Author Topic: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?  (Read 36460 times)

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Offline superscott319

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Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« on: September 06, 2013, 04:39:44 pm »
What's the best way to clean an already oxidized soldering iron tip? I'm new to soldering and after just a few days of using my iron, ended up with several completely oxidized tips despite pre-tinning each one before use. I've read a number of opinions on how to remove oxidation from soldering iron tips but it seems there's some controversy on which way is best and some claiming certain methods can actually harm the tip. For example, some recommend using a fine grit sandpaper, while others claim that can also remove the thin iron coating over the tip.

Please let me know which way works best for you.

Thanks
 

Offline 8086

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2013, 04:42:04 pm »
For some tips the only solution is to buy replacements

Is your iron cheap?
 

Offline Codemonkey

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2013, 05:02:40 pm »
 

alm

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2013, 05:15:13 pm »
Don't use abrasive tools like files or sand paper on iron plated (i.e. non crap) tips, that will strip the plating and severely limit the life time.
 

Offline plesa

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2013, 05:23:30 pm »
Get something like this:

http://uk.farnell.com/multicore-solder/ttc-lf/cleaner-tip-lead-free-15g/dp/1115477

Works wonders!

I have similar from PAce and it works like a charm and will  last for decade.
 

Online IanB

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2013, 05:23:51 pm »
I think the most common cause of oxidized tips is an excessive tip temperature. Some of the cheaper irons without temperature regulation can run very hot. My old Antex iron used to do this.

The problem will be worse with low quality tips as others have mentioned.

I also found that soldering bad materials can be very destructive. I made a few experiments attempting to solder aluminium and it completely ruined the tip. It took a lot of effort with tip tinner/cleaning compound to make the solder wet the tip again.

Good soldering process is important. Wipe the tip clean and re-tin it between every joint. Try not to leave the iron sitting hot on the bench while not in use. Turn it off as soon as you have finished soldering.
"Listen to your favorite playlists and podcasts on your thermostat" -- ecobee

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Offline robrenz

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2013, 06:44:46 pm »
Zinc chloride past flux like Nokorrode. Dip the tip in hot and swirl around until it will tin again.

Offline edavid

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2013, 06:50:38 pm »
Get something like this:

http://uk.farnell.com/multicore-solder/ttc-lf/cleaner-tip-lead-free-15g/dp/1115477

Works wonders!

I have similar from PAce and it works like a charm and will  last for decade.

I believe the active ingredient in these products is sal ammoniac.
 

Offline casinada

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2013, 08:54:07 pm »
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062721

It will last you a lifetime. I misplaced my old one and bought a new one and of course as soon as I bought it I found the old one :(


 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2013, 11:08:02 pm »
Get something like this:

http://uk.farnell.com/multicore-solder/ttc-lf/cleaner-tip-lead-free-15g/dp/1115477

Works wonders!

+1 to tip activator/cleaner. Use also brass wool, or wet sponge. The sponge has the drawback, that you have to re-tin it after. The oxidizing happens mainly because lead-free solder. If you happened to buy one, throw it out, buy one with lead.
 

Offline Galaxyrise

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2013, 06:31:16 am »
When I was taught to solder, I was told to always leave the tip tinned when putting it back in the holder to protect the tip from oxidizing.  Since no one else has mentioned this, was I given over-cautious instructions? 
I am but an egg
 

Online IanB

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2013, 07:00:23 am »
When I was taught to solder, I was told to always leave the tip tinned when putting it back in the holder to protect the tip from oxidizing.  Since no one else has mentioned this, was I given over-cautious instructions?

No, you were not...

Good soldering process is important. Wipe the tip clean and re-tin it between every joint.

...between every joint, and afterwards, before switching the iron off.

If the tip of the iron doesn't look shiny, clean it and re-tin it.
"Listen to your favorite playlists and podcasts on your thermostat" -- ecobee

I'm a chemical engineer -- I know all about the flow of fluids.
 

Online Psi

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2013, 07:25:42 am »
If you find solder will only stick to some areas of the tip, and not others, then it's time for a replacement tip. (and i don't mean from ebay/aliexpress).

(Obviously you clean the tip first, before assuming its dead, but if cleaning doesn't help then the tip is dead)
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 08:15:57 am by Psi »
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Offline Galaxyrise

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2013, 07:35:24 am »
IanB: oops! Sorry I missed that.  I blame the insomnia.  Glad I'm not the only one that thought dead tips after short use suggested bad process.
I am but an egg
 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2013, 10:38:16 am »
If you find solder will only stick to some areas of the tip, and not others, then it's time for a replacement tip. (and i don't mean from ebay/aliexpress).
This is a very expensive, and bad advice. As we wrote, if you can clean it wit tip activator, there is no need to throw it away. It is a perfectly accepted way. Also, an activator costs half of a quality tip, and multiplies the lifetime of a tip. If you have to work with lead free, it will oxidize anyway, no matter how much you try to avoid
 

Online Psi

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2013, 10:49:32 am »
If you find solder will only stick to some areas of the tip, and not others, then it's time for a replacement tip. (and i don't mean from ebay/aliexpress).
This is a very expensive, and bad advice. As we wrote, if you can clean it wit tip activator, there is no need to throw it away. It is a perfectly accepted way. Also, an activator costs half of a quality tip, and multiplies the lifetime of a tip. If you have to work with lead free, it will oxidize anyway, no matter how much you try to avoid
I meant after generic cleaning. eg, a wet sponge and re-tin.

