Like any other tool in your workshop, your soldering iron needs periodic cleaning and care to perform at its best. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to clean and care for your butane or portable soldering iron tip. We’ll also discuss some common problems that can occur with a soldering iron and how to troubleshoot them. Stay safe and keep your tools in good working order with this helpful guide!
Maintenance of soldering iron: general tips
Cleaning a soldering iron tip is an important part of iron maintenance. It is essential to the performance of your soldering job and for safety reasons as well. Dirt, oxidation, and other contaminants on a soldering iron can lead to hazardous situations in which electric current flows where it shouldn’t or heat sinks away from the joint in a way that causes poor cooling. This can also affect solder flow and quality in addition to ruining good solder connections with leftover junk in hard-to-reach places.
Before cleaning, unplug the power cord from its wall socket or unplug the battery pack from your tool’s onboard terminals (you may also have a butane soldering iron). Any connections between a powered tool and its power source can be dangerous under some conditions.
If there is visible contamination present on your tip, take care not to touch it directly with your fingers. It is possible to transfer oils and other contaminants from your skin directly to the metals in the soldering tip.
Many people recommend using wet sponges or copper braid for cleaning a soldering iron, but these can sometimes leave behind bits of copper at high temperatures when they are heated up with the hot tip. A safer alternative is dry, untreated cotton swabs (such as Q-tips). The small size of each swab means there is less of a chance that it will get pressed against the metal during use that could potentially leave bits behind! You should make sure that your work surface is covered with some paper towels to absorb any stray drops of water before beginning.
Note: If you have a temperature-controlled soldering iron, you should know that the settings on your temperature control unit may need to be adjusted slightly after cleaning until they register accurately again. This is called “Calibration”.
Cleaning soldering iron tip with sandpaper
Using a wet sponge or brass wire brush might be an effective way for most hobbyists to keep their soldering irons clean, but it’s important not to use this method with tools that have a wooden handle because they can swell up and crack if you soak them with water or other solvents. If you want to clean a non-waterproof tool then try using a moist towel or giving the tip of your iron a few quick swipes across some dampened sandpaper instead!
You can use 1500-2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper, or if you want to get finer results then go for 3200-4000 grit wet/dry sandpaper.
Place the sandpaper on a flat surface and set your soldering iron tip at about 25-30 degrees. Then spin the iron back and forth over the sandpaper for about 15 seconds, then turn it around to clean the other side of its tip. Repeat this process until any residue is removed from your soldering iron tip.
It’s important not to press too hard with this method because you don’t want to remove any metal from your solder so it will last longer. You can also use this technique to remove oxidation or build up on your tip if there has been some accumulation since you last cleaned it with a wire brush or sponge. It’s also less messy than using an abrasive cleaner like alcohol or acetone.
Using wet/dry sandpaper dampened with water will work, but you’ll get better results if you use some tape around the area of sandpaper that makes contact with your soldering iron’s tip. This adds a little bit of resistance when cleaning so that build-up gets removed easily without requiring as much pressure. You can also place a rolled-up piece of paper towel between the sandpaper surface and solder iron tip to help keep it stabilized while spinning back and forth across the sanding sheet.
After each time you clean your soldering iron, make sure to dry it off thoroughly before plugging it back in and turning it on. This will help prevent overheating from electrical resistance, which can cause damage to your iron’s internals over time.
How do you remove oxidation from a soldering iron?
Over time, your soldering iron’s tip will accumulate some oxidation that makes it lose heat more quickly and prevent solder from sticking to the surface. When this happens, you can clean out these residues with a little bit of acid (such as vinegar or citric acid), but make sure not to let them come into contact with any electrical components like your soldering iron, circuit boards, or power supply. Even in small amounts, these chemicals can cause damage, so be careful where you put them and use ventilation when working with them.
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