How to clean Electrical Contacts Easy Ways

We often find that electrical contacts get dirty, which can seem displeasing and cause some electrical malfunctioning. Thus, this situation has stirred up several questions on how to clean electrical contacts amongst most various users of electrical appliances. Some persons might be tempted to get them cleaned with water, but this can lead to rust and further malfunctioning. It is a well-known fact that the constant accumulation of contaminants.

These contaminants, including grease, dirt, and oxidation on electrical contacts, can lead to total damage. Hence, it would be beneficial to clean them from time to time while making proper use of several safe products. The extent of cleaning and the kind of electric contact cleaner you use might depend on the level of dirt you find on the electrical connections. Hence, we’ve provided you with the best methods to clean electrical contacts.

how to clean electrical contacts in car

Side Effects of Dirty Electrical Contacts

The idea of cleaning electrical contact is excellent, and it seems convenient since this cleaning is not done daily. However, leaving this dirt in for too long can cause several adverse effects. Thus, several persons set up a good maintenance schedule to ensure they clean their connections from time to time.

But, what happens when you leave this dirt on your contact surfaces for a very long time? What happens to your devices whenever you do not clean the electric contacts on time? Here are some side effects of dirty electrical contacts.

  • As the dirt accumulates, they become tougher to clean. Thus, it would require more than the standard maintenance techniques that you employ to get them cleaned. For metal surfaces, you might need sandpaper to do the scrubbings instead of a regular brush.
  • The dirty electrical contacts can lead to a failure of the starter motor of vehicles. Thus, you would soon start noticing potential hitches and faults that can also cause your vehicle not to start.
  • When the electric contacts are dirty, it can interfere with other automobiles to cause issues that would keep your engine check light on.
  • It Causes your vehicle lighting system to interrupt and fuel injectors can be inactive. However, it would be best if you carefully check whether this issue has sprung up due to some other problems.

How to Clean Electrical Contacts

The methods for cleaning electrical contacts varies, and this is often based on the type of dirt that is on the surface. You can find common contaminants like dust and grease or corrosion and oxidation on electrical connections. Corrosion on electrical contacts occurs as a result of an interaction with water. Oxidation can also happen if the metals of these connections react to oxygen, thereby forming metal oxides.

Are you getting bothered about the contaminants accumulated on your electrical contacts? Well, there are some ways that you can effectively clean your electrical connections.

Cleaning with a Microbrush and a Suitable Cleaning Solution

The use of micro brushes, along with a suitable cleaning solution, is one excellent option for cleaning your electrical contacts. You can reach out through tiny holes or smaller surfaces with micro brushes and clean them with ease using the bristles. A suitable electrical contact cleaner would help weaken these contaminants and clean the electrical connections.

However, when choosing an electrical contact cleaner, do consider some factors to help you make a better choice. Some important factors like its flammability, compatibility with plastic contacts, dielectric strength, and environmental compatibility/ toxicity issues. Follow the steps below to clean your electrical connections using an electrical contact cleaner and a micro-brush.

  • Unplug your appliance from its power source or remove all batteries.
  • Spray the electrical cleaner on the corroded connections. You can do this by keeping the object is a vertical position and spraying the cleaner 4-6 inches away from the contacts.
  • Use the brush to scrub and remove the contaminants.

Some persons might find electrical cleaners to be quite expensive and may not be able to afford them. Hence, you can use other cleaning solutions, such as Vinegar, Alcohol, and a Nail polish remover, and you can get these solutions with ease.

How to clean electrical contacts with vinegar

To clean your electrical connections using vinegar, follow the steps below:

  • Disconnect all forms of power supply
  • Apply the vinegar on the contact areas you want to clean; you can employ a cotton swab
  • Then scrub gently using a brush

Cleaning with Alcohol

  • Take out all power supply
  • Clean electrical contacts with rubbing alcohol by applying on the surface or through the slot
  • Scrub gently with the micro-brush

Cleaning with a Nail Polish Remover

  • Take off the power supply
  • Apply a nail polish remover to clean electrical contacts
  • Brush off the dirt

Note: Applying vinegar, alcohol, and nail polish remover would help weaken dirt accumulation and corrosion.

But please note that using a brake cleaner to clean your electrical contacts can prove harmful, as it could lead to cracks on plastic electrical connections.

 electrical contact cleaner substitute

Cleaning Gold and Silver Plated Electrical Contacts

Most times, you would find that the electrical contacts come plated with either silver or gold and not all electrical contact cleaners are suitable for cleaning them. When you employ the wrong products or materials for cleaning silver-plated or gold-plated electrical surfaces, you might damage them.

This damage occurs because the plating is relatively thin, and it would interest you to know that once the plate gets damaged the metal beneath would be exposed to the risk of corrosion. Hence, a lot of people are eager to learn how to clean gold electrical contacts, as well as silver electrical contacts.

