Maintaining your Soldering Iron: Tip Cleaning

by Andy on March 5, 2012

Last week we looked into why tinning your soldering tips is important to improve their life span, but that is not the only thing to keep in mind when maintaining your soldering iron. To ensure your tips are free of any oxides, you should clean them regularly. By cleaning your tips, you remove any dirt or dust that has accumulated as well as built up oxides. While you should clean your tips every time you are done using them, you should also pay particular attention to blackened tips. If your tip is turning black then that is a sign of oxidation, and you should clean your tip right away to prevent corrosion. Always make sure to re-tin your tip directly after cleaning it to help prevent oxidation.

Tip Cleaning SpongeTip cleaning sponges are one of the most common cleaning methods. While you are soldering, you can wipe the tip across a sponge to wipe off any excess solder, dirt, or oxides. However, you must be careful to always use a clean sponge. If there is dust or contaminants on the sponge, you will hurt your tip more than you will help.

When cleaning your soldering tip with a sponge, there is the concern of shocking the tip. Because the sponge is much cooler than the soldering tip, it can cause the temperature of the tip to change rapidly when they touch. This can cause the tip to contract, and can quickly wear out the tip if done too often. To minimize this shock, try wire cleaning pads, which are sturdy enough to wipe off contaminants but soft enough that they will not scratch the surface of the tip.

Another way to clean your soldering tips is to use a combination tip cleaner and tinner. Tip cleaners/tinners are chemical pastes that typically come in metal tins. When you use these items, you heat up your iron and then wipe your tip in the paste. This helps to remove oxides from the tip because cleaning the tip thoroughly when normal cleaning will not help. These tip cleaners and tinners can also be used with tip polishers to maximize their cleaning.

Lead Free Tip Tinner Do you have any more questions about cleaning your soldering tips? Leave a comment below! Also, come back next week for another article on maintaining your soldering irons.

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