8 Things You Must Know About How To Clean Soldering Iron

How To Clean Soldering Iron

A soldering iron is an important tool in creation and repair of electronic devices or fixing metallic objects. They come in various sizes and can be used for different functions. In order to keep your soldering iron in good shape, it is recommendable that you clean it regularly after use.

Most soldering iron tips are made up of copper and have an iron-plating, and when they come in contact with hot metals, they rust or corrode easily but when you clean and tin the tip, you will remove the metal build up and prevent tip damage over time. It is recommendable to use the right cleaning methods on your soldering iron on regular basis to increase its durability.

8 Ways To Learn How To Clean Soldering Iron Effectively

If you have a soldering iron and you don’t know how to clean it, we have good news for you because we went out hunting and came with these ways to clean your soldering iron.


Maintaining your soldering iron tips

An excellent use of soldering iron requires the proper use and care. As stated earlier, when soldering tips come into contact with hot metals, they become oxidized causing them to rust. Rust formation acts as a barrier between the item being soldered and the soldering tip thereby preventing the iron from successfully completing its task. In addition, during oxidation, the heat transfer is reduced thus preventing the iron tip from conducting enough heat to melt the soldering compound.

After use, turn the soldering iron off and once it cools, remove the debris buildup. You are supposed to monitor the temperature of the tip and when it reaches a reasonable temperature that will not burn your fingers, wipe the tip off using a damp cellulose sponge.

It is important to note that the cellulose you apply must not contain any sulfur and when cleaning, the sponge should be placed down and the tip of the soldering iron rubbed onto the sponge other than holding the sponge, to avoid injuries. Removing debris prevents buildup from clogging your solder iron which may reduce its efficiency.


Check the cords of the sol​​​​​dering iron regularly

The soldering iron is used under high heat and therefore, its cord is prone to damage. Check them regularly for cracks and burns and if you notice anything unusual, contact a professional electrician to replace the cord. Using a soldering iron with damaged cord is dangerous to work with and it's also inefficient.


Wipe off the tip of the iron between strokes

For efficiency, clean the tip of the soldering iron while its still in use. When working with your soldering iron, you might be carried away by what you are soldering to an extent of forgetting to maintain the tip as you work. It's recommendable to use a wet sponge and wipe it across the tip of the soldering iron after every stroke, as this prevents buildup on the tip. In addition to increasing efficiency, wiping the tip between strokes makes it easier to clean it after your soldering job.


Tinning the iron

After cleaning the tip, it is recommendable to coat it using a thin but even layer of solder. This coating is called tinning and it's very important to keep your soldering iron clean as it gives the tip protection against oxidation or rust and also keeps it in optimum condition.

Many chemicals in solder can irritate your eyes when they accidentally hit an air pocket and pop or spit, which is why you should wear eye protection during tinning. Tinning should be done after every use to prevent rusting after which you should wash your hands with water and soap.

You can also melt small but even amount of fresh iron over the tip of the soldering iron to keep the heat flow of the iron in check during the subsequent use in addition to preventing the accumulation of rust.


Tip the alloy

When you turn the soldering iron off, let it cool and then utilize a small but even layer of alloy cleaner on the tip with a microfiber cloth. In addition to reducing chances of oxidation, placing the solder with an alloy cleaner prevents solder’s dust buildup. The alloy you use must be free from lead for your own safety.


Get rid of rust or surface stains using a damped steel wool

Solder iron should be cleaned regularly preferably after every use to increase efficiency, otherwise, you may have more stubborn discoloration and stains. Rubbing the tip of the soldering iron with a Brillo pad or steel wool is a sure way of getting rid of rust, stains, or coloring.

Given that steel wool is readily available, all you need to do is to dampen it slightly but prevent any water drips from electric contact, then gently scrub the pad over the tip of the soldering iron to remove any dirt or heavy staining.

You should clean it until it becomes shiny. Other cleaning items such as sandpaper should be avoided as they are too corrosive for soldering iron tips.


Keep an eye on the solder iron tips

Just like any other equipment, the tip of your soldering iron is vulnerable to wear and tear. Therefore, before using the soldering iron, always ensure that the tip is nice, clean and shiny.

If you discover something unusual such as a hollow forming at the edge of the tip, the tip has little or no effect after cleaning and re-tinning, then what you need is to consult a professional electrician for maintenance and replacement of the tip.


Cleaning the soldering iron off a circuit board

You can excellently clean your soldering iron away from a circuit board using a solder wick. All you need is to place the wick on the track or joint that you want to be cleaned up, and on top of it apply the soldering iron.

This makes the solder to melt which makes it easier to be drawn into the wick. In any case of more solder, the wick fills up and all you need to do is to draw the wick through the iron and joint to let the solder flow into it.


Cleaning your solder iron on a regular basis keeps it in a good shape and increases its efficiency. Given that the tips of the soldering iron are vulnerable to oxidation, clean them regularly after use and when cleaning is done the right way, it increases the longevity of the soldering iron and keeps it functioning excellently for a long time. 

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Willie Ryan

Wille Ryan is a tool expert from the U.S. He is a Mechanical Engineer and uses tools almost every day at home and at work. He enjoys helping people to master everything about a wide range of tools through blogging. He is for sure a Tools Guardian!

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