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Do you repair computers? If you do, there’s a lot of household supplies you can throw in your “computer repair” bag and cheaply replace expensive chemicals and tools. For example, you can swap pricey heatsink cleaning compound with alcohol.

Here’s a list of my ten favorite household products to get your MacGyver on.

Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline)

Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, possesses three useful characteristics: First, it doesn’t conduct electricity making it useful for work around electronics. Second, its antioxidant properties allow it to function as an anti-corrosive on metals. Third, it can coat plastic surfaces to prevent cracking and desiccation.

  • Great as an anti-corrosive when used on battery terminals;
  • It can function as a lubricant on slow moving metal parts like on a computer chassis;
  • Petroleum jelly makes for a great way to thread screw sockets, such as found on light bulbs;
  • Great as a means to protect plastic parts against dryness.

Denatured Alcohol or 99% Alcohol

Denatured or 99% rubbing alcohol is an excellent substance for cleaning the surfaces of heat sinks and CPUs. It leaves behind very little residue, which is useful for preventing electrical shorts. For example, those of you who dunked their phone in a swimming pool, your circuit board will be covered in conductive salt ions. Ironically, re-dunking your phone in alcohol removes these conductive ions, which will destroy your electronics if the phone is turned on.

I typically apply denatured alcohol to surfaces that need to be free from impurities such as heat-sinks. But it makes a great glass and electronics cleaner, particularly if you drop your phone in the ocean.

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denatured alcohol

White Erasers

Another fantastic tool for cleaning corroded electronics and metal contact points is white erasers. White erasers don’t leave behind a great deal of conductive particles. They also do a beautiful job removing corrosion and grime, without risk of causing scratches or damaging your electronics.

white eraser

I’ve been told that pink erasers are just as good – however, I prefer white erasers.

Neoprene

Ever accidentally tear the rubber feet from your laptop? While you can purchase replacements, I like to carry around sheets of neoprene and make my own very cheaply. Neoprene sheets cost little and can easily be cut into feet for a laptop, or as cushioning for some odd-jobs.

Remember that the design of laptops requires ventilation clearance. Without its feet, a laptop will run hotter How To Fix An Overheating Laptop How To Fix An Overheating Laptop Read More and may experience a premature failure.

Regarding odd-jobs: I’ve also used neoprene as a cushion for mounting fans in my small form factor PC case 3 Affordable AMD APU-Powered DIY Computers That You Can Build 3 Affordable AMD APU-Powered DIY Computers That You Can Build The Accelerated Processing Unit, or "APU", design integrates a graphics processing unit onto the same die as the CPU, resulting in a faster, more efficient hybrid design. For those of you seeking to build a... Read More .

neoprene in action

Additionally, neoprene exists in several varieties such as anti-ESD, fabric and more.

neoprene

Superglue or Epoxy

Be careful purchasing superglue or epoxy glue. In general epoxy compares better in strength and safety to superglue. Superglue applies easier, but its fumes can stain or damage electronics.

Something else worth nothing: Epoxy glue tends to leak. I’ve never owned an epoxy glue that managed to stay inside its tubing. For whatever reason, it’s extremely prone to leakage.

krazy glue

I used superglue for a large number of purposes. My favorite use is to attach rubber feet to laptops.

Electrical Tape and Anti-ESD tape

Electrical tape is one of those things that I regularly compare to duct tape for its amazing ability to insulate and protect electronics. Whenever I solder two wires together, I always use electrical tape to cover exposed wiring.

electrical tape

But it’s also useful as an all-purpose tape and adhesive. I consider it the duct-tape of tapes used in electronics.

Coffee Filters or Lint Free Cleaning

Lint-free microfiber towels can run on the pricey side. Believe it or not, coffee filters can take their place in a snap. I use coffee filters for cleaning heat-sinks and smartphone screens. For cleaning heat-sinks, you should use denatured or 99% alcohol. Smartphone screens can be wiped off with soap and water.

coffe filter

Sugru

Sugru is something of a miracle substance, akin to Flubber: It’s a rubber compound that air hardens. Sugru’s ability to harden into a shock-absorbing rubber can protect delicate electronics from falls. It also replaces broken plastic parts. Although slightly on the expensive side, a little bit of Sugru goes a long way.

Normally, I wouldn’t include something like Sugru. It comes with some serious disadvantages – most of all, it’s expensive. It’s also not really a household item and has an awfully short shelf-life: six months. But it can do so many things, I thought to include it here.

Sugru’s uses:

  • Repairing broken plastic components;
  • Creating protective cases for electronic gadgets;
  • And a great deal more!

Q-Tips, cotton swabs or cotton buds

Q-tips, or cotton swabs, make for useful appliers for lubricant and for cleaning some surfaces, but not all. For example, you wouldn’t clean a heat sink with a Q-tip. However, Q-tips make for a great keyboard and smartphone cleaner.

