Author Topic: Cleaning Potentiometers  (Read 7340 times)

lookn4tone

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« on: February 23, 2007, 10:07:39 PM »
What is an effective way to clean and lube potentiometers (on an expensive console for example)?  

I tried to clean up the scratchy pots on a channel strip on my Amek console and used Dioxit and then lubed with Cailube (the blue stuff).  It helped, but now the pots move back and forth freely without any of the resistance (for lack of a better term) that they had before I cleaned them.  

Do the pots have conductive grease in them to make them a bit stiff.  And if so, is there a way to add it back into the pots?  If indeed it can be added, which kind should I use?

Any help would be appreciated.  

Steve


NewYorkDave

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2007, 10:11:15 PM »
I've had good luck with DeOxit D5 on most rotary pots, but don't bring it anywhere near linear faders, aka slide pots. I learned that one the hard way years ago :mad:

thermionic

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2007, 08:14:14 AM »
Quote
I learned that one the hard way years ago


That could be because Deoxit D5 is only meant for switch and connector contacts, not carbon or CP tracks.

The Caig product for faders is Cailube, which is sold in 2 strengths; one to clean out the crap, and another stronger formulation to re-lubricate.

I can't believe the amount of people I've witnessed using Deoxit D5 on faders and pots... I did it myself for a time... Once I saw the whole Caig catalogue I realised the error of my ways.

I can't figure out why so many people think Deoxit D5 is ok for potentiometers... Maybe it's a confusion with Cramolin R5, which disappeared for a time when Deoxit D5 came about - I bought some D5 for this reason...

In the last few months, Caig have rebranded Cailube again...to "faderlube" - I guess to make it more self-explanatory...or more confusing, as the case may be...

http://www.caig.com/

BTW - you want a non-conductive grease to re-lubricate a track - something conductive is the last thing you want! Mineral-based lubes are out!

I tend to blast out with the weaker strength Cailube and re-grease with some silicone grease on the end of a blunt applicator.

Silicone grease is ok, but it's not as suitable as dedicated fader grease, which some OEMs will sell - at a grossly inflated margin, no doubt!

Justin
Prepare yourself. You are about to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament.

thermionic

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2007, 08:21:20 AM »
Wahay! Caig sell tubs of dedicated fader grease, so ignore my silicone suggestion!

Blast out with FaderLube and apply fader grease - Bob's yer uncle!

J
Prepare yourself. You are about to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament.

dissonantstring

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2007, 01:29:31 PM »
cramolin is the stuff many tech used until it was discontinued.  in the caig literature D5 is a direct replacement to cramolin R5 for cleaning contacts.
i believe most faders can be lubricated with fader lube with the exception of P&G which i heard should be cleaned with soap and distilled warm water.  
another product a local tech has turned me onto (since it's cheap and readily available) is that aqua-blue can of lube 1 (forgot the name) in the hardware stores.  great for cleaning out contacts, cheap and last forever.  just don't turn anything on until it dries (especially computer stuff).
-grant

thermionic

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2007, 02:03:37 PM »
That's a very good point about P+G btw. I wonder if caution should be advised with CP tracks in general.

I've used Deoxit D5 without problems, but I was ticked off by someone when I suggested it should be used on potentiometer tracks... It got me wondering where the suggestion came from as I noticed many other people suggesting Deoxit D5...

The best contact cleaner I've ever used was made by Philips. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it on sale for years. It used to stink, so I wonder if it had some noxious chemicals in it.

I think the safest policy with potentiometers is to use the weakest solution you can to clean them out and then regrease.


Justin

edit: I just tried a search and it seems that Cramolin R5 got discontinued for environmental reasons...  (Maybe the Philips formula saw the same fate? If it works well, the bureaucrats will find a way to ban it...). People were suggesting Deoxit D5 as a replacement, which would explain things. Having said that, I don't read fader tracks anywhere on the D5 literature, it seems to cite switches and connectors, but not CP or carbon amalgams.
Prepare yourself. You are about to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament.

dissonantstring

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2007, 03:19:46 PM »
hi steve,
sorry about not addressing your actualy question about stiffening the feel of the pot.  i'm not sure if there is anything that will add "resistance" to the feel of the pot from a chemical stand point.  you might open up the pot and there should be a slider contact which you might be able to mechanically adjust to "tighten up" the feel of the rotation.  remember lubricant is there to reduce friction, maybe just add very little fader lube at a time until you get where you like the feel of the rotation.