I've always found that once you notice solder not sticking any more (after just wiping the tip) then the coating has burnt off and it will never work again.

I've never used tip activator and my tips last 1-5 years depending on usage.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 10:51:30 am by Psi »
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Offline tszaboo

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2013, 11:11:56 am »
For hobby use, if you don't use lead-free, what you wrote might be perfectly true. With Lead free, after the first day, the best weller tip will be oxidized. Even the HAL solder on the boards can contaminate the tip.
I would still recommend to try the activator.
 

Offline 8086

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2013, 11:20:12 am »
For hobby use, if you don't use lead-free, what you wrote might be perfectly true. With Lead free, after the first day, the best weller tip will be oxidized.

Nope.

The tip on my metcal clone is shiny just like new and this is in a job where I do lead free soldering every day.
 

Online Psi

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2013, 12:31:45 pm »
I've seen irons with tips that work perfect for the first few days or weeks then turn horrible and require constant heavy duty cleaning every time you use them.
It seems quite random, sometimes it's the cheap ones and other times its the official brandname tip from a certified agent. Dad had a Goot iron and the tip on that was simply awful. (Perhaps these are tips that come pre-tinned with leadfree)

However i've never come across any terrible tips in the hakko 900M style, even among aftermarket versions.
The 3rd party 900M tips definitely don't last as long or work quite as well but they always stay tinned and work satisfactorily.



For hobby use, if you don't use lead-free, what you wrote might be perfectly true. With Lead free, after the first day, the best weller tip will be oxidized. Even the HAL solder on the boards can contaminate the tip.
I would still recommend to try the activator.

Yep, i've only ever used leaded solder. Luckily i've never encountered a situation that required lead-free
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 08:06:50 am by Psi »
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Offline superscott319

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2013, 05:12:04 am »
Thanks for the advice everyone. I think I'll try one of these tip activators out and see if they can restore some of my oxidized soldering iron tips.

A few of them were used in lead-free work and at the time I didn't know proper tinning procedures, so they're in really bad shape. I included a photo of the result below:



Do you think there's any chance of bringing a tip this badly oxidized back using a tip activator or something else?
 

Online IanB

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2013, 07:49:45 am »
It's hard to tell from a picture but it looks a bit like the iron plating has flaked off in places exposing the metal underneath. There is also a remarkable lack of flux residue and discoloration around the neck. The tip looks for all the world as if it has never seen any solder or flux...
"Listen to your favorite playlists and podcasts on your thermostat" -- ecobee

I'm a chemical engineer -- I know all about the flow of fluids.
 

Online Psi

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #21 on: September 13, 2013, 08:08:41 am »
Yeah, that tip looks stuffed. I don't think you'll be able to fix that.
As IanB said, the coating looks to have burnt/worn/corroded off.

That's the kind of thing you might see happening to a tip if plumbers solder, or anything with non electronic flux, was used with it.

You said you only recently started soldering, where did you get the solder your using from?
If someone gave it to you it may not actually be electronic solder.
Post a pic of the reel and we can probably confirm.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 08:17:43 am by Psi »
Greek letter 'Psi' (not Pounds per Square Inch)
 

Online IanB

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2013, 10:53:11 am »
Here's one of my tips showing how you would expect it to be completely covered in solder. Looking at this one close up the flat surfaces seem a bit rough and uneven so I think I may have damaged it with some abuse at some point. When it was new I'm sure the surfaces would have been smooth.
"Listen to your favorite playlists and podcasts on your thermostat" -- ecobee

I'm a chemical engineer -- I know all about the flow of fluids.
 

Offline F4CPY

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2013, 11:21:31 am »
hi
I use this kit:
http://uk.farnell.com/weller/0051512699/kit-tip-maintenance/dp/1378426
The brass wool is very efficient and provide a perfect cleanning.
 

Offline ConKbot

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Re: Best Way to Clean Oxidized Soldering Iron Tip?
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2013, 01:55:12 pm »
Clean and then tin your tip each time you pick the iron up or before you put it down. The iron should NEVER be in the stand without a tinned tip (I.e. never wipe it on the sponge and put it in the holder). That way the solder on the surface oxidizes, rather than the tip itself.
 


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