water tables.)

      Well, it was the worst rain in 135 years. So the phrase "subject to" is... well, quite subjective.

  • While you can probably safely attempt recovering any small battery-powered device, I wouldn't do it for anything that plugs in. If there's a catastrophic failure caused by damage, corrosion, or other problems, you could have a pretty serious fire risk.

    If you must insist on recovering the hardware, at the very least keep the stuff OFF via a powerstrip when no one is babysitting it. Even then, I wouldn't feel safe doing this.

  • Firstly, you chances are small. This you must take into account. Your only chance lies in letting the stuff dry out and stay clean. This is what I would suggest:

    Well, speaking from rescuing mobile phones (the only things I have managed to get that wet that was more complicated than a wireless keyboard) I would suggest that you give your gear a solid wash under warm water (preferably before it dries out totally). You want to try to wash out all the other stuff before it gets dry and hard to remove. It was
  • Electronic baths (Score:5, Informative)

    by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:36PM (#25448107)

    Water can be used to clean electronics in manufacturing processes. Most electronic components will not be damaged by water. Make sure you get all the dirt and grim out.

    1.Don't plug it yet.

    2. Take all electronics completely apart. Look for damage or corrosion.

    3. Remove every battery.

    4. Flush it out with distilled water.

    5. Use electronic cleaner or alcohol(not the stuff you drink) to remove any mineral deposits.

    6. Dry off with paper towel.

    7. Let it dry completely. If you have any doubts wait till it's completely dry.

    8. Plug it in and cross your fingers.

  • Computer fans and the like will probably be unsalvageable, but the rest should be OK after some cleaning. I'd disassemble everything, as much as I was comfortable putting back, and use some distilled water and a toothbrush to clean it. If there's evidence of corrosion on the boards, you can try cleaning/scraping it away, but your odds of a successful recovery start to go down. Follow up with some rubbing alcohol to displace the water and let things dry for a day or two before reassembly.

    If you value your

    • by cookiej ( 136023 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:10PM (#25448375)

      Interestingly enough, one of the computers that got dunked was an old Apple Cube I used to monitor my UPS and other various cron jobs. It as no fans, so we'll see. The bad news is that it may have been powered when the water hit it. It was at the bottom of the rack and the water was at about 3' when I killed the power.

      The real test will be the PS3. It was at the top of the rack and probably was barely under. Amazingly, my network gear and the UPS that powers it were all at a height of about 6'4". And never were touched.

  • They're cleanable. (Score:5, Informative)

    by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:37PM (#25448117)

    Start with a rinse with distilled water. There's very little in electronics that gets hurt by water anyway -- the issues are with it shorting out, or longer term, corrosion. You'll want to open all the cases to do this, and then ideally blow them dry with a compressed air nozzle. Letting it evaporate will just redeposit all the crud you cleaned off.

    Then rinse with alcohol, and again blow it off rather than letting it dry. At this point, if it looks clean it is, as far as the electronics are concerned. I imagine the same is true from a mold standpoint, but you probably know more about that than I do.

    If things are being really stubborn, an ultrasonic cleaning bath in alcohol is remarkably effective (and completely safe for the electronics). 5-10 minutes should be plenty. I don't know off hand where to find a large one cheaply, though -- that may take some investigation. If you can't borrow one, I'd just take some warm soapy water and a toothbrush and work at it by hand (and then repeat the distilled water and alcohol rinses to remove any soap and such).

    If any of these things have moving parts (eg DVD player) they'll be more difficult. None of this will hurt anything, but if there are any gears that are supposed to be greased this will remove that. Some rubber in pulleys and such might not like the alcohol. But, most modern cheap moving parts are unlubricated nylon, so there isn't likely to be an issue. Cooling fans are usually unlubricated, either with a plain nylon bearing or ball bearings, and so should be ok with this cleaning treatment.

    Similarly, hard drives are almost certainly a lost cause. I'd try powering them up, but if they've been underwater then the water likely got in through the pressure equalization holes. I wouldn't clean them (wipe down the outside with a damp sponge, but nothing more aggressive) -- just hope for the best and expect them to have died.

    Good luck, and may I suggest you invest in a more serious pump?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cookiej ( 136023 )

      Good luck, and may I suggest you invest in a more serious pump?

      You may. A suggestion I will follow when we rebuild the basement. Although we have TWO pumps, I intend to add a third, that HAS a backup battery. This was a catastrophic storm, as I said previous, worst in 135 years.

  • by cats-paw ( 34890 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:45PM (#25448159) Homepage

    As another poster has mentioned, if there are now dissolved minerals permeating the circuitry you are probably out of luck.

    Here's what you can try if you are feeling brave.

