Preserving electronics: vermin, leaky batteries, melting rubber, brittle plastics, dribbly capacitors, fungus and dust

Benji Edwards's guide to preserving vintage electronics is a fascinating look into all the ways that even solid-state gear can go off in long-term storage: a lot of stuff (batteries, capacitors and even rubber) can leak viscous, electronics-destroying liquids; plastics break down in UV light; mold and corrosion eat your gear from within; spiders, crickets and roaches make their nests in old gear; and of course, dust gets everywhere.

Tiny critters love small, dark holes. This includes insects like crickets and roaches, web-weaving spiders, pungent millipedes, and small rodents such as mice. Once they're in there, things get nasty: they could create potentially dangerous electric shorts, chew on wires, or impede airflow with excrement, nests, or webs.

So as you store your electronics in a cool, dark, dry place, try to cover all potential points of pest entry with archival tape (if the surface is suitable and cleanable, such as polished stainless steel) or enclose the entire gadget in an archival safe paperboard box or paper bag so pests don't get inside. The paperboard box needs to stay dry or it will become a breeding ground for mold. Also, low humidity discourages the incursion of termites seeking cardboard boxes, which I have also had trouble with in the past.

I recommend against using plastic bags for sealing because they will eventually degrade and outgas chemicals that can react with your equipment (especially other plastics), and will do so much more quickly if kept in a hot environment. Plastic bags, created for temporary use, are horribly unstable.

How to Preserve Vintage Electronics
[Benji Edwards/PC Magazine]

(via Beyond the Beyond)

(Photo: Harold Gibson)