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Thread: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

  1. #1

    Default Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    I'm a special kind of idiot and left a soldering iron switched on for a couple of days! The tip was rather well oxidised by the time I noticed (was working close by and felt the heat). Is there any way to remove the oxidation? I tried dipping it into a tub of brown stuff which I presume is some kind of flux (came with the soldering iron). Wiping it on a wet sponge then removed some of the oxidation at the very end of the tip, but not much.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic CamoNinja's Avatar
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    Sandpaper

  3. #3

    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    Thanks, that appears to have worked a treat. The tip has come up silver and the shaft is a sort of light copper colour (I think it was also silver when new).

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    Retired Administrator Norm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?


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    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    Now that's definitely a really hot tip!

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    Flashaholic* Eric242's Avatar
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    You could just leave it as it is, maybe even keep the iron switched on and call it a smoldering iron

    Eric

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    Flashaholic* bshanahan14rulz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    Even at the radio hut, tips are usually only a few bucks. Find some replacement tips :-) And keep it tinned!

  8. #8
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    Nothing quite like a new tip about a new tip!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    I really think it's fine now that I've sanded it for less time and cost than it would take to get a new one.

    Regarding tinning, am I right that I just need to tin the very end of the tip and not the shaft? It surely doesn't matter at all if the shaft reoxidises?

  10. #10
    gunga's Avatar
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    Default

    Great tips norm! Yes, keep the tip (maybe 1 cm or so) tinned. The rest doesn't touch the solder.

  11. #11

    Default

    Get a block of Sal Ammoniac and rub the hot tip on it. If that doesn't clean it up nothing will.

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* DIWdiver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    +1 to other cleaning methods, but sanding a soldering iron tip is very bad. Any tip worth paying for has a copper core with a protective plating on it. That plating is usually iron or iron alloy. Sanding will remove the plating very quickly and expose the copper beneath. Other cleaning methods should remove only the microscopic oxidation layer, doing much less damage to the tip.

    Copper has great thermal conductivity, but it dissolves in molten solder. So sanding the tip will make it work great for a while, but the exposed copper will dissolve quickly, rendering the tip useless. One of the failure modes of tips is that a tiny hole develops in the plating, and the copper dissolves from the inside. I once had a tip that wouldn't transfer heat any more. Eventually the very end broke off and I discovered that the core was filled with solder and only the iron plating had been keeping the shape of the tip. Now when a tip quits working well, I chuck it and get a new one. For a few bucks it isn't worth screwing around with a bad tip.

    By the way, iron has good resistance to soldering environment, but the thermal conductivity sucks, which is why the plating is kept thin. Tips with thick plating wouldn't work well.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    There is a product called "tip tinner" that will help. It (along with a damp sponge) will make your tip new again --- if you still have an iron coating left.... Hakko makes the one I use, Radio Shack is another source. Weller sells one called "tip activator." Most tips are not really too expensive.... Might be time to replace it.

  14. #14
    Flashaholic* DellSuperman's Avatar
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    Yellowlaugh Re: Left soldering iron on for a couple of days - possible to clean tip?

    I used a file & sandpaper to carefully remove the harden portions without touching the tip as much as possible.
    When 1 chunk comes off, the rest usually comes off pretty easily after that.

    Maybe mine wasn't left as long as yours.

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