Do your soldering iron tips ever look like this?

When people complain that their soldering iron does not heat up anymore, or that it does not get hot enough to solder like it used to, many people want to blame the soldering iron's heating element when in reality the culprit is not the heating element but the soldering iron tip.

OXIDATION is typically the #1 reason a soldering iron will not heat up and perform the way it used to, or when you first bought it.

What is oxidation?

Metal (the soldering iron tip) + Heat + Oxygen (in the air) = Oxidation.

Oxidation occurs when the heated tip (iron plating) is exposed to the oxygen in the air. This layer of film oxide serves as a barrier and reduces the amount of heat that can be transferred from the heating element through the tip to the soldering surface, and if the soldering iron is allowed to sit in its holder for any length of time, eventually the tip will become so oxidized it will become useless.

Another thing to remember is, the HIGHER the temperature of the soldering iron tip, the FASTER it will oxidize. So if you know you are not going to be using your soldering iron for awhile, turn it down.

To help prevent oxidation of your soldering iron tips, follow these simple steps:

1. always clean the tip when done soldering (whether for the moment, a few minutes, or hours)
2. then "flood" the tip with solder (solder will coat and protect the tip from oxygen in the air)
3. place the iron back into its holder (with the coat of solder on it !)

Many people neglect step 2. Putting a coat of solder on the surface of the entire tip is very important. Remember, if you allow the soldering iron to just sit in its holder and cook without any protection from the air, the tip will oxidize quickly, and the longer it oxidizes the more useless it will become.

What can you do if your soldering iron tip does become oxidized?

Depending on the severity of the oxidation, in many cases your tip can be rejuvenated back to useful life with the Hakko FS-100 tip polishing paste.

Simply dip the (hot) tip into the paste then clean it, preferably in the Hakko 599B tip cleaner. You may have to repeat the process a few times to remove all the oxidation from the tip and return it to its shiny useful self again. If after several tries the tip will still not return to its shiny self, chances are the tip is beyond restoration and you will need to replace it.

The Hakko FS-100 is Lead-Free and a safe alternative to that block of Sal Ammoniac.