    Get some DISTILLED WATER. Clean the electronics thoroughly. The more you can take things apart and get to the nooks and crannies the better.

    Now the hard part. To drive off the water you will need a nice dry enclosure which can be heated to a relatively high temperature, say 130-140 deg F or so. The upper temperature depends on the plastic materials used, if it gets too hot they will start to deform. Watch carefully.

    Leave things heated for at least 2-4 hours.

    Now go back over things with 90% + isopropyl alcohol (it might be hard to find - do NOT use the 70% stuff).

    Why this might not work : the "dissolved" materials which have stuck to the PCB and components do not get washed off completely. They are still present and when you hit the power something shorts - bright lights and probably a decent badda-boom.

    The exposure which the electronics have already experienced have more than likely started corroding the potentiometers, i.e. volume, bass, etc.. controls. So even if things power up they may not work correctly.

    Finally, if you can't take things apart and expose the PCBs and a good portion of the components, then your chances of success are very low. However if you can really get at the compenents this method will work.

    Good luck !


  • it really is that simple.

    not the answer you want but its the smart answer.

    you will NEVER clean the insides of electronics well enough to TRUST them.

    plus, you just spent money de-molding the house. why even risk bringing that bad stuff back in?

    sorry - but its all a 100% loss. that's what insurance is for.

    the ONLY things I would hand-clean are the old ancient things that can't be replaced (if you have such things). but anything buyable should be re-bought, if its still current. family heirlooms are the on

  • i done this before (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:49PM (#25448197)
    i love rooting around in yard/garage sales sometimes i find some good deals on old radios, what i have done to dirty radios is i remove the covers, speakers microphone if it has one, basically strip it down to the chassis and circuitboard the i put it in a dishwashing machine with about a cup of vinegar, then when it is done i dry it with a hair dryer (hand held blow dryer) and once it is completely dry i reassemble it and it works like new...
  • by Toll_Free ( 1295136 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @08:53PM (#25448221)

    I moved from Ca to Co once. In winter.

    In a storm.

    In the back of a truck.

    Get the idea?

    LOADS of electronics got wet. Some took, literally, years to get working again.

    The BIGGEST thing you can do to save your stuff is this: GET IT DRIED THE FUCK OUT. Water is corrosive to the copper in the products you have (besides the electromechanical problems, like bearings in hard drives (old ones), etc), and if left to do it's thing, electrolysis will eat them up.

    I ended up having the entire back of my truck filled with the style cartons you find at 7-11 or something similiar. Split top, about 12 to 18 inches deep. My tarp had a rip in it, unbeknownst to me, and when I stopped, THEY FILLED WITH WATER.

    The next day, I made my destination, and the day after that, I got the screwdriver out. EVERYTHING was cleaned off with a rag internally, and I ended up losing about 10 percent of the devices.

    Don't power them up until you KNOW everything is dry.

    Any transformers, if your really worried about (read, if they are HEAVY and expensive), can be desoldered and heated in your home oven, on it's lowest setting (they can take > 150 degrees easily). That will bake out any moisture.

    Ditto for some really high power transistors. One trick we used in making REALLY high power CB radio amplifiers was to bake the transistors for about 2 hours. This removed ANY moisture under the caps of the 2879s (part number 2SC2879). This netted us about 2 to 3 more volts on the collectors. After talking to engineers, we found that even a LITTLE bit of moisture in there, will turn to steam after the devices reach their internal operating temp. Higher voltage on the collector = higher temperatures (more dissipation). Baking them got us 2 to 3 more volts and that equalled a few hundred more watts (for every 50 percent increase in supply voltage, your Pout doubles) (think, 24 to 64 transistors being combined).

    Simple green or even lysol does well for mold inhibition. You can also do a 5 % bleach solution, but then you run the risk of losing color, faceplates, some plastics, etc.

    Hope it helps.


  • My grandparents' house was flooded in the mid 70's. Truly flooded - water up past the first floor. Rip the plaster down clean the mud out of the studs flooded.

    They had a little black-and-white TV at the time - 12" or so I would guess. According to grandpa, he just hosed it out with a garden hose and left it to dry. You couldn't see the numbers on the dials (they were still full of mud) but it worked for decades after. It might still work, I'm not sure what ever happened to it.

    With modern equipment I'd be a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Actually, we remove mold from electronics all the time. We use either an ozone machine or ultrasonic cleaning as demonstrated by this link.

  • What would it cost to replace what you bought versus sending everything to a recovery specialist, or replacing it with stuff from Craigslist?

    What would it cost (in terms of dollars or hours, whatever is more valuable to you) to:

    - take everything apart

    - subject the individual components to any of the treatments prescribed here

    - reassemble everything (except for those extra pieces, intentionally removed for efficiency's sake!)

