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

Picture of 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.


geoff.saul.9 (author)2015-01-28

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.



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.

ardrhi (author)solomonhorses2017-10-22

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.

AndreS229 (author)2017-03-18

Awesome. Saved me replacing a $300 part.

dino1966 (author)2017-02-05

Yep ! Fantastic

Bill Egan (author)2016-10-25

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.

ChrisB20 (author)2016-08-26

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.

269709 (author)2016-07-29


LeeB98 (author)2016-07-25

May I ask permission to cross post this article on 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.

Jewilhite (author)2016-06-25

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!

redrooster (author)2016-04-27

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.

DespotD (author)2016-04-23

It works apsolutely perfect,thanks mate!

skinnykemper (author)2016-04-08

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

JamesBonds nGeraldine (author)2016-04-06

This has been a great help. Thank you

leogenic (author)2016-02-05

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.

solomonhorses (author)leogenic2016-02-07

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.

6teeth (author)2016-01-26

Nice tutorial,ty.Thumbs up.

ChuckS32 (author)2016-01-05

Aluminum wire corrodes quite quickly. Does this same process work equally well with aluminum?

solomonhorses (author)ChuckS322016-01-25

Yes I believe it will work on aluminum as well. Any wire that is corroded in the first place should be cleanable with this corroding solution. Just make sure you neutralize the wire with baking soda water right away!

ScottS131 (author)2015-12-22

Man I am so glad this was here... I was sure it could be done easily but couldn't remember. I was having isseus with my vehicle shutting itself off at inconveinent times, like while I was driving. I removed the wires and connectors and gave them their baths... I am amazed I didn't know my headlights wrre that bright, let alone the dash lights. You probably saved me a couple hundred in shop bills!!! Awesome!!

deepakgc203 (author)2015-12-02


JohnB292 (author)2015-11-08

perfect thanks :-)

israelr1 (author)2015-11-07

I would like to start out and say this is an amazing trick! I had bluish/greenish corrosion inside my HDMI cord and figured that since it doesn't work, that this trick would be a great test to see if it would also work for connecting cords that contain copper. Also, I wouldn't recommend just doing this on a super expensive cord without doing proper research on what these solutions would do to other cords containing other types of metal. Since I had nothing to lose on a broken cord, then I went right ahead and it was the perfect solution. Now, I have a perfectly working HDMI cord and saved about $20-$30 (for the type of cord I have). Thanks again for this trick!!!

MariaS44 (author)2015-09-10

excellent...thanks for the tips

RickC6 (author)2015-07-26

MartinB23 (author)2015-06-27

I have a Pana-Vue slide viewer that was put in a "safe" place, with the batteries in. 20 years later, found that safe place, and thought the viewer was gone, it had (I said 'had') a layer of blue/green corrosion all over the copper pieces in the battery compartment. I did the trick above, did a little wire brushing and my viewer works again! Thank you.

onegreenkitty (author)2015-03-29

Worked great! Im all over my boat, pushing back entropy. Great that it works on copper wire and the white sulfate-like corrosion from sea water. Thank you!

austin.hall.129794 (author)2015-01-22

Excellent tip - Instead of using emery cloth on meters of reclaimed copper wire for jewellery use, I'm now just watching them clean in a bath of this solution. Could not be simpler!

Hey Austin, I read you were using copper wire for jewelry, as am I.

My wire came out of the solutions with a dull finish.. I wonder if steel wool 000 would shine it up? Thanks Deborah

yes steel wool 000 or 0000 (extra fine) would help, you could also use a scotch pad - like the green ones you can use on dirty plates, but a finer grade grey one. After polishing up you can stop them re-oxidising (and making your skin green) by dipping them in a barrier agent like anti-tarnish lacquer; of course do this when the item is made as solder won't stick otherwise.

philip.osborne.792 (author)2015-02-28

Easy, effective, convenient: Belongs in the Do It Yourselfer's Handbook.

Thanks for a good one.

bucklovell (author)2015-01-19


bucklovell (author)2015-01-19


mommabearamanda (author)2015-01-17

Going by your reference I am cleaning some copper wire as I speak...I burned the coating off from around the wire and went with you method of cleaning and it started to clean it's self within min of putting the copper into the vinegar / salt solution. Thank you so much for the tip, I can now get more money at my local scrap yard for clean copper!

scrap76 (author)2015-01-04

three thumbs up. ty :)

rose_adamaj (author)2015-01-03

Thank you so much for this ible -- I did an instructables search for cleaning copper, knowing that someone had a solution for me. And by golly, you not only have the solution, your solutions are easily created in my kitchen! The huge roll of copper wire I found out in our old shop building will soon be clean--with minimal effort on my part thanks to you sharing your knowledge. Thank you!

neilh (author)2014-12-03

Thanks for this! I am a ham myself (N1JOK), but used this to clean a piece of copper jewelry I made for my wife last year. This removed the tarnish quickly using stuff I had in the kitchen. Great tip.

MaryF3 (author)2014-10-10

Thank you so much! We used this technique to clean the underside of a copper counter top before soldering the corner. We experimented with several techniques, this one was quickest and easiest hands down! Now, I'm going to experiment with (scrap) this formula to try to get the ugly black ring on the counter top left by an wet aluminum can. (any ideas?)

k_graham (author)2014-04-29

I like the combination , I was aware of each for cleaning but not the importance of finishing with baking soda to neutralize the solution.

While in Mexico a favorite of mine has been to substitute a lemon covered in salt and jam the wires into them.

posneg6 (author)2014-04-12

Brilliant thank you

greginky (author)2013-12-31

I am going to try this tomorrow on the wires to my battery cable connector. I tried oxiclean today without any luck. I can't find out how to vote on here though. I am on my phone maybe I need to go to the full website. Thank you so much for posting this!

sjhoward (author)2013-06-16

I had a big slug problem last year in my garden, and this year I am experimenting with copper to deter the slime-makers. I have old copper wire and tried your method, and it worked easily. Thank you.

kiwibum (author)2013-06-14

Awesome, thank you so much for sharing this. I've always known there was a chemical way to cleaning corroded cables and favorited this instructable when I saw it months ago knowing I would need the information. Today I tracked down an intermittent starter fault to a corroded connector on my van that has been bothering me for the last three years. As soon as I stripped back the wires, and saw the condition of them, I knew this was the trick I need. Worked perfectly, I now have two little containers setup and labelled for next time. Soldered the wires together and we have reliable transport now. Thanks again for sharing.

Bi11 (author)2013-05-09

Da%# right I'll vote for that one. Old school techniques do "occasionally" pay dividends. Been an electronics repairman for 45 years and never knew that one. THANX

sanjay117 (author)Bi112013-06-07

same with me ! thanks

sanjay117 (author)2013-06-07

TA DA !! !!Thanks a lot!! !!
love !!

russo48 (author)2013-05-30

After viewing many complex methods with solutions that are not readily available, this was a welcome fix!

nwlaurie (author)2013-05-18

New to me too - I could have used this a hundred times or more in my life if I'd known about it sooner!
Thanks, brilliant, simple Instructable. Well done.

tubethumper (author)2013-01-10

Nice article, great tip and comes at a time I need it.

Thanks John

james.m.k (author)2012-12-16


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