I saw this glass-fibre brush (or pen) for cleaning soldering iron tips while hot.
Would a wodge of glass wool (loft insulation) do as good a job? Does it have there any unsafe chemicals which might be given off if used on a hot soldering iron? (700 deg F/390 deg C)
I have loads of glass wool in my loft! It's that pink coloured spun type which doesn't seem to leave as many shards and splinters as the old style glass wool. Users in forums have warned that the glass-fibre pen also leaves this sort of sharp debris.
Tim, I think steel wool might cause damage to the metal coating on the soldering iron's tip. However, maybe I could use that glass wool give the tip a wipe instead of damp cellulose sponge because my sponge sometimes gets a bit singed.
I guess my Antex XS25 iron might be a bit too hot. It's nominally quite hot at 390 degrees C (735 F) and could be running even hotter.
I recently tried a piece of "Magic Cleaning Eraser" to clean the tip with and that seems very heat resistant. It's made mainly of a melamine sponge. I wonder if that stuff releases dangerous chemicals when heated? Does anyone know?
The insulation glass itself might melt. Pyrex wool would not, but it's an expensive way to clean a tip. An ordinary wet sponge or steel wool will do the job. I do lots of soldering and I've used the same sponge for years. Once in a while, I take it out and wash it.
I don't know about the glass fiber brush. I would think it would gouge grooves into the comparatively soft iron soldering tip.
Fiberglass insulation would probably work if wet, but doesn't seem to offer anything over the conventional wet sponge. The idea is to scrape off the oxidized dross, which can be done with anything that holds water. I once used a piece of wet (wool) felt when my sponge walked away.
Also, for smelly, smoky, but good tip cleaning, try a block of sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride). About $5 for a small block. Available at hardware stores in the copper pipe soldering section and at stained glass suppliers:
There are also polishing bars, which are more suitable for large torch type soldering irons that tend to get incrusted with glassy goo.
There's also a variety of tip re-tinners made by Weller, MG, and Plato. They contain silver and are a bit pricey. If you're down to un-tinned iron on your soldering tip, you can sometimes recover some of the tip with this stuff. I have a small tin, but rarely use it.
I forgot to mumble about keeping the lead free and leaded tips, irons, solder, sponges, cleaners, and such separate. I've trashed a few tips mixing solder types which required aggressive cleaning and retinning to salvage. I now have two separate soldering irons for each. For desoldering, I use the same tool for both.
Unless your tip was improperly tinned or the Silver has broken through, a damp sponge is the best. Other things will leave a mess that contaminates your work. If you have to, a brass brush will take care of flux crust. Once you have to resort to a file, time to break out a new tip and use the old one for desoldering or plastic welding.
For many years, I've cleaned my soldering iron tip using a quick flip of my index finger, first wetted in my mouth. The reason for cleaning an iron tip is to get rid of excess solder and dross on the tip. My finger works fine and is always available! In over fifty years of doing it this way, I've yet to burn my finger or get lead poisoning from the solder. I've been through several irons, and dozens of tips, but I am still using the same finger! (Quick and wet are mandatory. Be careful where you "flip" the excess solder.)
This is a 35W iron with ~1/8" tip. I don't try to maintain the original surface, but file it occasionally and "re-tin" it when necessary. I run it from a Variac, and when needed, 135V gives extra punch. It serves 95% of my requirements. I have other specialized "soldering stations", and use their built in "sponges" for tip cleaning.