  • Cleaning keyboards;
  • Cleaning smartphones;
  • Cleaning hard-to-access places;
  • Cleaning cooling fans.

q-tips

Mineral oil

I consider mineral oil to be the most important item in my toolkit, outside of the necessities. I use it for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Covering the push-pins in hard-to-use Intel heat sinks;
  • Coating on screws and other metal parts that require lubrication;

As a lubricant, you wouldn’t use mineral oil except on slow moving parts. It’s also used as a coolant on some PCs.

Conclusion

Augmenting your tech toolkit is easy and cheap! Just pick up some stuff from around the house and throw it in your bag. On the other hand, many of you may prefer software go-bags. Applications like WSCC can fit on a flash drive and provides a great way to fix computers Get a Head Start On Your USB Toolkit With Windows System Control Center Get a Head Start On Your USB Toolkit With Windows System Control Center I often joke about being the only IT guy with a 36-inch pipe wrench in his toolbox. Funny, but also probably true. But I do carry one IT tool in my kit that is just... Read More without having to crack them open. My preference, though, is for Parted Magic Parted Magic: A Complete Hard Drive Toolbox On One Live CD Parted Magic: A Complete Hard Drive Toolbox On One Live CD Take control of your hard drives. Whether you want to edit your partitions, clone an entire drive, check SMART data or otherwise manage the way your computer's data is organized, Parted Magic is the tool... Read More .

Does anyone else love MacGyvering their own tech toolbags? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit: Vaseline/Wikimedia

This review contains affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

  1. wizVoz
    September 27, 2016 at 8:06 am

    I would include one more tool .. a paperclip.
    Simple, but it gets dvd drawers open, resets routers and has many other essential uses, apart from the obvious one of clipping your invoice to other paperwork :-)

    • Kannon Yamada
      October 1, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Oh that's an excellent idea! They also eject SIM cards from smartphones. This article needs to be updated! Thanks!

  2. plckid
    August 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

    What about WD- 40. For me It is a must have

    • Guy M
      August 27, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      What do you use WD-40 for on a computer? Please don't say you use it as a lubricant. It loosens things temporarily, but it also removes any lubrication that was there. WD stands for water-displacer.

  3. shaun
    August 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

    use nail varnish as screw/nut lock,also useful,because you con see if equipment has been tampered with.

    • TechnoAngina
      August 27, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Nail varnish, like what my wife uses on her fingernails?

    • TechnoAngina
      August 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Some of these I haven't used, good list. Didn't realize that the denatured alcohol was what was used to clean the contacts for cell phones or that jelly would keep contacts clean. I've always used mineral oil to get an extra year or two out of dirty fans as a means to clean and lubricate. Is there something that would be better suited to the lubrication of fans?

  4. Charles Freeman
    August 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    It's an obvious one, but household so I thought I'd mention it. I keep a pill organizer with me at all times. Compartments for morn, noon, eve, and bed for every day of the week! Not only does it (usually) keep me from losing screws, but it can keep them in chronological order if I'm careful :-)

  5. Esaure
    August 25, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I only use white eraser for cleaning memory, pci * cards, etc contacts. i didn't know about vaseline other than skin care but now i wonder if it would be good as anti-corrosive in memory contacts in areas where humidity is very high around the year.

    Lately i use silicon gun (it small and for handcraft purposes) instead of electrical tape because it protects from humidity, because electrical tape can't do it and with the heat leave the joints too sticky after it is removed.
    I have seen people working with swabs but never used.
    Don't drink coffee, so i don't have coffee filters to do a test but i have seen it sometimes and it looks very appropiated for cleaning.
    Neoprene is good as shock absorver, good for fans not screwed to a hard surface, i recently just tested as mouse pad en it does the job done better than a mouse pad lying around with a chip mouse.

    Alcohol denatured is something that i have to replace with something else because it has been suspended for sale in every pharmacy several years ago and replaced with something not really good.

    And the last i can mention is epoxy, is it good for fixing heatsinks to memory, northbridge, southbridge or video chips or there is a better solution like "thermal paste-epoxy"?

    • joe
      August 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      For the denatured alcohol, go to your local hardware store. You will probably find it in the paint section near the thinner.

    • Guy M
      August 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      I wouldn't recommend regular epoxy for heat sinks. You really should use the thermal paste recommend for that device.

  6. dan
    August 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    sorry, but this is about 8 more things than you're ever likely to need day to day.

    completely pointless list.

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      I can see someone not using all of these. Although I actually use all of these on a regular basis, except for the Sugru. Which two items did you find useful?

    • Darryl M
      August 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Maybe pointless to you but that doesn't mean it is pointless to everyone!!!

    • TechnoAngina
      August 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      I have used a lot of the items on this list, and grabbed picked up and idea for some things I didn't know before. I think YMMV, but I wouldn't say carrying something around in a toolkit amounts to every day usage.

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