How to clean your soldering iron
Soldering iron is an ideal solution to metal or even all kinds of joint problems. Automotive, plumbing and electrical circuit boards are some of the areas where soldering iron is widely used. Users like it when they melt the solder with their soldering iron and fix something that they were worried about. But one thing that no one likes is a dirty solder iron. An unclean solder iron is not very good to look at and more importantly, it does not work properly in the case of solder melting. In this guide, we will tell you everything about cleaning a soldering iron and share some tips and tricks along the way.
Why is a soldering iron dirty?
One of the reasons is that soldering iron tips come in contact with a variety of materials and collect them as overtime residue. Also, rust is a common problem for all metals, and solder iron is no exception. If you remove solder from a circuit board with a soldering iron, it will also cause your soldering iron to get dirty.
List of examples of how to clean a soldering iron
In addition to the iron tip, a soldering iron has a metal base, plastic or wooden handle, and power cord. All of these parts will accumulate different types of dirt over time. We will tell you how to clean these parts.
Soldering can be risky for any beginner. Iron cleaning is also a fair part of the risk. We recommend using safety goggles and gloves when cleaning. It is good to have a good ventilation system to remove the smoke. If you are not confident alone, seek the help of an expert.
Clean the non-heating part
Use a cloth or brush to primarily remove dust or dirt from the soldering iron power cable and handle. Then, use a damp cloth to get rid of more stubborn stains or sticky substances from the handle and power cord. Be sure to dry the device completely before plugging it in again.
How to clean the tip of the soldering iron?
Removing dirt from the soldering iron tip is a little more challenging than other parts. Since there are different types of dirt and debris that can make the tip unclean, we will tell you different ways to take care of them. In this section, we will cover all types of non-oxidizing dirt and then move on to oxidized soldering iron.
The first thing you need to do is cool your iron. Of course, you need to heat it to clean the oxidizing dirt but not now. Carefully touch the tip of the solder iron 30 minutes after removing the power cord and see if the iron is cool. Wait until you are comfortable with the temperature. Use a sponge Unlike regular sponges, you will need sponges, especially for solder so that no sulfur is present. Moisten the sponge and rub well over the entire surface of the iron tip. It will clean any middle buildup or other sticky things that can be easily removed without heating. The wet sponge tip also helps to cool. Rub the iron tip with steel wool If you are not a regular cleaner of your solder iron, chances are that rubbing the iron tip with a wet sponge will not remove every non-oxidizing dirt from the iron tip. There will be some stubborn stains and discoloration that require something stronger than a sponge, probably steel wool. Take steel wool and dip it in some water. Then, use wet steel wool to rub the body of the iron tip. Apply pressure to remove the sticky and stubborn dirt. Rotate the iron tip so that you cover the entire iron tip.
Tinned iron tip
Tinning, as the name implies, is the process of applying tin. In this particular case, tinning soldering refers to the process of applying an even coating of high-quality soldering tin over an iron tip. But before you start doing it, we recommend using safety goggles. Heat the soldering iron with your safety goggles and use a high-quality soldering tin to apply a thin and even layer of tin to the tip of the soldering iron. This will help prevent rust so we recommend it after finishing each soldering job.
Use alloy cleaner
Additionally, you can use aloe cleaner in solder iron to remove non-oxidizing dirt. After you have completed the previous steps, use a bit to allow the cleaner on a microfiber cloth and use it to clean the soldering iron. Rub the cloth well and with pressure on the iron to clean it well.
How to clean the tip of oxidized soldering iron?
Oxidizing is the process of forming rust on metal. It is a natural process that goes through all metals. For a long time, the metal chemically reacts with the oxygen in the air and forms that brown coating. But the process of rust formation is significantly accelerated by the presence of heat and this is exactly what happens in the case of solder iron. If you do not clean it after regular use, the iron tip will oxidize and rust.
How to clean soldering iron with flux?
To remove light oxidation, you need to apply flux by pressing the soldering iron while heating the iron to about 250 C. Flux is a chemical substance that remains as a gel at room temperature. When it comes in contact with the hot iron tip containing rust, it melts the rust. Typically, you will find these soldering flux gels in small boxes. Heat the iron and insert the tip inside the gel. It will create fumes so make sure to keep better ventilation. After a while, take the iron tip out of the gel, and using dry cleaning systems, clean off the rust. You can use brass wool as the dry cleaner. Currently, some of the solder wires come with a flux core. When you melt the solder wire, the flux comes out and gets in contact with the iron tip. Just like any other soldering wire, melt those wires and the flux inside will help you ease the oxidation. Then, clean it off using brass wool or automatic tip cleaners.
Removal of severe oxidation
When there is severe corrosion at the tip of your soldering iron, light techniques will not be efficient enough to remove it. You need a special substance called Tip Tinner. Tip Tiner is also a complex chemical gel. The cleaning technique is somewhat similar to the light method. Turn on the soldering iron and heat it to about 250 degrees Celsius. Then, dip the tip of the soldering iron inside the gel. Hold here for a few seconds and you will see the chemical from the tip tinner melting around the tip. After a while, take it out of our gel and clean the tip using brass wool.
Since flux is required to remove light corrosion from soldering iron, it is normal to have residue of flux. Sometimes, this residue will sit on the neck of the solder iron tip. Looks like a black cover all around. Since it does not affect the soldering or heating capacity of the iron tip, there is nothing to worry about.
Things to avoid when cleaning
A common mistake many inexperienced users use is sandpaper to clean the tip of the soldering iron. We strongly advise against this because sandpaper removes dirt by rotting the tip of the iron. Also, do not clean the flux using any ordinary cloth. Use a sponge or brass wool.
Tips for keeping a soldering iron clean
The best way to keep something clean is to clean it regularly, and not after it has accumulated a lot of dirt. This applies to everything. In the case of solder iron, if you clean the iron tip immediately after use, dirt will not accumulate. To slow down the oxidation process, you can try tinning the iron tip after each use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is this a good way to clean oxidized solder iron tips by scrubbing?
Answer: Not really. Scrubbing with any other metal can remove some of the corrosion from the tips, but you can’t clean it as clearly as flux or tip thinner. Also, there is little chance of you accidentally damaging the tip.
Q: I forgot to clean my soldering iron after use. How can I clean it more effectively?
Answer: There is no substitute for cleaning the soldering iron after regular use. We recommend putting a reminder to clean the iron on a sticky note and keep it near your workstation. Other than that, following our guide will help you get rid of the most difficult dirt or rust.
Q: Is it safe to clean my soldering iron tip while heating?
Answer: You have to use flux or tip tiner to clean rust from your iron tip. To do this, keep heating the iron you need and follow our recommended procedure. For dirt non-oxidant stains, first, cool the iron tip and remove dirt and debris from the tip.
Tip Solder Determines Quality – Pro guys know it. Without a cleaner, the solder will simply fall off the iron tip. If this happens, it will be difficult for you to do your soldering work. As we said before, the best way to clean your solder iron is to clean it after each use. In addition, you can follow the tanning procedure to slow down the oxidation rate. But if you fall into a situation where you could not clean the iron regularly and now you have a nice dirty iron to clean, our guide should still be a paragon.