    And is there any guarantee everything will work? Speakers without rigid

  • My friend and I once found a receiver buried in a dry creek bed (probably stolen - but it was literally buried with a faceplate sticking out). We dug it up, took it home, hosed it out, threw it in the pool, etc.. In the end, after it dried out, it worked perfectly. It still works today - 20 years later.
  • Rinse thoroughly with first distilled water and then alcohol (90% would be best). Try hard to flush out the small spaces under parts with alcohol as those are the hardest areas to get dry. Then dry with low heat. You should have done this immediately: too much corrosion may already have occured.

    And file an insurance claim. They will pay off when they learn that the stuff got wet: most people believe that water always utterly destroys electronics.

  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:05PM (#25448337) Homepage
    Quite a few posters have said this is a write-off without even seeing the state of the kit in question. That's pretty pessimistic! Here's a tale that should give hope:

    Many years ago I worked in the service department of an electronics OEM repairing stuff returned from the field. The OEM built two-way radios. One time we were sent a portable radio that had been recovered from the sea-bed having been dropped from an oil-rig in the North Sea six months previously. The unit had a die-cast zinc/aluminium chassis and case and standard double-sided PCBs with mostly discrete components and a few ICs. It was extremely corroded, covered in salty deposits, and naturally didn't work. I was written off immediately but as a 17yo with time on his hands I took it as a challenge. I cleaned up the unit by passing it through the tanks of hot trichloroethylene that were used for cleaning newly assembled boards. This removed most of the surface corrosion on the PCBs and chassis. An open-framed rotary switch for channel selection was replaced as it was too far gone.I ran the boards through the normal service/setup procedure. The receiver came up no problem with basic retuning. The transmitter was dead but only needed a new final stage transistor and a retune. It passed spec. It was returned to the customer along with a new replacement unit. They were astonished and very pleased with the customer service received beyond the call of duty or expectation. Whether it was connected I don't know but they placed a huge order with us several months afterwards...

    The kit here was immersed in fresh water for much less time. While component densities are much higher in modern kit, I think there's a good chance it will work after careful cleaning and drying. Worth a shot anyway - what have you got to lose?
    • by Chromal ( 56550 )

      I guess the question is not 'can' it be fixed, but 'should' it be fixed. Yes, I'm sure everything he has could be reconstructed, given ample time, money, energy, and soldering skill. But what the hell, dry it out, plug it in. Worst case, it'll catch on fire. Best case, it'll just work!

  • Dishwasher? (Score:3, Informative)

    by halfdan the black ( 638018 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:07PM (#25448345)
    Believe it or not, I actually have ran keyboards through the dishwasher on numerous occasions. After they get 'crusty', I have taken them apart, placed the circuit board in the dishwasher, used NO DETERGENT, and just ran them on a standard cycle, let them dry for a few days, and works good as new. I suspect, that this might work for other electronics as well. Just make sure that you only run PCBs and so forth, and NOT hard drives through the dishwasher.
  • The priority is (Score:3, Informative)

    by ameline ( 771895 ) <ian@ameline.gmail@com> on Monday October 20, 2008 @09:07PM (#25448349) Homepage Journal

    Getting all the mold out of them -- the second priority is having them work again.


    -- well away from any sparks or flame (ie NO SMOKING :-)

    1: Disassemble completely
    2: Immerse everything in wd40 -- wd stands for water displacer -- this will make absolutely sure there is no water at all left on them. Agitate in the wd40. (you can buy wd40 by the gallon)
    3: Rinse with as pure ethyl alcohol/rubbing alcohol as you can find -- closest to 100%. Use plenty -- scrub with a toothbrush at this point to remove anything stubborn. This should remove anything not removed by the wd40, and will remove all the wd40 too.
    4: Immerse in a second pure alcohol bath that you try to keep clean -- ie use a different bucket than step 3 -- try to get everything off in step 3.

    The alcohol will evaporate quickly, leaving everything dry quite soon with no residue (the two rinse steps help with this).

    -- at this point, I'd be quite surprised if there was any mold or dirt or oils of any kind left on anything.

    5:Plug it in and hope for the best -- if it doesn't work, toss it in the trash.

    This procedure will not work for anything with any unsealed lubricated moving parts, as it will remove *all* of of the lubrication.

    It will also likely cloud any transparent plastics.

  • Dehumidifier. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @10:24PM (#25448937)

    Not sure how much this will help, but:

    Run a dehumidifier or two non-stop until the air humidity is under 40%. You will likely draw several gallons of water from the air itself, and hopefully dry out the electronics. It will also make the basement liveable in short order.

    Good luck, whatever you try.

