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I had a small pile of accumulated, salvaged desktop RAM / memory sticks sitting on my desk. I made the apparently unwise decision to drink my triple-extra-large sody-pop near them, and to my demise, my desk got flooded with the sticky crud.

A couple of the sticks got wet; I dabbed them dry, but once they have dried out further, are they still usable? Do I risk motherboard sparks flying and BSODs popping?

I'm thinking because the memory was not powered at the time, and no electrical charge was present through my Coke-ductive puddle, I could simply dry them off and use them later. Or could I?

Maybe some isopropyl alcohol could be used to dry them off?

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FWIW, I don't think there's a HIGH risk to your PC from attempting to use the sticks, provided that the contacts are not gummy from the pop. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 5 '13 at 20:40
    
That's what I was mostly concerned about. The RAM is salvaged and replaceable, but I don't to fry a board just because I was daring. –  Moses Sep 5 '13 at 20:43
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(The biggest risk would likely be that you somehow mechanically damaged a stick while cleaning it, causing it to create a dead short.) –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 5 '13 at 20:46
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I would test these sticks in a cheap old computer if you have one lying around, just to be on the safe side. –  David Sep 5 '13 at 21:46
    
In case anyone was interested, two of the memory modules were put into my Spiceworks "server", and they are functioning well. I think the sugar and caffeine might have actually increased performance! :) –  Moses Oct 24 '13 at 3:20

6 Answers 6

up vote 29 down vote accepted

They'll be usable if you haven't created any new electrical paths. That means:

  • No corrosion, which creates new paths
  • No leftover liquid, which would be conductive

To address the corrosion, you'll have wanted to make sure you cleaned them quickly and thoroughly, especially as you mentioned you spilled soda, which is acidic and hence will tend to oxidize metals.

To address the leftover liquid, any environment to encourage evaporation at a relatively high rate (elevated temperatures, low humidity, and no weathering - i.e. high sunlight, etc) should be fine. If you can't do the temperature, you can place the RAM sticks on a few handfuls of rice grains, or use other similar drying tricks that you might use for cell phones and devices dropped in water.

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I wouldn't recommend a temp as high as 100C. 50C for 24 hours is probably sufficient. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 5 '13 at 20:27
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And for God sake never put it under the sun to dry faster. –  razpeitia Sep 5 '13 at 22:48
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I don't think 100C temperature would hurt the RAM... I pulled up a random spec sheet and their RAM is rated for storage at up to 100C, another manufacturer rated their ram for up to 150C storage temperature. Though I agree that such high temps aren't really neccessary to dry it. Oh, but I'd rinse with distilled water to be sure no residue is left behind. –  Johnny Sep 6 '13 at 1:12
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I don't think corrosion can create new paths. It is more likely that paths will be destroyed, isn't it? –  Alvin Wong Sep 6 '13 at 8:17
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I was thinking corrosion could create shorts via the generated oxides or salts, as opposed to fully corroding and removing the path. Someone with a stronger electrical background would have to weigh in on this . . . and if someone wants to clarify the cleaning section, feel free to. I wasn't sure what the best approach to cleaning was - my guess would be IPA, but I don't really know. –  ernie Sep 6 '13 at 16:47

Wash them off with clean water immediately (soda can be acidic and can do damage if not removed). Then dry them with a hair dryer, being careful not to get them too hot. Let them sit a few hours just in case there's any stray moisture around, say trapped under chips. If you get them thoroughly clean and dry, they should be okay.

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Might clarify that the "clean water" should be distilled ( i.e. no minerals ) and I personally would avoid the hair dryer and allow them to air dry. –  Ramhound Sep 5 '13 at 19:10
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If you have distilled water, you can allow it to air dry. If not, I prefer to get the water off as soon as possible. –  David Schwartz Sep 5 '13 at 19:19
    
I perform not to put minerals that conduct electricity on my electronic parts to begin with. You buy distilled water it's not cheap but possible –  Ramhound Sep 5 '13 at 19:31
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The problem is, most people don't happen to have a jug of distilled water laying around, and the sooner the pop is washed off the better. I certainly wouldn't wait until tomorrow to wash the stuff with distilled, vs using clean tap water now. Rubbing alcohol will remove most contaminants that tap water might leave behind. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 5 '13 at 20:33
    
Rubbing alcohol will also make the water evaporate faster. You definitely need to get the soda off there ASAP. –  David Schwartz Sep 5 '13 at 20:41

I would as quickly as possible rinse briefly with distilled water (or clean tap water, if distilled isn't immediately available), then rinse briefly with rubbing alcohol (to help remove the water). Dry 24 hours in a slightly warm (not hot) location (eg, near your PC exhaust) before attempting to use.

