It’s quite likely that at some point in time, your original soldering tip is going to stop working and you’ll notice it either won’t solder anymore or perhaps the solder is simply dripping off of the tip.
In most cases, this is either a result of not maintaining your soldering iron as well as you could have or improperly storing it.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a write-off since there are plenty of ways to clean the soldering tip and methods for preventing oxidization.
Why Does Soldering Iron Oxidize?
Oxidization occurs when rust forms on either iron or steel, which are two materials that are typically used to create soldering tips. The main concern with oxidizing and soldering is that it can become much worse when it’s exposed to higher temperatures.
For example, a piece of steel or iron submerged in water is prone to rusting over a few days, if not a couple of weeks. When you have evidence of oxidization on your soldering tip, every time you fire up the iron it’s only going to make the oxidization worse.
How to Keep Soldering Iron from Oxidizing?
If you’re trying to figure out how to keep soldering iron from oxidizing, there are two preventative measures that you should be sure to use to your advantage.
Solder with a Low Heat
The first thing that you can do is try to solder with a lower heat setting, and this is why the vast majority of first-time soldering iron owners deal with oxidization more than veteran users. At first, you might be tempted to use the iron at high heat level just so you can get the soldering process done faster but this will only damage the tip in a short amount of time.
It’s important that you take steps to make sure the iron is kept at a low heat level for as long as possible with the help of a solder station that is entirely temperature controlled. You should also take the time to make sure you turn the iron off whenever you’re not using it.
Protect the Tip from Oxygen
Oxidization has a lot to do with oxygen and as a result, preventing oxygen from touching the tip of the iron is another great way to avoid any damage. The best way to do this is to keep a new solder on the tip of the iron by coating it with a fresh coat after every use.
How to Clean an Oxidized Solder Tip?
Aside from steps that you can take to prevent oxidization, it’s important to remember that like many other tools that you have in your toolkit, you’re going to need to maintain the soldering iron regularly. Below are some great tips to use to clean an oxidized solder tip.
Tip 1: Non-Abrasive Cleaning
It’s important to note that the vast majority of long-life solder tips are going to have a protective coating on their surface which is specifically designed to help protect against oxidization. With that being said, you’re certainly not going to want to use any abrasive chemicals or cleaning sponges when you’re taking care of your tip.
However, if you have a regular soldering tip such as one made out of copper or iron, you can use an abrasive cleaning tool such as steel wool to help break down any oxidized layers.
Tip 2: Keep the Soldering Tip Warm
It’s going to be relatively impossible to clean the soldering tip if it’s cool, which is why you’ll need to keep it at the ideal cleaning temperature of approximately 100°C. Take note though that you need to pay special attention to cleaning the tip with all of the appropriate safety gear on as it is still quite hot to the touch.
Tip 3: Establish a Cleaning Routine
The faster you’re able to take care of the soldering tip, the less likely it is to fall victim to rust. After every soldering cycle, make sure that you clean the tip with a wet sponge (for long-life soldering tips) or a steel wool sponge (copper or iron).
Cleaning with steel wool will be faster as it tends to keep the soldering tip at a high temperature while it’s being cleaned. On the contrary, a sponge is going to cool the tip down, and you’ll have to wait for it to heat back up.
Tip 4: Coating the Soldering Iron Tip
The fourth and final tip that you must follow to prevent the soldering tip from oxidizing is to take the time to solder it for an added layer of protection against oxygen. All you have to do is melt a puddle of metal and roll the tip in the metal until it’s sufficiently coated. Depending on the age of the tip, you may have to do this process more than once to ensure it’s fully coated.
When it comes to learning how to keep soldering iron from oxidizing, the best thing that you can do is take a lot of precautions in how you store your new soldering iron. Also, you’re going to need to establish a reliable cleaning schedule to ensure that the device is maintained. Otherwise, you may be in a position where you’ll have to purchase new tips on a regular basis.