For many of us, soldering irons are ordinary, everyday tools used for a variety of applications. These indispensable little irons, which allow users to meld different metals together by heating them to the point of melting and applying a filler metal, can be used for tasks including metalwork, crafts projects, home improvement, car repair, electronics repair, and more. But make no mistake about it: Soldering irons can be very dangerous if the proper safety precautions are not taken. When in use, the tip of a soldering iron will exceed 700 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature – more than enough heat to seriously injure someone or inflict damage on property and surroundings. Here are some soldering safety tips to keep in mind at all times:
- Always solder in a well-ventilated area, as the smoke given off by the iron can be extremely irritating to lungs and mucus membranes. Avoid breathing in the smoke by placing your head to the side, rather than directly over your work, and wear a protective mask if necessary.
- Use a fire-resistance surface such as plasterboard, or invest in a special mat intended for soldering. This will help you avoid mishaps that could burn carpeting, melt plastic or mar woodwork.
- When plugging in your iron, make sure not to overload the outlet. If there are too many appliances plugged into a particular outlet, unplug some of them first, or choose a different location altogether.
- Never set your soldering iron down on anything other than a specially made iron stand! This could damage your iron as well as the surface you're setting it down one.
- Replace your iron immediately if the electrical cord becomes frayed, worn or otherwise compromised.
- Take care to wear heat-resistance gloves or use needle nose pliers to grip objects that you're soldering, particularly small pieces. This will help you avoid incidentally touching the tip of the iron with your fingers and sustaining a potentially serious – and very painful – burn.
- Do not leave your iron plugged in after you're finished using it, and never leave a hot iron unattended.
- Always wash your hands after you finish using your soldering iron. One of the components of solder is lead, which can be toxic if ingested or absorbed into the skin.