Tips and advice for keeping soldering irons clean and functional for as long as possible
A soldering iron is a very useful DIY itemfor conjoining loose wires and fraying parts. It is also a great item to haveif you are an aspiring guitar player or musician, as a soldering iron can fixpoor connections between output jacks or lugs and wires between amplifiers.
Whatever your purpose, buying a quality solderingiron is important use trusted suppliers and electrics experts such as RSComponents, whose customer services team can also provide advice and addedinformation on the right composition of the iron for your job.
But most important is maintaining thefunctionality of the item. A soldering iron, consisting of a heating metal tipand insulated handle, is vulnerable to rust, water and heat damage: buying aquality item must be followed up with solid care and maintenance.
Understandinghow it works
Looking after a soldering iron requiressensitivity to how the item works. Soldering irons are electronically connectedto a power source and use a heated metal alloy, or solder, to cling toconnecting components. Most tips are a copper core surrounded by iron. The ironis often nickel or chrome plated, but the tip of the iron is always exposed tothe pure iron to which the solder will cling, and therefore attach therequired items.
Threatsto soldering irons
The major threats to the longevity andfunctionality of soldering irons are predictable: rust from exposure when idle;dirt and debris accumulated when in use; tips being seized or stuck in thebarrel of the iron.
Protectingthe tip from rust
Because iron is so vulnerable to rust,taking good care of the exposed iron tip is essential. The most common practicefor achieving this is called tinning coating the tip with a thin layer oftin to retain its potency.
Usingthe right solder
Using a pure or good quality solder is thefirst basic step in maintaining the health of your soldering iron. This blogpost on Soldering IronTip Care is a good reference to have if you need to double checkcomposition of solders. Solder is a percentage mix of tin and lead. 67/37solder is ideal for experts, as it goes from liquid to solid in an instant. Ifyou are less sure of yourself, try 60 tin and 40 lead, which gives you aworking range of 13 degrees before it solidifies.
Keepingthe tip clean during work
Wiping your tip regularly whilst working isa basic practice which any DIY handyman should adhere to. Use a damp sponge ortowel, or metal mesh pads. The tip should look bright and shiny. When youfinish, clean the item thoroughly: cover the tip withsolder, wipe it, cover it and wipe it again and then unplug the iron.
If you havent managed to maintain a brighttip or if you are surprised that the tip has suddenly become blackeneddespite your taking care of it, there are a few remedies you can attempt. Usinga tinning block of sal-ammoniac when the iron is hot can help if usedsparingly put a little flux on the block and wipe the tip gently as it ishot. Then wipe and carry on.