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General => General Chat => Topic started by: Mint. on April 05, 2012, 11:34:00 am

Title: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Mint. on April 05, 2012, 11:34:00 am
So I recently got my Hakko FX-888 and I noticed that after the part which is tinned on my tip, it seems to be very dirty. Why is that? Does it affect the performance of the iron? If so what can I do to remove it? Attached is a picture of my Hakko FX-888 tip.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: amyk on April 05, 2012, 11:47:15 am
Flux residue or other organic material oxidized on it? The actual tip itself is what really matters, you're not going to be using the tip holder tube nor the base of the tip to do soldering so dirt there won't have any performance effect. The tip looks clean to me.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: david77 on April 05, 2012, 11:58:41 am
Looks perfectly normal.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Write_to_Smokegenerator on April 05, 2012, 12:15:48 pm
Important is the tip.

I did some soldering with lead free solder so my tip was much worse than yours

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/best-tips-for-cleaning-a-soldering-iron-from-lead-free-solder/msg100383/#msg100383 (https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/best-tips-for-cleaning-a-soldering-iron-from-lead-free-solder/msg100383/#msg100383)

I also asked about the best ways to clean the tip if you use leed free solder.
hope it helps  (if you use lead free solder)
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Psi on April 05, 2012, 12:27:28 pm
Yeah, that's just the heat changing the color of the bran-new metal. It's normal.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: 8086 on April 05, 2012, 12:32:45 pm
Looks okay to me!
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: G7PSK on April 05, 2012, 01:10:10 pm
Heat your soldering iron in a reducing atmosphere and it will soon go back to being nice and shiny and bright.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: saturation on April 05, 2012, 01:19:42 pm
Its normal, its typically oxide formation, but that's what wear looks like.  Overtime that's what will destroy your tip so always used the lowest heat to get the job done.  Its not avoidable but the wear can be minimized.  Its the reason I discuss doing basic calibration on your irons to stay as far below 350C as above it, wear will be far faster.

Left is typical wear, bubbles occur when you use too much flux and don't clean it off, or its a poor quality tip so flux eats into it before you can even do anything about it, or too much heat, or a bit of all.

(http://www.instructables.com/files/deriv/FTO/E09F/G3KYBE1U/FTOE09FG3KYBE1U.MEDIUM.jpg)

Clean off the flux as soon as possible with the brass wool,  use the sponge minimally and use distilled water instead of tap to minimize effects of trace chemicals or salts on your water further affecting the tips life.

And yes, N2 atmosphere can help, but could cost more to maintain that replacement tips on a simple Hakko Fx888.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: T4P on April 05, 2012, 02:36:14 pm
Flux from the brass wool .  :)
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: saturation on April 05, 2012, 04:09:05 pm
That is certainly possible, but I've not seen that been a problem.  But if so,  after brass wooling, sponge off.  The copies of Hakko wool may not have flux.

Flux from the brass wool .  :)
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: T4P on April 05, 2012, 04:38:20 pm
That is certainly possible, but I've not seen that been a problem.  But if so,  after brass wooling, sponge off.  The copies of Hakko wool may not have flux.

Flux from the brass wool .  :)

the copies don't but mine has .. the one i bought for 2$ from a store in my area .
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Jon Chandler on April 05, 2012, 04:54:35 pm
For a very effective tip cleaner that costs a few cents to make, check this out.

A Tip for Your Tips (http://digital-diy.com/general-electronics/416-a-tip-for-your-tips.html)

(http://digital-diy.com/images/stories/authors/jonchandler/Tip_for_soldering_iron_tips/used_brush.jpg)
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: IanB on April 05, 2012, 05:27:23 pm
Paper towels tend to burn with the heat of the iron. I would prefer to use something more heat resistant such as the glass fibre sheets used in boat and model aircraft construction.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: G7PSK on April 05, 2012, 06:01:11 pm
Moleskin, That,s what plumbers use.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Jon Chandler on April 05, 2012, 06:38:30 pm
Paper towels tend to burn with the heat of the iron.

Really?  Have you tried this?  The attached picture is a brush I've been using for a few months.  The soldering iron hasn't been on that much but it's had some use.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Mint. on April 05, 2012, 09:47:38 pm
Thank you everybody for your input. You helped a lot. I was just overreacting about my tip, since it's brand new. I'll also try the paper towel trick to see whenever it will clean my old plug into the wall iron. :)
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: grenert on April 06, 2012, 06:44:49 am
Some Metcals have wand cradles that put the tip to "sleep" so that the tip doesn't stay hot and continue to oxidize the stuff on it when you're not using it.  The tips heat up so quickly that it doesn't adversely affect use.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: CampKohler on April 06, 2012, 10:58:34 pm
Copper tips will get pitted due to the copper dissolving in the solder (which is why they have to change the solder out in flow soldering machines after a long while [or otherwise treat it]).