Although silver-plated electrical connections may not prove to be harmful, if they occur as a result of insulative deposits, then there is cause for alarm.
However, cleaning these electrical contacts requires that you use a suitable cleaner or rubbing alcohol along with a cloth that is not abrasive. This method of cleaning would ensure that the plating does not go off.

Using a Contact Cleaner Kit

Although a contact cleaner kit might not be the first option for most folks, it is an excellent option as the kit comes with everything you need for proper cleaning. With the best cleaner kit, you are sure that you have an all-in-one set to get started with the cleaning process. You would be able to find a contact cleaner, brush, air can, and lint-free material in the kit. The cleaning process is often explained in the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Benefits of Cleaning Electrical Contacts Timely

Cleaning electric connections is essential, and it is more imperative to do so at the right time. Most people do not realize that it is crucial to clean electrical connections, as they haven’t seen the need to do so. However, not cleaning or delaying the process of cleaning your electrical contacts can prove to be harmful.

As stated above, this dirt can lead to the malfunctioning of your device and cause further damage. Hence, it would help if you endeavored to clean electrical contacts to improve the connections of your devices and allow proper functioning of the device. A constant cleaning routine can ensure you spend less on faults that your device is likely to develop.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I use for the effective cleaning of my electrical contacts?

Generally, you can use an electrical contact cleaner, as they are produced to be very useful for this purpose. These cleaning products come with the right chemicals to help soften and remove accumulated dust and corrosion of electrical contacts. You can easily find various types of these products out there and ensure you pick the best cleaner for your electrical connections.

In the absence of a suitable electrical cleaner, you can employ some household solutions such as vinegar, nail polish remover, and alcohol. Some persons make use of brake cleaners, but this can cause damage to contact with plastics.

Can I use wd40 as an electrical contact cleaner?

You can use clean electrical contacts with wd40, as it is an excellent electrical contact cleaner that can help you get those contaminations on your electrical surfaces out. It is an ideal solution to help you get rid of condensation that results from any sensitive electrical equipment, flux residues, dirt, and oil. It is among the top choices for cleaning various electrical connections, including plastics and metals. With wd40, you can comfortably clean printed circuit boards, and spraying the cleaner occurs with high precision.

How do you remove corrosion from electrical connections?

Cleaning a corroded electrical contact would require more than just spraying a cleaner and applying air. You would need to employ a brush to help remove the dry corrosion dust. Get a suitable electrical contact cleaner and spread it on the corroded areas.

Then, use the brush to scrub off the dirt gently. You can employ a sandpaper block if the corroded connection is highly patinated. Please note that you can put vinegar to use in the absence of an electrical connection cleaner.

How do you clean copper electrical contacts?

Copper electrical contacts are commonly found, and just like all electrical contacts, leaving a dirty copper electrical contact for some time without cleaning would cause a malfunction. To clean your copper electrical contact, you must first unplug or remove the power source. Then, perform an initial cleaning by dusting off the dirt.

You can now apply a suitable electrical connection cleaner to wash off the dirt and use a brush to scrub out any remaining contaminants on the electrical contacts. If you do not have an electrical contact cleaner, however, you can make use of some household solutions like isopropyl alcohol or vinegar.

Can you use rubbing alcohol to clean battery contacts?

Yes. You can make use of rubbing alcohol for cleaning battery contacts. To do that, you must first unplug the device from its power source. Then get a brush or sandpaper, depending on the type of battery connection and the level of corrosion. Conduct a prior cleaning to remove dirt from the surface and apply the rubbing alcohol.

Finally, you should use a brush or sandpaper to scrub off the remaining dirt. It might be helpful if you protect these electrical contacts with dielectric grease after cleaning. This grease helps seal out moisture, which can cause corrosion in the future.

Final Thoughts

Various electrical contacts often get dirty after some time, and if not cleaned timely, your electrical device might not function properly. For automobiles, not cleaning your electrical surfaces often can cause your vehicle to stop at running. Thus, it would be beneficial to clean your electrical contacts often and try to incorporate it into your maintenance plan.

You can conduct this cleaning in various ways, using an electric contact cleaner or other suitable cleaning solutions. Are you searching for an appropriate method on how to clean electrical contacts? Check out our article for the best way to help clean your electrical connections.

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Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

One thought on “How to clean Electrical Contacts Easy Ways

  1. I was in the military in Australia.

    WD-40 was totally banned for use on connectors (in the’80s if not earlier) because it caused problems with some plastics – I think it caused some softer plastics to swell.

    Some people believe in using connect / disconnect several times as a method of reducing problems with connectors. The problem is connectors often are only rated for a very low number of mating cycles. For example, some electronic connectors on printed circuits are only rated for 10 or 20 mating cycles. Good quality gold plated connectors may be only rated for 100 mating cycles while some high quality USB connectors may be rated in the tens of thousands of mating cycles.

    Connectors that are not high quality gold plated will probably be rated at far fewer that 100 mating cycles so unplugging & plugging will dramatically reduce the connector life life by wearing through the plating.


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