Questions Engineering

How to clean a soldering iron?

Airtract

Usman Banda

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If you are into any electrical/electronics profession, then one of the components of your toolbox will surely be a Soldering Iron. Soldering Iron is used for joining connections in various electrical and electronic components using solder at high temperature. Now, a soldering iron comes in contact with various metals at high temperature, which can cause it to corrode, obviously due to rusting. But if you maintain your soldering iron properly, then you don’t need to worry about it getting corroded.

In this article, we’ll be discussing various ways of cleaning and maintaining your soldering iron in the long run.

  • Tip Cleaning
    Before cleaning, make sure that the soldering iron is cold. If you’ve used it, then let it cool for about 15-20 mins before the cleaning process. It’s best if you clean your soldering iron every time after using it, as it prevents building up of any residue that might lead to rusting.

  • Clean the tip thoroughly using a cellulose/sulfur-free sponge (wet). You should use sulfur-free sponges over regular sponges because they help in cleaning the iron tip efficiently.

  •  Use steel wool for removing the tougher stains/discolorations attained over time. Do not use sandpaper as they are very corrosive for the iron tip.

  • Tinning
    Tinning is the process of covering the iron tip with even layer of good quality solder, after cleaning it. Tinning helps in protecting the iron tip from rusting. 

Before tinning, always ensure proper eye-protection as most of the chemicals used in solder are eye-irritants.

  • Start by applying a tiny amount of a good quality solder on the tip of the soldering iron. Once the solder starts melting, apply it uniformly over the tip. This will ensure proper heat-flow the next time the soldering iron is used, which in turn will prevent corrosion of the metal tip.

  • After applying the solder, remove the metal tip from the holder and using a microfiber cloth apply a small coat of alloy cleaner over the tip to prevent oxidation of the iron tip due to dust accumulation.

Conclusion

You need to keep a few things in mind for maintaining your soldering iron;

  • Always use good quality solder over cheap quality as they contain a relatively lesser amount of impurities.

  • It is advised to clean the iron tip with a wet cellulose/sulfur-free sponge after each stroke as it drastically reduces the build-up of residue on the metal tip. Moreover, cleaning it after every stroke makes it easier to clean the soldering iron at the end of the soldering process.

  • Always check the chord of the soldering iron for all sorts of breaks and burns.

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