hi justin,
all caig products are said not to be harmful to plastics so i guess it's o.k. to clean pots with them, but caig always recommends sealing the part after cleaning with D5 (with another of their products of course :roll:  ).  D5 is for cleaning/deoxing and other products are meant to seal and lubricate.  the fader lube does not clean or seal, just lubricates.  
john klett mentions in an article on his website that some contact cleaners were discontinued due to harmful CFCs or something about ozone.

all this talking about cleaning pots just reminds me i have a bunch to work on at work.  uhg.  :sad:
-grant

Bryson

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2007, 05:35:03 PM »
Quote from: "dissonantstring"

another product a local tech has turned me onto (since it's cheap and readily available) is that aqua-blue can of lube 1 (forgot the name) in the hardware stores.  great for cleaning out contacts, cheap and last forever.  just don't turn anything on until it dries (especially computer stuff).
-grant


Do you mean LPS Electro Contact Cleaner?


I sure miss Freon.

dissonantstring

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2007, 05:50:43 PM »
hey bryson,
yeah LPS is the brand, but i just use the LPS 1 greaseless lubricant.  not really meant for long term protection, but it works well for cleaning.  if anyone should read this, don't use the LPS 2 (never dries).  that and some sealer (pro-gold) or whatever and you're done.  i guess for CP you would use
the appropriate sealer/preserver.
cheers,
grant

Bryson

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2007, 06:17:47 PM »
Quote from: "dissonantstring"
hey bryson,
yeah LPS is the brand, but i just use the LPS 1 greaseless lubricant.  not really meant for long term protection, but it works well for cleaning.  if anyone should read this, don't use the LPS 2 (never dries).  


I believe the original LPS product was (is?) a WD-40 - Liquid Wrench kinda thing.
Don't use that!


dissonantstring

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2007, 06:44:48 PM »
hi bryson,
hmmm...you may be right, but a few years ago a local tech who worked at CBS/fantasy studios in the 70's - early 80's and owned his own service shop til recently told me he uses it all the time to do contact cleaning.  FWIW i trust this person and respect him very much.  i've never had any problems with using this stuff, but for those who like to keep it safe...don't listen to me.  use the good/expensive stuff. :wink:
-grant

Bryson

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2007, 07:23:20 PM »
Quote from: "dissonantstring"
hi bryson,
hmmm...you may be right, but a few years ago a local tech who worked at CBS/fantasy studios in the 70's - early 80's and owned his own service shop til recently told me he uses it all the time to do contact cleaning.  


Like Caig, LPS now has a bunch of variants. I don't know what they call their WD40 type stuff now, but I don't imagine that'd be what your friend is referring to. But then maybe it's not as harsh as WD.


I've heard people recommend Gunk carb cleaner for pots......Ouch!!!

Larrchild

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2007, 07:45:46 PM »
Quote
I've heard people recommend Gunk carb cleaner for pots......Ouch!!!

That could backfire.

JohnRoberts

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Re: Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2007, 04:15:07 PM »
Quote from: "lookn4tone"
What is an effective way to clean and lube potentiometers (on an expensive console for example)?  

I tried to clean up the scratchy pots on a channel strip on my Amek console and used Dioxit and then lubed with Cailube (the blue stuff).  It helped, but now the pots move back and forth freely without any of the resistance (for lack of a better term) that they had before I cleaned them.  

Do the pots have conductive grease in them to make them a bit stiff.  And if so, is there a way to add it back into the pots?  If indeed it can be added, which kind should I use?

Any help would be appreciated.  

Steve


I don't know that there is a concise answer to your question. Most modern potentiometers are not designed to be taken apart and reassembled so you don't have good access to the internals. I recall the old P&G faders being cleanable but those are expensive and not that widely used.  

Different pot designs may use different lubricants. Some are slightly conductive to wick away static, some may use special formulations to protect sensitive materials. I have not noticed any similarity or standardization between pot manufacturers.

The proper answer is to talk to the manufacturer or a qualified repair/service dept, but pot's are rarely "like new" after cleaning and it's often a stop gap before replacing them.

