How to Perfectly Clean Wires in Minutes!!!

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Introduction: How to Perfectly Clean Wires in Minutes!!!

Here is an old ham radio operators trick for cleaning wires for soldering that are old and corroded.  It is hard to find this technique printed anywhere! I am a ham, NH7ZE, and learned it from my elmer (mentor). I am passing it on.  I hope it helps people who need to clean wires:P Please vote!!!

Normally, if you strip a wire, and see it is corroded, there is not much you can do to restore it's shiny new conductive properties. There is scraping and scratching which comes to mind, but you'll never get it to the solderable slickness it once was long ago. After laboring and fretting over the corroded pieces of wire for a long, long time, you see that your sweat coming out of your palms and fingers are corroding the copper AGAIN!!!! Oh, dear. NOT TO WORRY!!!!! Give yourself a pat on the back, because what you will pull out of your bag of tricks now, will send all the corroded copper wires scurrying and scampering away in fear!!!! Here is how to clean any corroded wire without even touching it, in 30 seconds!! And what's more, you can even solder it!!!

This process uses two solutions, one is regular table salt and vinegar. Any kind of vinegar will work, from balsamic, to rice, to white vinegars. Its the acidity and corrosiveness of the salt and vinegar together that you want. The other solution is Sodium Bicarbonate, or baking soda, and water. This is used to neutralize the corrosive properties of the other solution, and to further clean the wires.  

Step 1: Strip the wires to be cleaned.

Step 2: Get 2 containers, one for each solution. They can be paper cups, plastic, glass, bowls, whatever you can find. I have vials, because I am a professional electronics installer and I use these solutions out in the field.

Step 3: Get 1 tablespoon of raw salt, and put it in one of the containers. Fill up the rest of the container with vinegar, and stir the both together.  As a general rule of thumb, put as much salt in the vinegar as will dissolve.

Step 4: Get 1 tablespoon of Sodium Bicarbonate, (baking soda) and add it to the other container. Fill up the rest with water, and stir well.  Add more baking soda to make it cloudy. The amount is not important, as long as it is alkaline to cancel the acid of the vinegar solution.

Step 5: Put the stripped end of the wire in the vinegar solution, and stir the solution with the wire. any wire you want cleaned needs to be under the solution. Movement of the wire in the liquid speeds up the process.

Step 6: After 2 minutes or so, the wire will look very shiny and new in the vinegar solution. The acid and salt in the solution is etching away the oxides, exposing the bare metal. Make sure the metal is uniformly shiny. Leave it in longer if it is not perfectly clean throughout. 

Step 7: Once the wire is satisfactorily clean, remove the wire from the vinegar, and plunge it into the baking soda solution to neutralize the acid's corrosive properties.  If the wire was exposed to the air, without neutralizing the acid first, it would quickly corrode again. The baking soda keeps it clean and shiny. Swish the wire around in the baking soda water for about 10 seconds, and then you are done!! Shiny new wire ready for soldering, and conducting once again!!

Please vote on this instructable!! 
Thanks for reading.

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    66 Comments

    Hey solomonhoeses.. Finally some info that was not only easy to folow but most deffinately was 110% accurate. Outstanding sir. Thank you.

    Thankyou for this information. We have 4 electrically powered fishing kayaks and with the constant exposure of salt water, the wiring has to be regularly replaced because of corrosion to the copper wire. I have added insulation paint to the connections but can't beat the corrosion. Your simple answer has saved us hundreds of dollars each year.

    Regards

    Geoff

    3 replies

    I'm glad that helped. Another thing to try if you are in a marine environment is stainless steel heavy leader cable. It's what you use for fishing heavy game fish. Make all your wires out of that, and make the insulation out of heatshrink. The terminals on the wires can be made from small gauge stainless tubing crimped on the stainless cable wire, and you can drill a small hole in the flat crimped end of the tube. You are basically replacing the assy with all stainless. Most people say stainless doesn't work for electrical, but that is not correct. I have installed all stainless wiring in several boats and never had any wiring issues for years, of constant sea spray. Hope that helps.

    Stainless is a poor conductor compares to copper. That idea is perhaps ok but only for low amp circuits

    Even better, make sure the heatshrink is the marine-grade, with the adhesive inside, then hit 'em with a heat gun to shrink it and melt the adhesive to hold it on and seal it tight.

    Awesome. Saved me replacing a $300 part.

    I read your article with great interest. I will try this process on my 32 year old corroded, tinned marine copper electrical wiring on my sailboat. What I am curious about is whether the solution(s) will penetrate deeper into the insulated wire (capillary action?) and what, if any, deleterious effect that might have on its conductivity.

    Thanks for the tip, it saved me the headache of figuring out why I wasn't getting a solid connection on a replacement plug! I want to add, the second solution doesn't have to be only baking soda - I didn't have any so I used some denture cleaning tablets. Borax would also work, since these all use high alkalinity for their cleaning properties.

    May I ask permission to cross post this article on www.sanantoniohams.org/blog with the appropriate links and credits back to your site? Website is a free site, mostly designed for ham radio operators who like to tinker with stuff & do public service &disaster response events. I think it may bring you some interested traffic back to your site. Lee N5NTG
    My contact info is at bottom of every page of my site.

    Fantastic! I have an old 40 year old car. The instrument lights don't work. I was told to take them out and sand the contacts. That was take way too long and didn't do a very good job. Then I ran across this instructable. Now in a few minutes the contact look like new and the solutions reach where sand paper cannot Thank you soooo much!

    I just came across this instructable! I wish I had of come across it when it first come out ! It wouldve saved a lot of frustration,so thanks mate,this is one of the best instuctables Ive had the pleasure to read.

    It works apsolutely perfect,thanks mate!

    Great tip! Many thanks. Had to soak for about 15 mins but it came good in the end. Cheers!

    Great info. Thanks for sharing. It works well.. Awesome!! But not sure if it will get

    corroded again after a while or the solution will also helps prevent corrode build up.

    1 reply

    I believe it should be fine just like any new wire for corrosion, but if you want to really prevent anything corroding it again you can tin the cleaned wire with a thin layer of solder to keep it fresh for years to come.

    Nice tutorial,ty.Thumbs up.