Instructables
wire cleaning instructable 008.JPG
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.

k_graham3 months ago

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.

posneg64 months ago

Brilliant thank you

greginky7 months ago
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!
sjhoward1 year ago
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.
kiwibum1 year ago
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.
Bi111 year ago
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 Bi111 year ago
same with me ! thanks
sanjay1171 year ago
TA DA !! !!Thanks a lot!! !!
love !!
russo481 year ago
After viewing many complex methods with solutions that are not readily available, this was a welcome fix!
nwlaurie1 year ago
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.
Nice article, great tip and comes at a time I need it.

Thanks John
james.m.k1 year ago
Sweet!
ilpug2 years ago
We had to clean a lot of wire at my friend's house once. We dipped the ends in very dilute pool acid for a few minutes. Good as new, although your method works great too!
lowloss2 years ago
Thanks awesome tip, I normally use steelwool/fine sandpaper.
When you have a couple of hundred stranded wire ends to clean it takes forever.
Your tip took 3 minutes

Magic
Sohaib Asif2 years ago
its amazing ................................
rtbrandt2 years ago
Cleaned up a wiring harness this way today - thanks for posting this, it worked quite well.

Not a bad idea to hit the bare ends with WD-40 afterward though to pull out water that may have made it under the insulator.
pfred22 years ago
Everyone here saying what they've done that doesn't work I use 000 plain steel wool and it works fine for me. Though if a wire is all corroded under the insulation I've had to change them sometimes.
SDX20003 years ago
Where are the buttons for voting?
jggrez3 years ago
wow, I've had bad times with hard to solder copper wire, this is one thing I will memorize for good.
TY
Thanks for sharing this technicks
Wehrdo3 years ago
This is great!! Simple, household chemicals to clean wire. I usually scrape with a knife, but that doesn't work very well on small wires because it can cut off the wires.
AgeingHippy3 years ago
Nice one.

Thanks for sharing. :)
rimar20003 years ago
Thanks for sharing this.

I always use sandpaper, but that is cumbersome and ineffective, and is not suitable for very thin wires.
Fr0stAngel3 years ago
Nice...
another way of doing this is by using ferrous sulphate solution, (the one used to make PCBs).
zazenergy3 years ago
This is so helpful!