JR
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sodderboy

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2007, 04:54:27 PM »
On carbon I have used any sort of non-lubed TF type "contact cleaner" and then follow-up with the LPS.  This works on carbon faders as well.  For conductive plastic faders there is no spray solution.  I dis-mantle and use P&G oil to clean and lube track and rod.  
I have not had many dirty conductive plastic pots.  Those have gotten a gentle TF application and no follow-up lube.
Any Cramolin product is reserved for metal contacts only.
A studio owner a way back gave me his receiver for volume pot cleaning.  "I keep spraying it and it does'nt do anything".  The guy was spraying R5 behind the knob into the sub-panel void.  It was filled with a pink buttery build-up of Soylent Red.  YUK!
Mike

mikep

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2007, 09:30:44 AM »
In my experience, Cailube often makes things worse.  sometimes it makes a pot happy for a little while, but the MTBSR (time-before-scratchness-returns) is often very short.

you can take apart most cheap rotary pots and the ubiquitous old type-J, bend back the tabs that hold on the rear bell. that way you can put your poison of choice only where you want it.

the best conductive plastic Cleaner ive found is made by Seventh Generation. clear dish soap you can buy at Wholefoods.  if you can completely dissassemble the pot, (like a P&G), then this is the way to go.  just a few drops in a bowl of water.  immerse the pot track, agitate, then rinse with tap water, then with distilled, shake it off and let it air dry.

the clear dish soap also works in ultrasonic cleaners.  though lemon joy has a following for that purpose.

lookn4tone

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Thanks
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2007, 12:59:33 PM »
Thanks to everyone for your replies.  I've been going through the console and taking an inventory of pots that may need to be replaced.  Man, it's going to be a huge undertaking.  I just recapped this thing and it took me a month.  Brutal.

Interestingly, the pots on the channel that I did clean are perfect now.  No scratching, sound great, just perfect (except for the fact that there's no tension in the rotation).  I bought some fader grease, and will see if adding it will bring back the feel.  

I've seen here in some of the replies, and have been told by other reliable sources, that cleaning scratchy pots will help...for a little while.  They will sooner than later have to be replaced.  Which, unfortunately, is to be expected after years of reliable service.  

I guess, for now, my question is whether or not routinely cleaning pots that are not scratchy will add life to them.  If so, how often should they be cleaned; and, is there a way to avoid ruining the feel of the pot in the process (if adding fader grease after the fact will not bring the feel back).  

Again, many thanks for the replies.  They've been very helpful.

Regards,

Steve

sodderboy

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2007, 05:49:25 PM »
Do not do routine cleaning on pots.  Only the scratchy pot should get the schpritz.  I am reminded of my favorite cookie fortune

"Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you"

Mike

thermionic

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2007, 07:38:03 PM »
When this topic came up a few years ago, IIRC, a certain Mr Erland suggested that pots should be replaced and cleaning was rarely worth it. In hindsight, I think there’s plenty of truth to what he was saying.

You can rejuvenate pots; sometimes for a couple of weeks, occasionally for a couple of years; but at the end of the day, you’re prolonging the time between powering up the iron and replacing the offending pot.

This thread has made me realise that the makers of these sprays are reluctant to comment in regards to their product’s effectiveness with potentiometer tracks. I personally trashed a pair of expensive Alps faders a few years back with an Electrolube cleaner that the salesperson swore was ok for fader tracks...

With all the compositions of track out there, it must be difficult to blend a definitive formulation, which makes me think that the ProSoundWeb member who corrected me for suggesting Deoxit D5, was himself incorrect…which in turn, means I acted erroneously in correcting Dave earlier in the thread… :oops:

If you really have to extend the working life of a pot, I reckon the best policy is to use the mildest solution you can to clean out the crap, e.g. Isopropyl / distilled water solution, and then re-grease with fader grease.

Oh yeah, if certain companies don’t stop buying up all their competitors (one company I could mention now owns at least 4 separate potentiometer brands that are used in audio…), rejuvenating pots could become a reality… In recent times, your choice has become much more limited…


Justin
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NewYorkDave

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Cleaning Potentiometers
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2007, 08:16:00 PM »
Quote
which makes me think that the ProSoundWeb member who corrected me for suggesting Deoxit D5, was himself incorrect…which in turn, means I acted erroneously in correcting Dave earlier in the thread…  :oops:


Yeah, I was gonna remark that all the comments here don't change the fact that I've had very good luck with using D5 on rotary pots, but I decided to just let it go.

So, to reiterate my anecdotal offering to this discussion, D5 is (in my experience) a disaster for sliders but seems to work well for rotary pots. Pots I've cleaned with D5 ten years ago are still working fine today. But will I claim that D5 is great for every pot? Certainly not. I just haven't met the pot that doesn't like it... yet!

As an aside, I used to work in a high-end audio repair shop and the owner insisted we clean pots, switches, relay contacts, etc. with a non-lubricating cleaner, then follow up with a light application of automatic transmission fluid (Dextron, if I recall correctly). I thought it was odd, but then again we had almost zero callbacks despite our unconditional warranty.

(This fellow claimed that the Dextron we used in the shop had been mixed by him with some secret ingredient which he wouldn't reveal. Truth or BS? I don't know).


 

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