Connect with us

Cleaning Soldering Iron Tips

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by LightShow, Mar 8, 2018.

Scroll to continue with content
  1. LightShow


    Jun 9, 2016
    Hey Guys,

    Im just curious how you guys go about cleaning your soldering iron.. anyone have any tips?
    Personally i use emery cloth and flux but i have heard of many other methods

    I look forward to your responses!

    ACU Comms Engineer
  2. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    Sep 5, 2009
    ohhhh ouch, that's probably a bit harsh on the tips and will probably cause excessive wear :)

    steel wool is the very common thing to use ....
    you can buy these as soap free cleaning pads at a supermarket ... dirt cheap


    there are these kind as well .... ~ 3 inches in diameter ......


    and it's ones much like this that come in a lot of soldering iron stands


    the most common thing seen on many soldering station is a foam pad which is moistened


    I do find these somewhat annoying to use
    constantly having to wet it
    constantly sliding out of its holder
    wont clean off encrusted gunk on the tip

    to name a few things

    I, by far, prefer the ball of steel wool and my 2 stations both use them

    these are my stations


    Ian and LightShow like this.
  3. kellys_eye


    Jun 25, 2010
    Most soldering iron tips are 'coated' (electroplated) to prevent (well, reduce) wear from the corrosive flux used. Sanding a tip and breaking this plating will result in really fast tip wear.

    Personally I clean the tip on a sponge (wet) whilst in use and use the wire wool if it gets 'crudded up' - I've NEVER taken a file to one or even scraped it with anything.

    But note also that it is tempting to use a soldering iron tip well past its due date - swallow the expense and get a new one and you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner!
    LightShow likes this.
  4. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010
    Yeah, there are several things that will improve your soldering that have nothing to do with skill.
    1. Good solder
    2. A good tip
    3. Everything else
    And I'm not really sure about the order of 1 and 2. :)

    If the question involves cleaning other than removing excess solder and oxidised flux, I'd think about whether it was time for a new tip.

    As @kellys_eye says, a new tip can make a huge difference. And arguably, if it does, you should have changed it earlier.

    Back in the old days when tips were copper rods filed to shape, filing your tip was something you might do routinely to refresh it. With the change to coated tips, and the use of coatings not soluble in tin (copper will dissolve in tin) means that filling is not only unnecessary, but destructive.

    Incidentally, I may be in a similar position to you in that I have (at my local hackerspace) a heap of donated soldering irons with tips that melt solder, but where it just drips off without wetting the tip. I think the real solution is new tips, but I'm happy to try sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride) or even a file (someone has already tried steel wool).

    Hopefully, by the time I return, someone will have found a source of new tips.
    LightShow likes this.
  5. K9WG


    Mar 8, 2018
    I just use a wet sponge and flux. I use the flux used for copper pipe soldering. Wipe on sponge, stick the hot tip in the flux for a few seconds, and apply new solder.
    LightShow likes this.
  6. BobK


    Jan 5, 2010
    LightShow likes this.
  7. Terry01


    Jul 5, 2017
    I have the Hakko iron stand that has the sponge and brass wool in the front. It came with my fx-888 and is well handy!
    Like Dave I use both as required. I have heard it said that a damp sponge is not so good for the tips but to be honest if they guys here use it and say it's ok it's for sure going to good enough for me. I think the sponge works fine and haven't seen any problems with any of my tips while using it.
    LightShow likes this.
  8. kellys_eye


    Jun 25, 2010
    Oh no, no, no....:confused: you shouldn't use that stuff, it's far too corrosive. Use flux-cored solder and, if necessary, a flux pen or IPA-type for additional flux.
    LightShow likes this.
  9. LightShow


    Jun 9, 2016
    you see.. the problem i have working in an Army CU is that i am NEVER the first person to use the iron andddd the irons are usually used to burn wood or plastic.. not even going to begin to mention the age of the iron's and the Tips.. ive literally had to solder with a rusted tip before.. everytime i ask about replacements i get the good ol "but it still works doesnt it?" followed by them showing me that it indeed melts the solder and thats "good enough" for them xD the solder doesnt even stick to the Iron anymore!! so now ive learnt that taking the best tip from my workbench with me is the best solution xD everytime im finished using it i take it off the iron and slip it into my pocket! its the only way i can come back knowing that my tip isnt destroyed! ill see if i can snap some pictures later today;)
  10. K9WG


    Mar 8, 2018
    Never had a problem. Been using it for many years...
    LightShow likes this.


    May 20, 2017
    I only ever use the damp sponge. Have done so for over 40 years. Get yourself some soldering tip cleaner. This is a small tin of solder granules embedded in resin flux. You plunge the offending tip in whilst at working temperature and pretty much guarantees a clean tip even for one that is heavily encrusted in oxide. Most main line distributors will carry it.
    LightShow likes this.
  12. FuZZ1L0G1C


    Mar 25, 2014
    A damp (folded) facecloth is my current flavor, with extra cleaning occasionally helped with a quick dip in soldering flux then immediately wiped off.
    In mislaid facecloth emergencies, a white un-printed corner of newspaper works quite well for wiping excess solder. At other times, a thorough tinning with resin-cored solder, followed by a quick flick "throws" any gunk off the tip. And embeds thick solder blobs deep into the carpet pile. :D
  13. Hopup


    Jul 5, 2015
    Quite thick sponge having hole in middle so you can use corner to wipe excess solder is pretty good for normal soldering.
Ask a Question
Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?
You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.
Electronics Point Logo
Continue to site
Quote of the day