Your soldering iron can be an indispensable tool for a number of different projects, ranging from home improvement and electronics repair to metalwork and even arts and crafts! But since this tool is a very delicate, highly specialized instrument, it's important to take good care of it – and that's especially true of the tip, the iron's most fragile (and essential) part. In order to properly care for the tip of your iron, keep the following pointers in mind:
- Do not file, grind or otherwise attempt to reshape the tip because it can permanently damage it. Instead, buy a different size or shape that is better suited to your needs. Most manufacturers offer a wide range of soldering iron tip sizes for precisely this purpose.
- Always use fresh solder on a the tip to clean it before you start to use it. This process is called tinning, and works because the fresh solder will help dissipate any temporary oxide coverage.
- When soldering at particular high temperatures (anything above 665 degrees Fahrenheit), or when you pause your soldering work for longer than an hour, always clean and tin the tip in order to avoid oxidizing the solder.
- Clean your tip with a synthetic wet sponge only; do not use cloths, rags or other fabrics. The sponge should be wet with distilled water, since the minerals present in tap water can contaminate your tip.
- Do not rub the tip of your soldering iron on the metals you're trying to join.
- Do not add sold directly to the tip itself when connecting wires. Rather, heat the connecting wires so when the solder is applied it melts into place.
- Use the lowest temperature possible for the project in question. This will help prolong the life of your soldering iron tip.
- When finished with your iron, do not remove the excess sold from the tip prior to turning it off. This solder will actually help prevent oxidation and protect the delicate tip.
- Finally, always allow the tip of your soldering iron to cool completely before putting it away in a specially designated storage case or holder.