Introduction: How to Safely Desolder Electronic Components for Reuse


I am an electronics nerd, so I love to play with different electronic components in my projects. However, I might not always have the components I need to get my work done. Sometimes its easier to pull the components I need from an old electronic device instead of buying it and waiting for it to arrive.

This guide will show you how to properly desolder electronics, allowing you to reuse components from that broken computer or printer. Not only does this give a new life to seemingly useless components, but it can also save money, time, and can prevent unnecessary electronics from entering landfills! By recycling our electronics and using them for new projects, we are essentially turning trash to treasure. Let's get started!

Step 1: Equipment

Before you begin desoldering, make sure you have to correct equipment for the job. I can't stress this enough, solder fumes are extremely harmful to health. Work in a well-ventilated area to disperse solder fumes and use a fume extractor and/or wear a respirator to prevent inhalation of such fumes. Please take all the necessary precautions before desoldering.

Equipment list:

  1. Soldering Iron
  2. Solder
  3. Safety Glasses
  4. Pliers/Tweezers
  5. Solder Fume Extractor
  6. Respirator
  7. Solder Wick/Solder Pump

Step 2: Circuit Board Collection

Now that you have all of your tools, its time to get some old circuit boards. These boards are very common and easy to get. You might have a box of old/broken electronics in your garage, or you can get old electronics from friends or family. Personally, I get the circuit boards I need simply from the street. A lot of times people throw away PCs, TVs, microwaves, DVD players, and other electronic devices. Sometimes these are relatively new and work properly!

Step 3: Lets Begin Desoldering!

Now that we have the circuit boards we need, we can start desoldering! The first step is to properly place the board in a way which it's easy to remove components from. I use a pair of helping hands to do this. Attach the helping hands to the board with the components facing down to ensure they fall out.

Step 4: Determine the Parts You Need

Since there can be hundreds of different parts on a circuit board, it's important to know which parts should be desoldered. I separate the components into three categories: Parts I Desolder, Parts I Leave, and Optional Parts.

Parts I Desolder

  1. Heatsinks
  2. Voltage Regulators
  3. Coils (Inductors/Transformers)
  4. Capacitors
  5. LEDs
  6. Buttons/Switches
  7. Audio/Power Jacks
  8. Motors

Parts I Leave

  1. Any SMD component (These are too small and are often too difficult to remove)
  2. Connectors
  3. Integrated Circuits (IC)

Optional Parts

  1. Resistors
  2. Diodes
  3. Transistors

Step 5: Desoldering 2-3 Pin Components

To desolder a component with pins close to each other, such as a capacitor, LED, or switch, simply apply solder to both pins, and move the soldering iron from one pin to the other continuously, to ensure that the solder on both pins is melted. At this point, the component should simply drop off the board. If it doesn't, use some pliers/tweezers to gently tug on the component until it falls out. This method can be used for any component with pins in close proximity to each other, which is most of the useful components on the circuit board.

In the images above I use this method to remove a LED. I begin by warming up one pin (left), then I warm up the other (top right), and the LED drops off the board (bottom right). I have also attached a video of how to do this.

Step 6: Desoldering Further Spaced Components/Components With Many Pins

Sometimes components will have several pins and will not be able to be removed with just a soldering iron. To solve this, solder wick or a desoldering pump can be used. For solder wick, place a segment of it onto the solder joint, then place the soldering iron on top. The solder on the component should melt and get sucked into the wick, freeing the pin. For the desoldering pump, use the soldering iron to heat the solder on a pin, and press the plunger on the pump down. Press the nozzle of the pump on the pin, and push the button on the side to suck the melted solder into the pump. With these methods, any useful component can be removed!

Step 7: Sorting Your Desoldered Components

Now that all the useful components have been removed, its time to sort them. In my workspace, I have an electronics cabinet where I store a variety of components. I sort the components by their type, model number, and specifications. This step is up to you! Feel free to sort these components in a way that pleases you.

Step 8: Cleanup

With the desoldering and sorting complete, you now will have several gutted circuit boards. The best way to recycle these safely is to take them to an electronics recycler who will properly dispose of them. Stores such as Best Buy and Staples have programs where they will take your E-Waste free of charge. Additionally, cities often hold "cleanup days", where people are allowed to dispose of E-waste and other large waste products by leaving them on the curb to be recycled. By doing this, you are ensuring that your E-Waste does not end in a landfill or dump site, but is recycled and turned into new things, such as car parts, rocket fuselages, and even new electronics!

Step 9: The End!

I hope you learned a lot in this instructable! Have fun desoldering and turning old into new!

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure