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Soldering Iron Tip Cleaning

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  • Soldering Iron Tip Cleaning

    I've bought lots of stuff in my life that either hasn't worked, or was disappointing at best.

    But then I bought one of these:

    It's for cleaning soldering iron tips, and it works so well! You just stab the soldering iron into it a few times, and the tip comes out immaculate. It's basically a little pot full of swarf; the swarf is copper plated steel as far as I can tell - a magnet sticks strongly to it, so yes, you could just take what's laying under your lathe and make your own. But for just over 2 quid, it's not worth the bother.

    Really pleased with it.

    All of the gear, no idea...

  • #2
    That's an interesting gadget. I have never seen anything like that.
    In my shop and throughout our electronics manufacturing factory we use a damp sponge to clean soldering iron tips.
    Cheap and works great.
    I cut it off twice and it's still too short!


    • #3
      Hmm. Looks like you could just buy one of those Chore Girl scrubbers from the housewares section and the only thing you wouldn't have is the cute little dog house.
      "People will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time they will pick themselves up and carry on" : Winston Churchill


      • #4
        That is nothing new. Weller has been making and I have been using similar cleaners for decades. Yes, they do work. I have one that is built into my soldering station at my electronic bench and another one that is a standalone design like in the ad above. I use them all the time.

        With years of use, in my humble opinion, they are great. And I have seen no problems associated with their use with iron plated tips. I do not know about non plated, copper tips.
        Paul A.
        SE Texas

        And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
        You will find that it has discrete steps.


        • #5
          Yes, they are great. The benefit over a sponge is that you aren't reducing the temperature by much.

          I also bought a little tin of "tip tinner" for my infrequently used tips. Don't know if it does much, but it makes them look nice It's basically solder without flux.


          • #6
            I had been using a wet sponge for years and it worked well. Takes a couple swipes to get all the kling-ons though.. Then five years ago I bought the exact one. WoW, so much easier. I think the copper is the key. I dont think steel or aluminum will work as well.

            It seems the nest it a consumable cause you can buy just that, so I did. But I dont solder enough to where Ill ever use it... JR


            • #7
              Talking of tip tinner, I saw sal ammoniac recommended. I bought a tiny little pot of it - it looks like fine table salt. Here's how to use it on tips that have really suffered:

              I haven't needed it yet (and tips are so cheap now that maybe I never will), so far the little ball of swarf is doing all I need.

              TG, yes, I have the same problem. I look at something, and think that for only twice the price and 20 times the effort, I can make that! Housing machined from 2" phos bronze barstock etc.

              I had no success with the wet sponge, largely because when I come to use it, the sponge has dried out and I couldn't be bothered to get it wet. The swarf thingy is ready, right off the bat. I'm sure it'll turn nasty eventually, but hey, refills (if not already in my lathe's drip tray) are only a quid each...

              All of the gear, no idea...


              • #8
                When I was into doing Stained Glass, I had a small tin can with Chore Girl stuffed into it for cleaning my soldering tips, I also used a wet sponge. you have to use a "real" sponge, not imitation.

                I would rather have tools that I never use, than not have a tool I need.
                Oregon Coast


                • #9
                  Yeah, one came with the solder rework station I bought. It does work surprisingly well.

                  Alas, I now have a 10-pack of ebay'd sponges I will never use but be too cheap to throw away... added to the pile. I'll probably invent some project that absolutely needs them, collect a bunch of other stuff to make the project viable, and then never do it. Oh well



                  • #10
                    I am a very experienced solderer ... but know little about the chemical composition or processes
                    affecting the tinning of the tip.

                    I'm really hard on my tips .. tending to over heat them.

                    Many times I have taken the tips to my bench grinders wheel and wire brush .. and it seems
                    to totally ruin them. (whats that def of insanity .. doing something you know isn't going to work)

                    You would think that I would be able to use one of the talked about retinning techniques and
                    get them back to a working condition .. but .. I never have been able to.
                    John Titor, when are you.


                    • #11
                      Mike. According to Dave Jones, there is a big difference between good, brand name tips and the cheap ones on eBay. If you are using the latter, then maybe you will have better luck with the good ones. They are expensive compared to the five-packs on eBay, but they are not THAT expensive.


                      • #12
                        Mike, in the dark ol' days the tips were straight copper or some high copper bronze. They eroded badly in use and had to be dressed frequently with a file.

                        The trick that turned that around was the iron plating used on modern tips. Up until the plating is removed they work fantastic. But once you wear through the plating or damage it the core goes back to eroding like before.

                        You can get some additional life from the tips once the iron is damaged by filing the shape while cold. Then dip it into a good flux before heating up. Dip it again while heating to maintain a protective coating of flux. And once it's up to temperature melt on some solder and brush it around the tip to fully tin all the surfaces with a steel or brass bristle brush. This will be good for the day if you're not using it frequently.

                        Keep in mind that you're only buying yourself a little time. The tip will erode enough that it needs to be dressed back and re-tinned on a daily basis if using it much. And if used heavily and at higher than optimum temperature even allowed to cool over lunch then re-dressed and tinned before carrying on for the afternoon.

                        The iron plating isn't all that resistant to scratching. So try not to use the tip to bend and mush things around. Used with a softer touch and only for melting the solder a tip can last a long time. But if used aggressively it might not last a day. I know that's hard if you're taking things apart and need to heat and push around the wires to uncurl them from a solder post. If that's a large part of what you do then you'll need to accept that the tips won't last long. Just the "cost of business".
                        Chilliwack BC, Canada


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ian B View Post
                          I had no success with the wet sponge, largely because when I come to use it, the sponge has dried out and I couldn't be bothered to get it wet. The swarf thingy is ready, right off the bat. I'm sure it'll turn nasty eventually, but hey, refills (if not already in my lathe's drip tray) are only a quid each...
                          Thanks for the heads up, just ordered one it's got to be better than wiping the tip on a rag or my jeans because im too tired to wet the sponge


                          • #14
                            I usually just do a quick wipe on the leg of the old jeans I would be wearing.


                            • #15
                              I quite like soldering actually, it's simple to stick things together using an iron for low-strength applications where glue won't work. You can solder much more than just wires with an iron.

                              I've always used a wet sponge, also helps clean the rosin off.