Your two big hazards are that the phosphoric acid in pop is highly corrosive of printed circuit like stuff (hence the urgency to rinse off) and you may leave a conductive residue if the sugar, et al, is not rinsed off completely.

(I'd also be tempted to apply a very thin coat of silicone "high voltage grease" (from an auto parts place) to the contacts, to discourage corrosion.) (And, no, the grease will not "insulate" the contacts and prevent them from connecting properly.)

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The contacts are probably gold precisely to avoid corrosion. And while the grease may conduct electricity, it will likely create stray capacity. That's no problem for DC currents, but it is a problem for high-speed signals. –  MSalters Sep 6 '13 at 10:43
    
@MSalters - No, the grease doesn't conduct electricity, and is very unlikely to create "stray capacity". (The problem is that the gold is very thin, and wears through easily. Washing/wiping is apt to remove whatever lube was applied at the factory.) –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 6 '13 at 11:44
    
Electric signals require that electricity must flow, so that grease better conduct electricity. And stray capacities are very easily created - two wires close together are sufficient, a CPU has tens of billions of stray capacities. It's never "very unlikely". RAM speeds haven't kept up with CPU's, precisely because this is so hard. –  MSalters Sep 8 '13 at 15:33
    
@MSalters -- The grease would only need to conduct if it created a layer between the contacts. It doesn't. What it does do is exclude air from the contact area, in addition to lubricating the contacts as you slide them in and out. And since the grease is an insulator (better than air), it does not contribute "stray capacity". –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 8 '13 at 19:31
    
I'd be careful with giving advice if you don't understand physics. The core of a good capacitor is a thin, good isolator. You wouldn't notice with a 50 Hz current (i.e. net currents) but at 50 Mhz (bus frequencies) the effects of a capacitor are 50 million times bigger. –  MSalters Sep 8 '13 at 19:47

They can be fine if you meet the conditions others suggest (do it quickly and don't power them on until they are 100% dry). However, I would suggest a different mechanism for cleaning them:

  • Use a high proof alcohol instead of water, if you must use water - make it distilled. I'd also take off the heatshields, if you have them, and use a q-tip where necessary.

Water contains minerals and those can leave residual residue that is unfavorable. It also completes circuits - so if there is any charge left in them or something, it could leave you with paper weights.

Alcohol dries very quickly and high proof won't complete circuits. By high proof, I mean 96% isypropyl or Everclear.

  • Fill a small container with rice, even a plate works. Set the RAM on the rice (gently). Rice absorbs liquid rapidly and will help ensure drying. After a few hours, I would flip them over and wait a few more.

Rice absorbs moisture, so that will just aid in being sure they're clean.

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I'd be a little reluctant to place the sticks directly in a bed of rice. Aside from the danger of accidentally having ROMen noodles for dinner, there's a non-trivial risk that conductive starch would transfer from the rice to the sticks. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 5 '13 at 20:42
    
@DanielRHicks - Never had a problem to date. Done it for other people's keyboards and other components about 8 times now. But I guess there is a risk associated. –  nerdwaller Sep 5 '13 at 20:53
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it'll work as long as its in the same container, so you could probably have something between the ram and the rice, and have it in a sealed container. –  Journeyman Geek Sep 6 '13 at 1:26

Its always better dry it completely,

If you have dis trilled water that will help that if any ionization was there in the the water based Sody-Pop(I don't know the formula to make it, so don't know what it contained :) ) So here are the content that makes water conductive:

Conductivity in water is affected by the presence of inorganic dissolved solids such as chloride, nitrate, sulfate, and phosphate anions (ions that carry a negative charge) or sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and aluminum cations (ions that carry a positive charge).

Conductivity is also affected by temperature: the warmer the water, the higher the conductivity. For this reason, conductivity is reported as conductivity at 25 degrees Celsius (25 C). (source)

Now if the solids have stayed between any connects chip-legs, circuit tracks or more.. the distilled water is best way to clean it.

The mobile service station use the same technique to clean our mobile in in service.

Then dry it off.(completely). and Ta Da... here you go..

the memory chip is ready to use,

Note: If your chip was containing static charge then there are possibility of active charge effect of capacitors. that might make the chip not working as it short circuit it self. Same as written on batteries 'Please do not short positive and negative without any load.'.

Yes in case of absorbent Silica Bag or Silica Gel is the best. you must have seen it when opening new electronics device from box. get that and put it with the device its best in class absorbent. Or Refer Old post this will explain in more detail.

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Normally should be no problem to use them again but be sure to wash the soda with water and to dry them completely. A good way of doing this (if you need them very soon) is to dry them with a fan or a hair dryer. But make sure you keep the hair dryer on cold air, not hot!

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