Soldering Iron tip is turning black and will not take a tinning ?

I have a brand new soldering iron and tips. I turned the iron on and waited for it to heat up, and immediately the tip turned black. I was told to clean it with a WET sponge and re-tin it. I did. or tried to, but it keeps turning black. I bought that tip-tinning stuff in the little tin and tried using that, but the tip still is black. It's as if the black tip will not accept the tin now...and it is brand new, although it sat in a box and a zip lock baggy for two years before I am working with it now. I tried to clean the tip by wiping it on a brass wire sponge thingy and then on the WET sponge. The tip looks like it would start to get shinny silver again but only in small places not the whole tip that should be all shiny silver. But then the whole tip just turns black immediately again even before I get to do any soldering at all. I tried to re-tin my other tip that did the same thing when I first tried to use this iron ( about 2 weeks ago) and the solder melted fast, but it just sort of built up on that tip like a big glob on the top of the tip. This soldering iron and solder I am using is for stained glass jewelry making not for electronics or plumbing. I am using all the correct materials for the job and have followed all directions and what I was told to try do, to fix it by the seller I bought it from, so I think I am doing everything right (?). I am using a lead free solder that is used for stained glass soldering jewelry. I am using the copper foil "tape" and copper metal and wire. But I can't get very far since this iron is giving me such problems. Am I doing something wrong or do you think the soldering iron is faulty? This iron is an Inland brand soldering iron. Can anyone out there please help me fix this? Or do I have to buy a new iron. I have so much work to do but can not do anything now until my iron will work properly. Help!!??? Oh another question I saw an Indestructible on how to make my own soldering iron tips from 6 awg copper wire...would this work for the job I need to do ? Because if it is the tips that are the problem I could make my own tips with pure copper but the all the irons I read about that are good always are made of a layer of iron and not just pure copper...will the self-made copper tips stick to my project or the solder since I am working with pure copper sheet and wire and I am using a lead free solder made up of Tin and Silver and one made of Tin and Copper. Its a bright shinny silver color since I want the silver look in the end... not the copper look in my hand made jewelry and sculptures I'm making. 

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You just have a layer of carbon on the tip. Scrape it off with some high grit sand paper or some steal wool. Use some flux and a moist sponge to clean the tip and you can tin the tip.

you should be trying to tin the tips as it heats. Sounds like you turned it on and left it for a while without trying to tin the tip once it got just hot enough to melt the solder. If you leave it on too long or run it too hot it will burn off the solder and go black again.
donnadidit (author)  mpilchfamily3 years ago
Ok, thanks for your help...I'll try that. :)

I have also the same problems with my soldering iron tips I have tried in various ways and so many company makes.. but no use.Finally one company iron is working well but the tip melts quickly.But so many persons in this type of job handling very easily,.They are wondering about my problem even the manufactruers doesnt know to answer me.Finally did you find any solution for this?. reply.my email id is artiststephen@gmail.com

framistan3 years ago
Solder irons come in various qualities. A cheaper solder iron will have a tip that is more likely to get the black carbon on it. An expensive solder station will have a tip that will USUALLY wipe off with a damp sponge. A cheaper iron may have a copper tip that will quickly start turning black. On the EXPENSIVE solder station, do not damage the tip by sanding it down. Just wipe it with the damp sponge. It sounds like the tip you have is a cheap one maybe made out of copper with no plating. The cheaper the tip the more sanding you must do to get the tip to melt the solder. Don't leave your iron running for hours and hours if you are not using it. This can make the tip get black. Do not use the iron for melting plastic or wood-burning projects. That also makes the tip get black.
donnadidit (author)  framistan3 years ago
Thanks for your info...can you please tell me what an "Expensive" solder station of iron would be ? I mean, what brand, make, model do you suggest ? I don't want to have to go through all this trouble and I will be using my iron a LOT...so I would like to buy a good quality one if it will make my life easier. I also want it to heat up to at least 1000 F. or over...I could go to about 800 or 900 if I have to but I would like a powerful one that heats up a bit over 1000 F if possible...the one I am having troubles with is a 100 watt right now. I do have a rheostat if needed. So, can you please tell me a brand / make / model you think is a good quality that I won't have problems with? and that I can get tips that are very very skinny or thin and also wider ones too ? Thanks again.
Weller brand irons are known for good quality, and parts availability. This would be a good question to ask... so... you might want to resubmit another question to know what kind of iron to get for whatever purpose you need. You need to describe what you need the iron to be used for. Small tiny low wattage irons are good for tiny small wires. If you are soldering large items like stained glass, you need a large wattage iron.

