White spirit for cleaning?


I recently got a great deal on a 41CX but the card reader has the gummy wheel problem. All the repair guides talk about using isopropyl alcohol but I can't get that round here except from hi-fi shops where they charge silly amounts for a small bottle (a few cc).

How about using white spirit instead? I've used it for cleaning all kinds of things in the past and it works great but I'm not sure about using it on electronics other than bare wire. I've got a hunch it might be corrosive on some plastics so I am concerned about the card reader internals.

Does anyone know - can I use white spirit or would this be a big mistake?

Thanks for any advice here...



Try it on a hidden piece of plastic to see but I would suggest a big NO on any petroleum product.

The HP plastic does not age well and becomes porous and brittle with age. The only products I use on the plastic is lemon oil glue remover, alcohol and water.

Did you try your local drug store. Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) is an excellent substitute and comes in 75% and 95%. I use the 95% and it dissolves the gummy wheel rubber quickly.

While you are in the guts of the reader replace the dampening couple (incorrectly referred to a the clutch).

Cheers, Geoff


Thanks Geoff. I'll try my local chemist - I had never thought about that as a source. You have also confirmed my gut reaction to using white spirit.



Be aware - rubbing alcohol is a combination of isopropryl alcohol and lanolin. The lanolin is added to prevent drying of the (human) skin. The lanolin is not required and is certainly detrimental to using on electronic/mechanical parts as it will leave a residue. Isopropyl alcohol is readily available at any local pharmacy/drug/department store.




I would suspect that each country has it's definition. The rubbing alcohol bottle I have states 99% iso propyl alcohol and absolutely nothing else including lanolin.

So the caveat here is to read the label first incase your bottle has different ingredients.

I have been using the 99% stated above for about 12 years with no adverse affects on electronics or plastics.

Cheers, Geoff


In the US where I live it is hard to find "rubbing alcohol" with more ahn 70% isopropyl. I used to get 90% ethyl but can't find it any more.

You can buy "Everclear" 190 proof grain alcohol from your local lush-enabler. That is pure as pure can be except for 5% water.

Edited: 9 July 2009, 2:41 p.m.


In the UK the closest my chemist was able to offer was surgical spirit but I'm not sure how pure that is or what may have been added to it. Suspect it may be a mix of alcohol and methanol but don't know as there aren't any clear indications on the bottle (Contents 100% surgical spirit - which isn't terribly helpful)


In the U.S. we have "denatured" alcohol, which is simply ethanol (Ethyl alcohol) with something (methanol?) added to make it undrinkable (hence no liquor taxes or other regulation). Available at hardware and do-it-yourself stores.

I am not familiar with the term "surgical" alcohol, but I suspect it is pure isopropal, since I believe that is the type used for sterilization. Perhaps someone in the medical field can chime in on this.


I have a bottle of "industrial methylated spirit" which I obtained from my chemist to use to sterilize medical equipment and injection sites. I don't know whether this is the same as "surgical spirit", but it certainly isn't the same as isopropyl alcohol: the smell is quite different. Don't use industrial meths on any part of a calculator that you care about: I tried to clean the green plastic "display screen" of a 1970s Commodore calculator with it, and the plastic fell to pieces!

Nigel (in the UK)


Surgical spirit is defiantly not the same as methylated spirit - I know from experience not to try cleaning cleaning plastic with methylated spirit as it will discolour it at the very least...

Does anyone know if 'Goo Gone' is sold under a different trade name in the UK or Europe?

Mike T.



A product I've used to remove gummy residue as well as soft adhesives goes by the trade name "Goo Gone" and is normally available in a pump spray bottle. It is very safe with plastics and I've even used it to clean the LED/LCD bezel without any adverse effects. It is manufactured in the USA by Magic American. I don't know if it is available in the UK.



<Goo Gone>


Thank you very much for all the help here.

Just to clarify the solutions I have already:

White Spirit is listed as "Naphta (petroleum) hydroesufurised heavy UN No 1300 Turpentine Substitute (White Spirit)"

and Methylated Spirits is listed as "Ethanol and Methanol UN No 1170 Ethanol Solution"

I remember from my early modelling days that meths had a nasty habit of decaying plastic so I wont be using that!

I think meths is the same as denatured alcohol.

I am going to see what the local chemists have along the lines advised in posts above and I'll report back what I find. I am not a chemist so it can get very confusing with all these names, especially when different countries use different identifiers!



RIght, update on this is that I went to my local chemist/pharmacy/drug store and asked for isopropyl alcohol. They didn't have it in stock but have it ordered for collection tomorrow. I am getting a 0.5 litre bottle of 100% isopropyl alcohol for about 5.50GBP which seems quite a reasonable price to me, especially given the over-inflated prices you can pay for it in small quantities on some markets. So for UK people, given that all chemists should be able to get the same range, this is probably the best way to buy it in bulk and easily.



Which chemist did you go to?

Only a couple of weeks ago I tried to buy some Isopropyl Alcohol in the UK, asking for it by that name. However, both Lloyds Chemists and Boots told me that they didn't sell it...

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I don't have a rare vintage HP calculator that needs cleaning, but I do want something to clean some model railway track that won't leave any residue.

Mike T.


Maplin sells 1 liter cans of Isopropyl alcohol for cleaning printed circuit boards for £10.99. They usually have a couple of cans in stock in most stores. They also have a 400 ml spray can for £7.29.

Edited: 9 July 2009, 5:24 p.m.


Mike - it wasn't one of the main chains. I think it is run by a family and they only have this one local branch. The chap there didn't bat an eyelid when I asked for the stuff and went straight onto his computer to order it so it clearly wasn't as if I had asked for something unusual. He also gave me various purity options of which I selected the 100% type. So why Boots and others don't sell something so basic, I don't know - probably being lazy to find out if it is available when you asked for it.


Which chemist did you go to?

Only a couple of weeks ago I tried to buy some Isopropyl Alcohol in the UK, asking for it by that name. However, both Lloyds Chemists and Boots told me that they didn't sell it...

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I don't have a rare vintage HP calculator that needs cleaning, but I do want something to clean some model railway track that won't leave any residue.

Mike T.


Thank you to both of you for that information - there is a Maplin's in Basingstoke I might try next week.

Mike T.

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