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I need to clean the dust out of my computer. Previously, I have used canned air, but it seems now I cannot find any without a bitterant to prevent inhalant abuse. I just bought a can that says it is suitable for "home, office, electronics, and auto."

Is there any reason to worry about the bitterant chemical damaging the insides of my computer?

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Dunno, but I have used a leaf blower to clean out an older computer with 6 inches of dust build up. They wondered why their 2 year old computer kept crashing... >< – kobaltz Jan 2 '12 at 7:01
A computer is not much different from electronics, hence you can. You would actually want to prevent inhalant abuse to ensure your computer doesn't blow bad air into your room... – Tom Wijsman Jan 2 '12 at 22:22
@Tom: How does preventing inhalant abuse ensure your computer doesn't "blow bad air into your room"? – Lèse majesté Apr 16 '12 at 3:29
We have a force air blow dryer that I've used to clean out my computer many times. It's also great for keyboards, fun to watch all the dog fur and junk scoot along under the keys and then POP out. – Rob Apr 16 '12 at 4:23
An oil free air compressor is handy and can be used for many other tasks too. – Aki Apr 16 '12 at 17:55
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, the chances are the quantity of bitterant is so low that it dosen't really have an effect on the parts of the computer its in contact with. A little digging indicates that the commonly used bitterant is Denatonium Salt of some sort, and considering its detectable at as low as 0.5 ppm, there probably isn't enough to actually cause a short, or damage things in any other way.

I also note that no one seems to have had issues outside bitterness (i've never had this issue, but i generally follow up dusting with a quick once over with cleaning gunk).

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Good find. You're probably right about the concentration. It must be pretty low not to be listed on a MSDS - the ones I found for the DPSX12 don't list it. – Mark Johnson Apr 16 '12 at 17:43

Well, if you believe the Wikipedia entry, a bitterant can leave a residue. I suppose to figure out any potential damage you'd need to know the identity of the bitterant(s) in question so as to look up the chemical properties. Unfortunately, none of the cans I have on hand (various brands) identify any of the contents.

You'd hope that the selection process would involve criteria minimizing side effects and leaving the product still suitable for its intended purpose. It's only anecdotal evidence, but I've used the stuff for years and never noticed any damage.

I have one can that doesn't seem to contain a bitterant (not mentioned on the can, anyway), but it could easily be 10 years old. It's a Dust-Off DPSXL, the rest that contain the bitterant notices are DPSX12 (the ones that are Dust-Off/Falcon anyway). I don't know if the DPSXL model is still available commercially, but it might be. The MSDS only lists Diflouorethane.

According to a suggestion in this MetaFilter question, you might try looking for products intended for photo use. Maybe a camera store or photo supply outfit? Maybe they still carry the DPSXL as the lab supply outfit I linked to above appears to?

I've got a duster than consists of a valve/trigger assembly that takes CO2 cartridges. I think this is it. Looks like Newegg doesn't carry it any more, but you can find similar products on Amazon. This is probably the way to go if you want to avoid bitterant agents and can't get your hands on any suitable cans of Diflouorethane.

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Ah, the 2002 DPSXL; a full body, rich texture... 'twas a fine vintage. Goes well with a sharp wood glue, or maybe a tangy industrial solvent from the South-West region of Home Depot. – Lèse majesté Apr 16 '12 at 3:53

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