Introduction: Make a $2 High-quality Soldering Iron Tip Cleaner

Picture of Make a $2 High-quality Soldering Iron Tip Cleaner

This is a really simple 'able. It's my second so I'm not getting into anything too serious yet...If you liked this you might like my wall powered dual-fan solder extractor with a dynamic fan. So let's get started.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

All we really need is a 1 1/2" tube, some steel wool, a screw, and something to mount it to - for convenience and also because it would be best not to just leave it on its own, as it would be very unbalanced.

Step 2: Stretch Steel Wool and Mount the Pipe

Picture of Stretch Steel Wool and Mount the Pipe

"Stretch" the steel wool with your hands as much as you can. Now mount the pipe to whatever it is you're mounting it to.

Step 3: Roll Steel Wool and Insert Into Pipe

Picture of Roll Steel Wool and Insert Into Pipe

Roll the wool and push it into the pipe.

You're done. Was that hard?


pfred2 (author)2009-07-04

Most people use a wet cellulose sponge to clean their soldering iron tip regularly. That is what the pan is for on most soldering iron stands, to hold the wet sponge in.

Picture of soldering iron stand and sponge:

Note also how iron is not held in a vertical position to avoid heating up the handle excessively when the iron is idling.

If I really need to steel wool a tip I just wipe a piece of steel wool over the tip myself.

Also, quit being such a baby with puny iron fumes. If you need a fan for an iron what would you need running an 800 pound wave solder pump?

Coodude26 (author)pfred22009-07-05

The idea of this was to: -hold the soldering iron in a convenient matter -have a small place to clean the tip handy and it accompmplished this very well so I don't know why you're complaining. And please restate that last part because I don't have the slightest idea of what you're talking about...

pfred2 (author)Coodude262009-07-05

Restated, inside these machines are baths of molten solder that get pumped up into a wave to solder printed circuit boards. 800 pound tanks are pretty popular for 14 inch waves:

Also, please note how the irons are held in an essentially horizontal orientation in these two holders pictured. One I made, one manufactured commercially. Do you know now?

Coodude26 (author)pfred22009-07-06

Again. This is supposed to be simple. I have no idea what a wave soldering machine is, why you brought it up, or why I should care. As much as you'd like to believe they do, the soldering irons don't really care what position they're in, and don't get hot. This was designed with joe newbie in mind. no metal building/bending skills involved. your suggestions are pointless. it's SUPPOSED to be simple!

pfred2 (author)Coodude262009-07-07

Why I brought it up was obviously for illustrative purposes. Why you should care is a riddle for the ages. Just in case you didn't know, soldering is a metal working skill. It is pretty much almost (flux excluded) all about metal, and working with it in point of fact. Your Instructable may possibly be a good learn from others mistakes example. Because who has enough time to make them all on their own? Just because someone is new at something is no reason not to give them the best we can. "Nothing starts out complicated, it just gets that way." --Don Johnson

Coodude26 (author)pfred22009-07-07

I never said anything about soldering not being metalworking. This is a setup for someone new at soldering. Nothing too fancy. And I don't know why you don't think soldering needs a fan, unless you don't solder nearly as much as you lead us to believe.

pfred2 (author)Coodude262009-07-07

Yes but you did place the phrase close enough for me to make the connection. I said it before now I will say it again, just because someone is new is no reason to start them off in the wrong direction. If you don't know why I don't think that hand soldering needs a fan I will try to spell it out as clearly here as I can. Because I have worked in the PCB fabrication industry professionally and have actually run commercial processes that *CAN* lead to flux over exposure and that has given me added perspective that most (that would include you too I am afraid labor laws would disallow you from having these experiences for a few years) do not possess. I've sat at a bench and soldered for full shifts for weeks on end kiddo. Let alone the odd electronics projects I've done over more than 30 years now! I don't need to lead anyone to believe anything, I've the body of work to back up everything I say.

Coodude26 (author)pfred22009-07-08

Again. I'm not starting them off on the wrong foot. There's a difference between a simple system and a bad system. This is a simple system. Please learn the difference.

pfred2 (author)Coodude262009-07-09

You have some learning to do that is for sure!.

Coodude26 (author)pfred22010-02-15

I've said this to other people; just because you have lungs of steel doesn't mean everyone does. Two of my friends' airways get constricted and almost close up if they breathe this stuff. You're cool, we get it; you don't need no stinking fan. Some people do, and that's who the guide was for.

pfred2 (author)Coodude262010-02-15

You simply cannot generate enough fumes off the tip of a soldering iron to get ill from it. Unless you have the tip of the iron up your nose or something. But when you are involved in a process that generates many times the volume of fumes as an iron can then you can become rather sick from the effects.

I've been in both situations so I know the difference. When I run this thing I need to ventilate, but its a LOT bigger than a soldering iron now isn't it? Honestly I like the smell of flux off an iron, its not bad.

Yonatan24 (author)pfred22017-06-14

" You simply cannot generate enough fumes off the tip of a soldering iron to get ill from it."

While I am late by 7 years, you really do have no idea what you're talking about. Just because it does nothing to you personally doesn't mean that it doesn't cause horrible nausea from the flux fumes after only a bit of soldering. Talking about myself.

If you aren't sensitive to it, I agree, soldering a bit in a closed room really won't do a lot of harm to you...

pfred2 (author)Yonatan242017-08-27

I do have an idea what I am talking about. Because I have gotten flux sick. But to do it I dumped a whole pound spool of flux core solder into my solder pot. So I am obviously sensitive to flux fumes. It just takes a much larger volume of fumes than will come off a low Watt soldering iron to make me sick.

