Eliminating smoke stink from a laptop?

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by Dr. Righteous, Apr 4, 2019.

  1. Dr. Righteous

    Dr. Righteous 2[H]4U

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    A few months ago my parents house burned down (they are fine, even the dog). Dad brought his HP laptop to me to see if I could backup his data and it really looked like hell. It was not in the part of the house that was totaled by the fire but a back room so it is just smoke damage and debris. I was worried at first the fire department hosed it down and there would be water damage. But after some good cleaning and getting the corners and crevices with a tooth brush and q-tips, it powered up and everything seems to be working fine. The display looks great. There is just that smell. The smell of the burned down house.
    It isn't difficult to crack the case on these to get into the internals but I'm wondering if there are methods or cleaning agents that will eliminate that nasty smoke smell from electronics.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. cyclone3d

    cyclone3d [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It is probably more that the smoke smell has be absorbed by the plastics.

    You can start by completely disassembling everything, making sure to also remove the CMOS battery.

    Then you can clean everything except for drives, the LCD panel itself, and the keyboard with warm water and dish detergent. Yes, you really can do this.

    A somewhat safer method is to use 70% rubbing alcohol as it will evaporate faster.

    I would probably just try cleaning everything non-electronic first to see if that takes care of it. You can also try spraying that stuff down with Fabreeze. It works wonders for getting out smells.
     
  3. Mode13

    Mode13 Limp Gawd

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    I'm just going to echo the above.

    I've done the above for quite a few laptops coming from chain smoking family members.. they come to me full of that sticky tar-dust and reek of smoke. I usually would lightly submerge all PCBs in isopropyl, I've used 91% but sometimes that can dull out the shiny finish they use on certain boards and plastics. Brush them really nice without force using a soft bristled toothbrush, set them aside to dry. Speaker cones also tend to hold that nasty smell, you can just very gently brush those with the soapy water too.

    SOAK the entire plastic chassis in the soapy water mentioned above for a little while and give the fan(s) blades a good scrubbing, that's 99.9% of the smell right there.

    Let everything air dry for a day or two and when you put it back together it'll smell like you just opened a clean dish washer, screen doesn't seem to retain much smell at all :p
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
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  4. bigdogchris

    bigdogchris [H]ard as it Gets

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    You will want to disconnect the battery. Find any type of electronic safe contact cleaner and spray the hell out of the internal fans and vents. Wipe down the exterior with cleaner and a microfiber cloth. As suggested water and a splash of rubbing alcohol works wonders.

    Then let the thing sit for a couple days before reconnecting the battery or powering it on to verify all liquid is evaporated.
     
  5. THUMPer

    THUMPer 2[H]4U

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  6. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ard as it Gets

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    This. I've had to deal with this several times myself over the years.
     
  7. Dr. Righteous

    Dr. Righteous 2[H]4U

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    Thanks for the help guys.

    When the house was on fire the laptop was plugged in and running. The debris fell on it was bits of wet installation and wet drywall crud. I was able to clean it externally (took several times) to make it look better than it was before the fire. The The smell is more on the inside since the fan pulled smoke into it.
    The up side was dad was so thrilled I "fixed" it for him he said the smoke smell is no big deal. So looks like I don't have to crack it open and go any further. ;)
     
  8. Hashiriya415

    Hashiriya415 [H]Lite

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    Could putting it a bag with baking soda help? Maybe run it so the plastic opens up from the heat.
     
  9. RazorWind

    RazorWind 2[H]4U

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    Probably best not to expose it to a salt.

    I'd take it apart and put all the housings in the dishwasher. Then I'd clean the heatsinks and fans with isopropanol.
     
  10. Zareek

    Zareek Limp Gawd

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    Someone hit the nail on the head earlier. The fan and heat sink are probably loaded with soot from the smoke. At least consider blowing it out even dad doesn't mind the smell, house fire soot is generally loaded with nasty crap. Not healthy to be breathing in.
     
  11. dark_reign

    dark_reign 2[H]4U

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    You could use an ozone machine if the smell is really bad. Amazon sells them for a fair price, but the cheap ones may not be as effective.
     
  12. Dr. Righteous

    Dr. Righteous 2[H]4U

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    UPDATE:
    Well, the laptop worked for a couple weeks and died. No power. I messed with it some and it looked like the battery was bad. So I ordered a replacement batter upon replacement the power indicator showed charging, and then fully charged. I tried to power it on; still DEAD. So I bought of can of circuit cleaner and cracked the case open and closely examined everything. All though the PCBs looked good but other things I found was a deal breaker. Looking at the ribbon cables closely there were several I found corrosion on the foil connections. When I cleaned them with the circuit cleaner and a tooth brush I found the corrosion ate away the connections all together. Also found CMOS battery was corroded. Bad news. A lot of these bare metal surfaces showed some corrosion so that is the end. I did not find any that looked like water damage; but the toxic atmosphere of the smoke was corrosive.
    I yanked the hard drive out and fortunately it appears to work fine. At least we can backup his data.
     
  13. THUMPer

    THUMPer 2[H]4U

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  14. Brian_B

    Brian_B 2[H]4U

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    Submit the laptop as a loss on the fire insurance claim - easiest way to deal with the smell and the now deceased hardware
     
  15. She loved E

    She loved E n00b

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    Yikes bummer man. Glad the data is good tho.
     
  16. Dr. Righteous

    Dr. Righteous 2[H]4U

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    Yeah, that was already done; whole house was a loss. And I was just expecting to pull the HD out and see if it would still work. But I cleaned the crud of and the laptop seemed to work fine. For a while. But no big deal really he can definitely affording to buy a new one.