  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @10:38PM (#25449027) Homepage Journal

    Most PCs now have bios batteries. Some are very hard to get to too. (macbook for example, UNDER the logic board) We get people that bring in things like that which got a drink spilled in them and told us they instantly removed the battery. It probably helped, but didn't save it. Water + electricity =. electrolysis, and that's a great way to grow shorts.

    Water can be very hard to get out of modern electronics. Surface mount chip packages can hold water for weeks or months underneath them, and the closely spaced pins wick water like you would not believe. If you place a drop of water on the edge of a surface chip like that, the drop will just shrink and disappear, as it's sucked down under the chip. Getting that back out is just as hard as you can imagine.

    You can try to bake the electronics, but you really have to watch the temperature. Lots of plastics in there. I've tossed around ideas like taking a big can of desiccant (like in the "do not eat" packets) and an airtight bag and let it sit that way under a sun lamp for a few days. The idea is the heat doesn't actually remove the water, it just helps keep the humidity mobile. The desiccant WILL pull the humidity out of the air which the warmth has helped free up, and lock it away. Moving air inside the bag would probably speed the process. Remember, more heat isn't necessarily better. Dryer IS pretty much always better. (hope your caps are sealed well...) It's not the heat that dries it out, it's the difference in humidity. (a process accelerated by heat and movement of air)

    Certain things just plain can't be saved. LCD panels wick water into the panel, and there's no easy getting that out without actually disassembling the panel (LCD / polarizers / light spreader / etc) But that's more of a cosmetic thing than functional, so if you don't mind the weird effect it has on the panel, ok for you.

    Home electronics don't often have a bios battery, but many have "supercaps" - high farad count capacitors that keep your settings alive for a few days if power is removed. Those work just like batteries, creating electrolysis in the presence of water. They're soldered down and usually tucked away, so not easy to unplug either.

    Anything with a motor in it is going to be trouble to get water out of. Copper windings can trap water for a very long time. Wire wound and thin film pots can be greatly affected by corrosion and are usually sealed just well enough to hold in water but discourage drying out.

    Even water that appears to be clean can bring in other problems. Grit and light film can form in places it does not belong, interfering with optical gates, clouding lenses in your optical disk players, etc. Optical pots can get their optics clouded or blocked.

    Good luck. I doubt much you do will make a difference at this point - most of your gear was doomed from day 1. Most of what you manage to save probably didn't need your help to survive. (you didn't make a difference) But you can try - just don't blow too much time or expense in vain.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:03PM (#25449205) Homepage Journal

    The easiest solution, of course, is to go back in time before the flood and get everything out of the basement.

  • Rice (Score:3, Funny)

    by JumperCable ( 673155 ) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:14PM (#25449255)

    In addition to the above stated solutions, you might speed the drying process with rice.

  • It's easy... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) <ken@@@jots...org> on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:17PM (#25449283) Homepage Journal

    1) Get you some high-grade isopropyl alcohol (not the wussy 70% stuff -- the 97% stuff they use in cleanrooms)
    2) Put it in a tub
    3) Rinse your electronics in it -- vigorously, but briefly
    4) Let dry for a couple of days (to play it safe)

    And, voila! It should all just work. Maybe. DO NOTE: this stuff is flammable like nobody's business. Don't do this in an enclosed area, and don't do it if there's any chance of sparks.

    P.S. If rust has set in, ain't much that's gonna fix that.
    P.P.S. YMMV, etc.

  • by StormyWeather ( 543593 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:30AM (#25451935) Homepage

    This probably won't ever get read, but you are seriously in need of Sporaclean http://www.killmoldfast.com/ [killmoldfast.com]. It's an insanely good product. You should get this stuff, dilute it and coat the room, and everything in it.

  • by chrysrobyn ( 106763 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:50AM (#25452759)

    I've read a lot of people with great advice on removing water and even sea water. They've got a lot more expertise than I do, although I find their stories interesting to read.

    The OP mentions mold. As a resident of central Texas, I think I can safely say that mold is evil. Once you get a little, it's really hard to get rid of it all, and any mold infestation will have serious health implications in the short and long term. I realize that it may be painfully expensive, but if you suspect any mold on anything, you should either quarantine it until you can thoroughly kill it or just trash it. A basement with two sump pumps suggests to me that it's not a typically dry place. If this is the case, you're in pretty rough shape structurally -- I hope you can afford a good mold removal service. If there's any delay while you save up money or have to wait for service availability, get a good dehumidifier for the affected spaces and make sure that it either drains properly or is emptied regularly. Cutting down the humidity will hinder further mold growth, although it shouldn't harm what you already have.

    Mold is evil. A little leads to a lot. Kill 99.9% of it, and that last 0.1% will grow a hundredfold while you recover from the effort of killing 99.9% of it.

"And remember: Evil will always prevail, because Good is dumb." -- Spaceballs