Coodude26 (author)pfred22010-02-16


I wasn't kidding.
I know 2 different people (not related) whose airway constrict at the inhalation of solder fumes. Now, would you kindly bugger off? Obviously this guide wasn't made for you and I don't know what you're trying to prove, telling people that they should macho up and suck up some acid fumes.

emerson.john (author)Coodude262010-02-14

 I am going to jump in this 7 months later. I started using a soldering iron to earn a living in 1975. I have had fans, worked under ventilation hoods, run wave soldering equipment.
1. You do not ever need a fan to run one soldering iron in a room.
2. I have found a wet cellulose sponge to be a good tip cleaner if the tip is hot. Keep a small squeeze bottle of H2O handy to keep the sponge moist. If you do not have a soldering stand with a place for a tip cleaner, get a saucer or metal jar lid, a piece of wet sponge, and you are ready to clean the tip as needed.
3. A professional grade soldering iron of useful wattage should be held in a near horizontal position between soldering operations. It will get too hot to hold comfortably if left nearly vertical. 
4. Most beginners start off with an iron that does not get hot enough to consistently produce good solder joints.

Coodude26 (author)emerson.john2010-02-15

while I'm sure your lungs are quite resilient to the burning flux fumes, I know several people who cannot stand the smell and I'm not going to go and tell them to quit being a sissy because it won't kill them. That said, you have to understand that using a fan never hurts.

pfred2 (author)Coodude262010-02-15

If you won't then I will, quit being a sissy! If you're not writhing on the ground retching your brains out then you don't need a fan to blow away the flux fumes.

Because when you are really being overcome by flux fumes that is what it is like!

Yonatan24 (author)pfred22015-12-30

Why does it bother you when someone wants a fume extractor? Why should he make his lungs have a hard time... If you can buy (or make) one, Why not use it?

Coodude26 (author)pfred22010-02-16

Umm...I don't think you took me serious. For 2 of my friends, the smell of solder fumes constricts their throats to the point that they could suffocate. As in, lose air, and die. Now do you really wanna keep being mr. macho and tell them to man up and suffocate to death; or back off and realize a fan never hurt anyone and no one cares how tough your lungs are?

pfred2 (author)Coodude262010-02-16

Your friends reactions are abnormal. I'm not macho I'm just normal.

Derin (author)pfred22009-07-08

:P nothing Chinese factories don't care about safety.

pfred2 (author)Derin2009-07-09

I ran one in New Jersey myself.

Derin (author)pfred22009-07-09

I'm sure you took all precautions.I was just joking.

pfred2 (author)Derin2009-07-09

Actually the machines come with built in hoods.

sushidub (author)2017-08-06

Thanks. Super easy. I would add that the finer the grade of steel wool the better. I use grade '0000' <-- that's 4 zero's. This'll allow for slightly longer tip lifetime.

Here's a slightly unrelated but handy link of steel wool grades relative to sandpaper.

BTW, I hate the smell of soldering fumes and would advise any newb to def use some sort of small fan if they have a sensitive nose.

itsachen (author)2009-10-18

Pretty cool.
Just don't make this if you use an arc soldering iron like the ColdHeat.
Electricity running through steel wool is bad D:

sharlston (author)2009-05-21

i use a bit of fine sandpaper or my wire thing on my dremel its easier and you are wearing the tip down FAST!

Coodude26 (author)sharlston2009-07-07


chuckr44 (author)2008-11-07

I simply used my bench-powered wire wheel. A dremel powered wire wheel will also work.

Coodude26 (author)chuckr442009-03-13

Not to mention, that's a terrible long-term plan. You're going to wear down the tip quickly, and you're not going to be able to do that on-the job, when you need this most.

pfred2 (author)Coodude262009-07-04

Must be why soldering iron tips are replaceable? Anyone counting on a soldering iron on a job should be prepared for wear and tear, or prepared to hit the road!

Coodude26 (author)chuckr442009-03-13

And that's not very simple at all.

Coodude26 (author)chuckr442008-11-07

Yeh, but this one is right there and good for people who don't have access to large power tools or a dremel and this is a bit simpler.

i can't find a copper scrubbing pad anywhere. Do you know where i could find them???

General purpose store, ask for "steel wool", "brillo pads", "SOS pads" etc. They are used for cleaning hard-to-remove stains and are typically found in the kitchen supply aisle.

tommy9345 (author)2009-03-12

I have the EXACT same soldering iron. lol, but do you think 70% isopropyal rubbing alcohol would corrode the tip, i use a small circual wire dremel bit used for buffing metals, and it doesnt work well. so i wondered if rubbing alcohol would hurt the tip

Coodude26 (author)tommy93452009-03-13

No, but it won't do anything. Use the tip cleaner here and some solder with flux in it. this should clean it all up.

rivetgeek (author)2008-11-02

a copper dish scrubber will be much more effective and wont rust or cause oxidation to the tip.

Coodude26 (author)rivetgeek2008-11-03

This is pretty much the same thing, and copper oxidizes at an amazing rate when exposed to heat. Oxidation at the tip is removed when you scrub the tip with it and really if you're using it so much that it's putting on more rust than taking it off, then you should get a new pad, and keep in mint that's like 10 years of constant use.

About This Instructable




More by Coodude26:The LED: An In-Depth GuideMake a $2 high-quality soldering iron tip cleanerWall-Powered solder fume extractor - on the cheap!
Add instructable to: