Soldering involves heating metal at a high temperature and requires precision at every turn, meaning proper maintenance is a must. Most importantly is the maintenance of the soldering iron tip, a crucial step in retaining optimal performance, cleanliness, and safety.
Maintaining a Soldering Iron Tip
Maintaining a soldering iron starts with the tip, which is the most delicate part. It is also the most important part, allowing you to work with precision and safety. Therefore, ensuring proper maintenance is imperative to keep the tip in good shape. However, maintaining a soldering iron tip is not a one-step job and takes constant effort.
To maintain your soldering iron tip, you need to consider things such as how to store it, what steps to take to do as little damage during use as possible, and how to fix any damage that might have been done.
Ensure Proper Storage
Before you begin thinking about the different steps to take to actively maintain your soldering iron tips, you must make sure you follow the correct storage techniques. First off, your soldering iron storage must be clean and sealed to prevent oxidation of the tips, which can ruin them, even if they are not in use.
An important thing to note before putting your tips away is that you must clean and tin the tips every single time. Tinning your tip is mainly used if you are storing your tips for an extended period, but following this rule at all times will extend the life of your tips and further prevent oxidation. Remember to ensure that your tip is cool prior to storing it.
If you are storing a tip for a brief period, such as when switching components or switching between joints, store it in a secure soldering iron holder. You can keep the tip at an idle temperature so that it can be used again quickly. However, do not store it at its operating temperature because that will reduce the lifespan of the soldering iron tip.
You can also loosen the screw that holds it into place before storing it, which will prevent a potential issue with the tip becoming stuck, known as seizing. Regardless, correctly storing your soldering iron tips is an important step that you can take to make sure they have a long lifespan and need as little active maintenance as possible.
Clean the Tip
Cleaning your soldering iron tips is another crucial step to ensure that they continue operating properly and for extending their lifespan. In fact, soldering iron tips should be cleaned before, during, and after use. Fortunately, there are several useful methods to maintain the cleanliness and effectiveness of your soldering iron tips.
You can use a damp sponge. Using a damp sponge simplifies oxide removal, but if it is not damp enough, it can catch fire, so pay attention. Also, a damp sponge can result in a thermal shock to the tip by rapidly reducing the heat, and the rapid change in temperature can be bad for the lifespan of a tip.
A Dry Cleaner is a system made of metal shavings that are coated with flux. Thrusting your soldering iron tip into a dry cleaner several times will quickly and properly clean it. Also, when you avoid the thermal shock that comes from a wet sponge, you are preventing the tip from rapidly expanding or shrinking.
Metal wool is another common and effective tool used to clean soldering iron tips. It will remove dirt and contaminants without introducing thermal shock. Be sure not to use anything more abrasive, such as sandpaper, because that will also reduce the lifespan of your soldering iron tip drastically.