A Tip For Your Tips

tip teaser

Soldering iron tips, that is.  A clean soldering iron tip is essential for good solder joints.  There are many ways and devices to accomplish this ranging from cheap to expensive.  This tip is for one of the best methods available and it happens to be really cheap and simple.

This tip cleaning brush was explained to one of my co-workers at a Pace soldering seminar - I'm sure that the Pace catalog includes some expensive alternatives so it's surprising that they recommended this alternative.  First, you'll need some materials which shouldn't be a problem:

  • Paper towels - 2 ordinary paper towels.  Nothing exotic, just plain paper towels.
  • Transparent tape - actually, almost anything will work.


 Got the materials?  Now we can make the tip cleaning brush.

1. Stack the 2 paper towels (so you have 2 layers of towel)

2. Fold the towels in half across the short dimension (so you have 4 layers of towel)

step 1

3.  Starting with the folded else, roll the towels into a tight tube - the tighter the better.

4. Wrap tape around the rolled tube in 4 places, leaving about 2" clear in the center of the length.  I used blue masking tape here so the tape is easy to see (ok, it was the closest roll too!).

rolled tube

Finally, using a sharp knife, cut the tube into 2 lengths, cutting about half way along the length.  The cut surface is the solder brush.

cut tube

Use this brush to keep your tip clean.  When the iron heats up, a couple quick passes with the brush will clean the tip.  Wet the tip with a tiny amount of solder and you're good to go.  While you're soldering, use the brush periodically to keep the tip clean, always followed by wetting the tip.

Here's my large tip that was pretty grusome after my last use.

dirty tip

And here it is after a couple quick swipes and re-wetting.

clean tip

The brush will last a long time.  When the brush gets worn out, it can either be trimmed back or a new one quick made.

used brush


By the way, most tips are plated and should never be filed or scraped with a knife blade - the plating could be damaged if you do so.

A good reference for soldering is the Soldering is Easy comic book, available in many languages.

Posted: 7 years 10 months ago by Jon Chandler #9315
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Here's a useful addition to the bench that everybody can afford and can probably make in the next 60 seconds from materials at hand.
Posted: 7 years 10 months ago by Jon Chandler #9312
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For some reason, this doesn't show up on the front page...

Be sure to check out this great tip for keeping your soldering iron tips in good condition.

A Tip for Your Tips
Posted: 7 years 10 months ago by hop #9313
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I really like this tip Jon, no pun intended. I have battled with dirty tips my whole life and always thought a wet sponge was the answer. It never seemed to work well for me. I'll try this technique.

Thank you so much for all the awesome information you provide us with!!!

Posted: 7 years 10 months ago by W4GNS #9316
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I use the copper plated "scrubbers" the type used in the kitchen, versus a wet sponge, works well for me. YMMV
Posted: 7 years 10 months ago by Jon Chandler #9319
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I've used pot scrubbers too W4GNS. They work well too, but they're a little more costly Just be sure to sure the metal ones, not the plastic ones which would make a real mess.

I wrote this now for the Kitsap Maker group. They're putting on a soldering seminar soon so this is a good tip to help them get started.
Posted: 5 years 4 months ago by Baldor #14279
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Been using this tip with my tips for a month now. The results are more than excelent. Thanks, Jon

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