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.
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.
I’ve been told that pink erasers are just as good – however, I prefer white erasers.
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 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.
Additionally, neoprene exists in several varieties such as anti-ESD, fabric and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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 without having to crack them open. My preference, though, is for Parted Magic.
Does anyone else love MacGyvering their own tech toolbags? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: Vaseline/Wikimedia