How do I take care of my soldering iron tip?

I am a newbie at soldering, and I recently bought a $8 iron from radioshack. After the first time I used it, it had already began to erode. I think I tined it like I was suposed to. I melted a little bit of solder on it, and wiped off the excess. Would wiping it to much do this. Please help.

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Re-design8 years ago
I use the cheap soldering irons and they last me for years but that's because I take care of them.

I only heat them when I'm using them and never let them sit for more than a few minutes turned on.  Sitting hot for half an hour with out being used is on of the things that ruin an iron.

I use a tip cleaner like this

http://www.frys.com/product/1563526

I run the tip into this before i start and after 5-6 joints.  It cleans off the excess soldier and flux and then again before I put the iron in the holder.

I've got a really nice soldering iron and station but hardly ever use it.  My 10$ Radio Shack irons work just fine.
electronicdude (author)  Re-design7 years ago
I don't let my iron sit there for a long time without use.  The only time it is left on without use is when I go to the the bathroom. The cleaner, is it a thin spring like wire the scrapes off the excess solder, or is it a pastey like material. I bought tip tiner and cleaner from Radioshack. Would that work, and if so how do I use it. It did not come with any instructions.
lemonie8 years ago
Mine go black and erode horribly, I wonder if it's the solder... I'll keep an eye on this question.

L
Jayefuu lemonie8 years ago
ditto
double ditto...
my tip started flaking off after about a year.. eh??
I wouldn't wipe off the excess solder after tinning.  Just tin it and shut the iron off.  I've had the same tip on my iron for years now and it is still in perfect shape (I previously did military spec soldering so I'm pretty familiar with this).

The whole purpose of tinning is to put a protective coating on the outside so the tip doesn't corrode.  When you go to use the iron again, just wipe it off on a damp sponge.

You really need a better iron though.  Those $8 irons are practically disposable. You don't need anything super fancy.  Get an entry level Weller iron for about $45.  Temp adjustment is nice but not required for most applications.
You get's what's you pay for I'm afraid.

We pay nearly 10 dollars per TIP for our themostatically controlled irons, and they basically last in industrial use for years.

Generally wiping the tip is good, leaving the iron on when not in use, bad.

TOO much water on the tip, chills it too much, and I suspect stresses the plating on the tip, which cracks and fails. Your sponges should be barely wet, not sopping.