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Question: How does one prepare clothing with embedded electronics for washing?

Background: There are several Arduino boards/clones that are designed for "wearable tech." (For example, the Lilypad.) Wearable tech with LED light patterns, microphones, GPS, or other circuitry is an interesting concept, but water and electricity tend not to mix.

To prepare wearable tech for washing, I would assume people make large circuitry removable. Yet, inevitably, some electronics will be more-or-less permanently affixed to the cloth. What, if anything, can be done to these electronics (e.g. sewn-in Arduino Lilypad) to make them washing-machine (preferred--hand wash could be done, but it's so much easier to machine wash) safe?

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I would use some sort of epoxy and cover up the exposed circuitry. The major concern would be where the wires connect to the board as flex over time can weaken it.

Some options include:

  • 3M™ Scotchcast™ Wet-Niche Potting Kit
  • Hysol

    US1150™—For electronics, telecommunications, and automotive components. Provides environmental hazard protection.

    US1152™—For electronic assemblies. Provides environmental hazard protection.

Heat might play a factor if you cover up the boards in epoxy but you shouldn't be producing that much heat in a wearable device anyway, right?

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I would make it so the Board has velcro on it so that it can be un attached from the clothing, and then have all the wires have snap terminals that wires from the Arduino connect to. This way you un snap all the wires and remove the arduino. As far as components, I would cover them in an epoxy to protect them.

  • I've purchased the "correct" snaps for wearable electronic connections, and I've also bought cheap shiny silver colored snaps from the fabric store. Both work just fine with conductive thread. It's a lot less particular than it seems like it should be. – Steve Cooley Feb 13 '14 at 1:04
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How does one prepare clothing with embedded electronics for washing?

  • Remove the battery(ies) and other power supplies, and set them far away from the water. Buzzers and speakers also.
  • Gently wash clothing (including the Lilypad, LEDs, resistors, capacitors, integrated circuits, accelerometers, magnetometers, Bluetooth modules, GPS modules, etc.) by hand with a mild detergent.
  • Drip dry, or manually dry with a hair-dryer.

See:

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