How to Clean a Soldering Iron with Flux

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The tips of soldering irons are sturdy and durable. However, they still need to be maintained from time to time so that they remain functional.

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This is usually the case because the tips become extremely hot when used, thereby exposing it to some degree of oxidation. Likewise, the repeated heating and cooling also takes a toll on the soldering rod.

Because of this, it becomes essential to take care of your soldering rod diligently. By doing this, it’ll not only remain shiny and clean but also work properly without causing you any inconvenience. If you have no idea where to start, here is an in-depth article on how to use flux to clean your soldering iron.

What Is Flux? 

This should be the first question you should ask yourself before you learn of the steps to follow when cleaning a soldering iron with flux. Flux is a prepping agent that helps prevent the formation of an oxidation layer. This layer usually forms when using solder to join two metal surfaces.

By using a flux, this layer is avoided altogether as it creates a suitable metallurgic bond. It does this by removing any oxidization present by scarping the surface slightly to facilitate wetting. As a result, this prevents the fluctuation of electrical continuity with temperature, mechanical or other stresses. Furthermore, enough wetting ensures the quality of the soldering joint isn’t adversely affected.

You can find flux either as a core of the soldering wire or in paste form, and this helps you with the soldering without needing to put extra effort. 

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Steps To Remove Mild Oxidation From Your Soldering Iron 

The tips of all soldering irons have some slight degree of oxidation with this a natural iron plating process. However, this continued accumulation isn’t ideal as it reduces the effectiveness of the soldering iron. If you notice any noticeable oxidation or lowered effectiveness, here are the steps to clean your soldering iron using a flux.

  1. Modify the soldering iron’s temperature to a standard work temperature of around 300 degrees Celsius.
  2. Apply to the oxidized tip a thin layer or flux-cored solder. The flux will be activated by the heat that will start a chemical reaction to eliminate the oxidation.
  3. Using a specially designed cleaner or brass to clean the soldering iron’s tip. This will slowly start to remove the oxidation present on the soldering iron.
  4. Repeat this process for about three or four times until the soldering iron’s tip is clean.
  5. With a clean soldering iron tip, a smooth flow of solder is made possible.

The Best Types of Flux To Use For Your Soldering Iron

Using any flux isn’t ideal when soldering wires and electronics. Here are the go-to flux agents to pick to create a metallurgic joint.

Type of FluxDescription
Organic acid or water-soluble flux productsThis flux agent combines citric, lactic, and stearic acids together with isopropyl alcohol and water. It’s an ideal and effective choice to use when soldering your electronics as it’s more powerful. Moreover, these products deliver improved performance rates and are electrically conductive. Cleaning them is also a lot easier compared to PCBs.
Rosin-based fluxWhen you want to get rid of oxidation from the wires, getting a rosin-based flux is recommended. This is especially ideal when dealing with delicate and thinner wires that are prone to damage by anything too corrosive, which might increase the risk of a shorting of your circuit. Furthermore, rosin-based flux is suitable for a broad range of applications.
Leaded solders that have a solid coreThese products not only guarantee a sturdier bond for an extended duration but are also easier to oxidize. However, always ensure to wash your hands when using leaded solder.

Tips To Avoid Oxidation 

If you wish to prevent oxidation, here are some useful tips to follow:

Keep The Tip of Your Soldering Iron Clean

One of the best ways of preventing oxidation is by ensuring the tip of your soldering iron is always clean. By doing this, both the wire cleaner and damp sponge will do an effective job of cleaning the tip.

As you clean the soldering iron’s tip using a damp sponge, make sure to allow the iron to go back to the set temperature before you wipe again. By doing this, you’ll maximize the sponge’s cleaning effectiveness, thereby ensuring a smooth flowing state.

Use A Protective Layer of Solder

Another great way to avoid the solder tip’s oxidation is by safeguarding it using a layer of solder. This means anytime you’re done using the soldering iron, apply fresh solder on its tip before storing it. Ideally, the perfect solder to prevent oxidation should be one with a great amount of flux core.

Switch Off The Soldering Iron When Not Being Used

If you aren’t planning to use your soldering iron in the near future, make sure to switch it off and store it. As a result, the oxidation temperature is reduced considerably at room temperature.

Avoid Needless Heat

Another reason for the increased oxidation of the tip of your soldering iron is excessive heat. Therefore, ensure to always stick to a suitable temperature for the chosen type of solder as well as the application. Otherwise, keeping your soldering iron at temperatures greater than what’s needed might shorten its lifespan and destroy the work product.

The different types of solders need a varied range of temperatures. For example, solders containing lead require lower temperature compared to the lead-free solders. Therefore, make sure always to confirm the temperature as you move between different types of solders.

Conclusion 

Cleaning your soldering iron is a must if you want to maintain its effectiveness. If you had no idea where to start, reading this detailed article has provided you with practical steps on how to use flux to clean the tip of your soldering iron.

It’s evident that this procedure is easy and straightforward to get rid of any horrid accumulation of rust. Therefore, you no longer have an excuse as to why your soldering iron isn’t effective, which lowers its usefulness.

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