Read the weller / Cooper tools

Guide To Better Soldering Brochure

Now I will explain. the tip of the soldering iron is usually iorn plated with copper or some other metal that will tin. if you leave it on for very long it will tarnish. A new tip will wipe clean on a wet sponge. after a few hours of use it may get harder and harder to clean. The temperature at which solder melts is less than five hundred degrees. Cheaper irons have no temperature control.

It is possible to make a temperature control with a common light bulb dimmer. buy the dimmer for seven bucks at a building supply store and a outlet and a box. Hook them up following the directions with the dimmer as if you were wiring a one hundred watt light bulb.

You can plug a small night light into the other outlet in your new temperature controller so you know it is on. Set the iron so solder just melts then move the control just a little higher. Your control will help you keep a cleaner tip.

Good luck!

donnadidit (author)  framistan3 years ago
I have an Inland 100 watt iron. It's really not a cheap one. I did have much success today. (Yay) I wiped the tip with a folded up damp cloth a lot during use and also a tiny bit of dabbing it on the brass "sponge" I did wipe it and re-tin it as it was heating up like was suggested so that did the trick I guess. But I am surprised at how often I have to wipe it with the damp rag and brass "sponge" though. I didn't expect it to need so much "attention" or upkeep during use. I also thought the tip had to be bright and shiny silver color to work correctly...I guess I didn't know it supposed to look blackish a lot of the time. Thanks again everyone for your help :)
watch youtube vid on sal amoniac block. similar watt types use those blocks.

Modern lead-free solders are particularly prone to this issue, we have to live with it. Its caused by the metallurgy and the higher tip temperatures. You should clean your tip between joints as a matter of course.
You mention that you want it to go really high. This sounds you might be using the soldering iron on a large piece of material, in which case, you may want to consider switching over to a soldering gun rather than a soldering iron.

I'm not sure what type of tip you're using (shape wise), but if you're using it with sheet, it's best to have a flat contact surface, so round tips aren't necessarily the way to go.

Also, next to fine-grit sandpaper (which does destroy the tip somewhat), consider using tip-cleaner. It's ammonium chloride (sal ammoniac) and is sold as "tip cleaner" or "sal ammoniac block". It sticks when used, but it works when you need to re tin a tip.

Lastly, I'm not sure what your method is. If you're applying the solder to the tip then transferring to the foil, that doesn't work as quickly as applying the solder to the workpiece and putting the solder near/between the solder and workpiece.

You may want to clean your tip off more frequency/reduce the temperature (if possible). If your tin has flux built in to it, it's very good when first put on the soldering iron, but if it stays there too long, it could be causing some of the gunk on the tip, so if the blob of solder is on there too long, it should be wiped off/reapplied.

Lastly, stick with electronic soldering fluxes, the plumbing fluxes are too strong and could be destroying the tip.

Hope this helps!
+1 all good "tips", no pun intended.
AasifT9 months ago

I am soldering Aluminum wire with special solder wire, but after some time, my soldering tip turned black and solder wire don't melt down smoothly after that. Why this happened and what could be the solution. Can anyone help me?

nichalos821 year ago

i had the same issue. New to soldering but tech by trade, I did some troubleshooting. I had to by a new cheap solder iron because the didn't carry replacement tips for the model I bought from that same store (Walmart) which is another thing I'm having an issue with. Anyways I wandered to automotive bought a new iron but different brand that was about 50% cheaper and tried it that night. Wouldn't tin but luckily the same tips that fit in that cheaper iron (3M) fit in the iron of the more expensive brand in small electrical. So I removed the new iron's tip and put it in the old iron and it worked! So its the iron that's the issue... Not the tip.

PLEASE don't rub it on sandpaper ! Your problems are partly caused by using "WET" sponge. The tip should be treated with respect, and not chilled in water. The sponge should be barely damp, not wet.

Sandpaper will destroy the iron plate that protects the copper underneath. The whole POINT of soldering is that solder slightly dissolves copper: so you are mixing metals at the interface between the two, and THAT is what makes "a joint".

All that will happen if you "make" a tip from copper wire is that the wire will disappear in short order.