# Cleaning the soldering iron "tip cleaning wire" ?

Thread Starter

#### DarthVolta

Joined Jan 27, 2015
115
I have 2 "tip cleaning wire" / pot-scrubbers, and now both are full of solder, can they be cleaned some or do you just have to buy new ones ?

#### SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
1,151
Buy new ones

Thread Starter

#### DarthVolta

Joined Jan 27, 2015
115
Well I shook it out, that helped for now, this was a new 1, in a Hakko stand, and that shape sucks compared to the one I have in a soup can, I think a lot of solder falls way down, and it lasted for +2 years I'd say. It's full of nasty stuff tho, not clean at all, I'm still learning good soldering techniques.

#### shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
6,979
Well I shook it out, that helped for now, this was a new 1, in a Hakko stand, and that shape sucks compared to the one I have in a soup can, I think a lot of solder falls way down, and it lasted for +2 years I'd say. It's full of nasty stuff tho, not clean at all, I'm still learning good soldering techniques.
Doesn't sound like you are. How would you fill a tip cleaner in 2 years let alone a life time if you were following, "good soldering techniques"? There should be so little solder on the tip when you clean that it wouldn't ever show in the "scrubby", or even stick to it at all.

#### DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
5,882
I really cannot remember the last time I wiped my tip on something. Shaken a blob off now and then, but on the suggestion of and Ungar representative I knew as a teenager wiping a soldering tip just accelerates the wear. They love to sell those things.

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Thread Starter

#### DarthVolta

Joined Jan 27, 2015
115
Doesn't sound like you are. How would you fill a tip cleaner in 2 years let alone a life time if you were following, "good soldering techniques"? There should be so little solder on the tip when you clean that it wouldn't ever show in the "scrubby", or even stick to it at all.
So how in the world do u tin the tip and clean it ?

#### SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
1,151
When my tip needs it (and that is not very often) I keep a tin of thermaltronics tip tinner in the stand tray along with some loose twists of solder and spare tip sizes since I don't use the sponge and it has a spot for the scrubbie. The thermaltronics tinner both cleans and tins dried dirty tips. Don't know about shaking the excess solder off as I don't like burn spots on my clothing/arms/face/glasses/desk/etc. from solder splatter... I just wipe the tip when putting back into the stand or as needed if too much accumulates. I like to wrap several wraps of solder wire around my hand to cut off and twist to hold in my hand when soldering instead of feeding it off a spool.

#### shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
6,979
So how in the world do u tin the tip and clean it ?
You tin the tip AFTER cleaning, not before. If you don't tin it after it will just oxidize then need cleaning again. Usually you only clean at the end of a soldering session, before shutting the iron off. That way it is ready to start working the next time you want to use it. And tinning only needs small amount of solder not a blob.

#### MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,564
How do you guys keep joints clean without cleaning the iron? I clean mine every time I pick it up, sometimes between joints, especially when working with small stuff.

#### be80be

Joined Jul 5, 2008
1,930
I made a tip cleaner about when my kids was born thats 19 years ago there twins
but at the same time I took a dimmer and made a box for my iron to lower the temp.
I can keep the tip clean without using anything but the dimmer to lower the heat to when the iron
just melts the solder I add solder to the tip till its shiny I tap the iron on the side all the unneeded solder
falls off.
If i need more heat bigger job I use a sponge sometimes to cool the tip back down to temp after setting the temp
to the tips happy spot.

#### shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
6,979
How do you guys keep joints clean without cleaning the iron?
Don't know about anyone else but I clean the parts being soldered before actually soldering. A "scotchbrite" pad works really good. And I try to have more than one joint to solder ready.

#### SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
1,151
Hard to clean things like chip sockets but I do use some liquid or paste flux on old parts that may have some surface corrosion tp prevent cold joints due to lack of solder adhesion. Unless I am soldering something like a PL259 onto coax I always do multiple parts onto a PCB.

#### DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
5,882
Similar to be80be, I rung my soldering irons (cheap $2 40WE and 60W irons by the way) on a triac dimmer and keep the temperature low so they last a long time and the tip doesn't get "dirty" very fast. Can't remember the last time I wiped the tip, but sometimes I coat things to be soldered with flux paste so they solder cleanly and quickly. Keeps the oxides off too. Last place I worked we used US$1,000 soldering setups. Could never see the advantage.

#### Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,541
I really cannot remember the last time I wiped my tip on something. Shaken a blob off now and then, but on the suggestion of and Ungar representative I knew as a teenager wiping a soldering tip just accelerates the wear. They love to sell those things.
Dick, the scrubber type cleaners are brilliant. No thermal shock, and they remove the cooked flux and oxide layer in a quick pass.

Wet cleaning is definitely a problem for the tip life, but this method keeps the iron ready to go and in excellent shape.

#### jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,894
Dick, the scrubber type cleaners are brilliant. No thermal shock, and they remove the cooked flux and oxide layer in a quick pass.

Wet cleaning is definitely a problem for the tip life, but this method keeps the iron ready to go and in excellent shape.
I don't believe those views are universally held; although, Weller seems to support them. Plato, for example makes the opposite conclusion and recommends a damp sponge as being less abrasive and prolonging tip life compared to metal abrasive pads:

https://www.newark.com/pdfs/techarticles/plato/SolderingIronTipsCare.pdf (Plato)
http://www.techni-tool.com/site/ARTICLE_LIBRARY/Techspray-Maximizing_Solder_Tip_Life.pdf

The risk of thermal shock, from what I have read, is more than a little exaggerated. For example, a metal abrasive pad will be at room temperature as is the damp sponge. Metal to metal contact might well conduct heat faster. Moreover, every time you solder, you momentarily change the tip's temperature.

#### Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,541
I don't believe those views are universally held; although, Weller seems to support them. Plato, for example makes the opposite conclusion and recommends a damp sponge as being less abrasive and prolonging tip life compared to metal abrasive pads:

https://www.newark.com/pdfs/techarticles/plato/SolderingIronTipsCare.pdf (Plato)
http://www.techni-tool.com/site/ARTICLE_LIBRARY/Techspray-Maximizing_Solder_Tip_Life.pdf

The risk of thermal shock, from what I have read, is more than a little exaggerated. For example, a metal abrasive pad will be at room temperature as is the damp sponge. Metal to metal contact might well conduct heat faster. Moreover, every time you solder, you momentarily change the tip's temperature.
Well, it is my understanding the thermal schock is most problematic for the plating which, being a different metal, doesn't necessarily have the same coefficient of expansion as the tip itself. As far as comparing the cooling effects of sponge vs. scrubber, my (non-scientific) experience is the sponge drops the temperature at the tip quite a bit (as can be seen by the steam forming) while the scrubber has a negligible effect when used to the time required for it to do the job.

The sponge also requires much more maintenance and much more frequent replacement.

My tips last a very long time being cleaned with the scrubber to the point of removing cooked flux and oxide from time to time, and they appear is excellent condition with the abrasive action of the scrubber (apparently) not disturbing the plated surface.

I use Hakko irons and they prefer the scrubber to the sponge, as I have come to do myself.

#### jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,894
Actually, if one polled experienced users here, I think the result would be that all of our soldering tips last a long time regardless of whether we use a sponge or metal wool. Technique (e.g., not using the tip as a scrubber), proper temperature, and good care are probably more important. Also, using the soldering iron as a heat engraver or for melting back PVC insulation are bad for it too.

I have changed tips only once in the past 20 years because of wear, and it was not worn out (i.e., it still tinned), but I wanted a new tip. My station is an Edsy 951SX. Metcal and Ersa also recommend a sponge for everyday soldering and the metal brush/pad for only when heavy cleaning is required. Pace seems to be on the fence with that choice.

The steam you see may be because your sponge it too wet. I have never seen it. There is an effect called Leidenfrost that explains why water is a slower quencher than oil is when heat treating metals. Namely, when the object is well above its boiling point (usual soldering temperature fits that definition), vaporization is so rapid that a thin layer of gas forms and acts as a heat insulator. That is easily demonstrated on the coils on an electric stove versus a pan that it heated to only 250°F or so. A drop of water will vaporize more quickly in the pan. A soldering iron tip wetted with solder may be somewhat protected with a "damp" (not wet) sponge, but the solder may wet brass wool and conduct heat faster. I am not saying the tip is not cooled with a sponge, just that the arguments for not using a sponge are less than convincing for some manufacturers and users.

BTW, I can't remember when I last replaced my sponge. I do keep a couple of spares, just in case, and never use it for washing dishes.

#### MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,564
Mythbusters did an episode on the Leidenfrost effect using molten lead.

I think the method of tip cleaning is personal preference. For me personally, I find the metal wool type cleaner works best, a guy I work with on occasion prefers the sponge. Both get the job done, neither seem to cause any problems.