Some tips are iron plated in order to retard that process and so last longer. Once you wear through the plating, you are back to the tip dissolving again, so you never want to file or otherwise damage the plating. But once the plating is gone, you can file and scrape and re-tin like the good ol' days. Until then, just pretend you are stirring dinner in a Teflon pan.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: nukie on April 07, 2012, 12:57:38 am
what's wrong with good old damp sponge, I tried all sorts of cleaning nothing beats it. The tip is suppose to be replaceable, it will last quite a while if you are soldering at lead free temperature. I never had a tip wear out from soldering 60/40. 
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: NiHaoMike on April 07, 2012, 01:24:22 am
Could a tip be replated with iron using a DIY process?
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: IanB on April 07, 2012, 01:28:41 am
Could a tip be replated with iron using a DIY process?

I really don't imagine so. Even if you could, you could buy 100 replacement tips before you recovered the cost of the equipment needed.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: T4P on April 07, 2012, 02:25:57 am
Some Metcals have wand cradles that put the tip to "sleep" so that the tip doesn't stay hot and continue to oxidize the stuff on it when you're not using it.  The tips heat up so quickly that it doesn't adversely affect use.
Ah . Quick heating inductive technology requires good tips .
Substandard tips will become brittle quick .
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: NiHaoMike on April 07, 2012, 02:47:44 am
I really don't imagine so. Even if you could, you could buy 100 replacement tips before you recovered the cost of the equipment needed.
The only equipment needed would be a bench power supply, some scrap steel, and some sort of chemical solution. The DIYer will have the first two items, but maybe the third is a problem...
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: david77 on April 07, 2012, 04:27:58 am
Why would you want to do that? Tips aren't that expensive and the good brands last long enough that DIY replating doesn't really make sense. If you're tips only last an unnaturally short time, then clearly something is wrong.

http://www.globalelectronica.cl/images/Ersadur.jpg (http://www.globalelectronica.cl/images/Ersadur.jpg)

A modern tip is a bit more complicated than just a lump of copper.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: G7PSK on April 07, 2012, 08:42:46 am

[/quote]
The only equipment needed would be a bench power supply, some scrap steel, and some sort of chemical solution. The DIYer will have the first two items, but maybe the third is a problem...
[/quote]

Steel will not electro-plate very well. It is not pure iron but an alloy which contains things like carbon and sulfur as well as phosphorus possibly chrome and other metals. some of these will just interfere with the plating process while others will deposit first before the iron. You would need a source of pure iron for the plating to work.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Hypernova on April 07, 2012, 01:28:50 pm
I really don't imagine so. Even if you could, you could buy 100 replacement tips before you recovered the cost of the equipment needed.
The only equipment needed would be a bench power supply, some scrap steel, and some sort of chemical solution. The DIYer will have the first two items, but maybe the third is a problem...

Toilet cleaner grade HCL + iron nails and you got your electrolyte.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: NiHaoMike on April 07, 2012, 07:26:54 pm
Why would you want to do that? Tips aren't that expensive and the good brands last long enough that DIY replating doesn't really make sense. If you're tips only last an unnaturally short time, then clearly something is wrong.
It might make sense if you have an exotic iron (obtained used for a tiny fraction of the original price, of course) like a Metcal that only works with expensive tips. Or it might make sense if you're making special tips for a soldering gun. Solid copper wire can make all sorts of unusually shaped tips for a soldering gun, but bare copper erodes away too fast.
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: robrenz on April 08, 2012, 04:40:22 am
Quality electroplating is much more than just having metal ions collect onto a surface.  Getting excellent adhesion of the plated metal to the substrate is not trivial or easy.  Add the difficult environment of a soldering iron tip with materials with different thermal coeficients of expansion and repeated aggressive thermal cycling that incur heavy shear stresses at the plating/base metal interface.  Good luck with DIY on this.

Back on topic,  I know this will start a major firestorm but here goes.  For the last aprox 35 years I have always had a tin of Nocorrode brand zinc chloride paste flux right next to my soldering irons.  If my tip is not bright I do a quick dip in the flux and then wipe on the wet sponge.  Instant perfectly tinned tip all the time. I probably do 10 or 15 joints between dips. I NEVER put that flux directly on the parts I am soldering, only to clean the tip and then a sponge wipe.  I use traditonal rosin based electronic fluxes for any directly applied fluxing. I have not noticed any substantial decrease in tip life and my tips always look like new. I still have things around soldered with this method that are 35+ years old (a Heathkit decade box) no evidence of abnormal corrosion. I don't think any functional amount of zinc chloride gets to the solder joint.  I completely understand that if you dipped a stranded wire in the zinc chloride flux and then solder it in a joint you are asking for major trouble. The flux will wick up the strands and start destroying things in short order. DONT USE ZINC CHLORIDE FLUX FOR ELECTRONIC FLUXING.  I realize that for meeting many specs this procedure would be competely forbidden. 

Let the torrent of abusive comments begin. ;D
Title: Re: Why is my soldering iron tip getting so dirty?
Post by: Baliszoft on April 08, 2012, 09:35:45 pm
I am using Stannol Tippy activator/re-tinner for "tired" tips. Does wonders.