Introduction: Soldering Tips and Tricks

Picture of Soldering Tips and Tricks

tips and tricks to keep your soldering fun and frustration free!

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Step 1: Soldering Iron Tip

Picture of Soldering Iron Tip

One day you decide to do some soldering. But to your horror, the soldering iron just wont melt any solder, no matter how long you wait. Chances are you have a dirty soldering iron tip. Lets go offer some solutions

1 get a new tip. depending on what type of soldering iron you have, you can get new tips. There are many different kinds you can get.

2 clean the tip. if you don't already have one, it's a good idea to invest in a tip cleaning sponge. after each soldered connection, clean the tip on the sponge (after getting the sponge damp). You can also buy soldering iron tip cleaners. you put your hot soldering iron tip in them and it will clean the tip, but there will be a lot of smoke.

Step 2: Step 2

Picture of Step 2

Whew! now your soldering iron tip is clean again. time to start soldering. Oops! Oh no! you made a mistake and have to remove some solder. but how?

1 You can buy solder removing wick. It's a metal wick that when placed over solder and heated with a soldering iron, removes solder.

2 You can buy a solder removing vacuum tube! Yay! after heating the solder to its liquid form, you can use the tube to suck up the solder.

Step 3: Step 3

Picture of Step 3

Now that the soldering error has been fixed you start soldering again. you solder a connection, but cant tell if its a good one or not. what can you do? Look at the diagram!

Step 4: Step Four

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So now that you know how to make good solder joint connections, you start to solder again. Hmm you think. I wonder if there is more than one type of solder?

1 Yes, there is! There is lead and tin solder, which is 60% tin and 40% lead, and there is lead free solder which is usually tin and silver

Yay! I'm going to use lead free solder, you think to yourself! So you go out and buy some, but for so reason your soldering iron just cant seam to melt the solder. How come?

1 lead free solder requires more heat to melt, so your soldering iron might not be strong enough. 40 watts is enough to melt it, so you can get a 40 watt soldering iron, or higher

2 still not melting? Refer to step one.

Step 5: The End.

I hope you have enjoyed and found my instructable useful! Happy soldering!


DustinH44 (author)2017-01-18

Alright, im frustrated and need help. Im working on replacing an xbox one joystick module. I hace a brand new weller soldering iron that gets up to 900 degrees ferenheit. I just can seem to get the solder on the tcb to melt. Im new to the solder game, but with many articles and blogs read, i cant seem to get an answer. I love this controller. Somebody help lol

ChanW11 (author)DustinH442017-04-20

it may be counter intuitive, but add some fresh solder to the joint, it will help melting the old solder on the board. It also ease the process of sucking the solder out from the joint with the vacuum pump

handson (author)2007-10-04

Thanks for your tips and tricks on soldering! My Toshiba Satellite A20/A25 Loptop's back light is out, I'll try to fix it myself(first time hands on it, yeah, a little shaky). I wonder what type of solder and solder wire should I purchase? Thanks!

Mr. M (author)handson2007-10-05

Sorry for lack of reply, been really busy lately. Depends what type of soldering iron you have. I'd go with lead/tin just to be safe. Make sure you get some practice soldering first.

handson (author)Mr. M 2007-10-12

I tried(solde) to replace my laptop backlight, but after I solded lightbulb onto the White and Pink wires, I tried the light bulb, it lit up, but soon I smelled a burning odor and saw a little spark at the connection where the pink wire was soldered to the lightbulb, then the light went out. So I soldered again, then turned the lightbulb on, it was fine. I put the light bulb back into the lightbulb holder and retaped it on the bottem. Next, I turned on the computer again, everything seemed fine and the screen was working, but then I smelled the little burning odor again, and the screen turned dark. So I untaped, and saw the pink wire was burned out again, (this time, the whole tip of the wire). When I tried to take out the backlight bulb I broke it :(. Before I order another one, I need some help! Do you have any idea why the pink wire would cause this burnout? Also, after soldering, do I need to tape the soldered point, or just leave it like it? The small silicon rubber cap at the connection point of both the pink and white wires and the lamp broke when I first disconnected it...could this be the problem? You're a specialist, can you please tell me why this happened...thanks so much for your help, I'm pulling my hair out!! Sophia

brt1 (author)handson2014-06-29


I know this is really late but the problem, most likely, originates from the fact that solder is a great conductor. When you soldered the pink wire, there might have been either a direct connection from the black wire to the pink wire (through the solder) or there might have been a small gap in the solder applied to each wire causing the wires to spark. The burning smell probably came from the fact that the sparks were creating short circuits so short in length that the light would just operate until a larger "strand" of electricity jumps between the wires/solder resulting in a more permanent short circuit. If the tip of the wire was burnt, check to make sure that you didn't somehow knock a resistor out of the loop... I, as well, don't have Ny experience concerning these matters...

Mr. M (author)handson2007-11-12

I'm very sorry about the long wait! Personally, I've never had this happen to me, so I don't know what the exact problem may be. Are the wires you are using rated for the voltage you are using? If you've already figured it out, I would love to know the problem!

handson (author)Mr. M 2007-11-13

Hi Mr. M, Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness. Ohhhh, I have had the longest fixing my laptop backlight process ever, I guess, because I'm still working ON IT. In fact, I almost did it - but because I was a first time solder-hands-on person, so I didn't know I need to use the electric tape to tape the soldered spot(I lost the silicon), therefore, it went short-circuit-maybe twice(at the time I didn't why it happened)... then... I broken the lightbulb :( :(. I tried to order another one but was glad told that the company also have the mail-in order which is everything all made for you that I just need to plug it in to the inverter(no solder needed). Wow, I was helped by a wonderful sales person online. After a week, I got the mail-in order backlight, but found out the plug wasn't fit in to my inverter(different size), so I had to mail it back and wait... Yesterday, I got my mail-in order again, I tried to place it back into the screen, but it seemed didn't work - I wondered the bulb holder maybe should be in a left to right position - which the screw hole on the bulb holder is in an opposite position of the screen frame screw hole(I think need to have pictures to show my wondering, you must confused, so sorry). I'm still try to contact the company - glad I have a very helpful person online and help me. I'm still waiting... I'm so sorry for letting you wait for so long, I'm so anxiously waiting for my this painful "work" to be completed. I'm so frustrated about this longggg fixing. Well, I will finish it after all, I don't have a choice.

yoni007 (author)handson2009-03-09

hi the best thing you can do is shrink tubing the wires it will create a brier between the wires so you don't going to have any with each other so no shortage problem solved I hope you can do it your self good lack to you

Mr. M (author)handson2007-11-13

Well, if at first you don't succeed, try again! When I started soldering I had some trouble, but once you get the hang of it it really pays off! Hopefully you will be able to fix the problem soon!

handson (author)Mr. M 2007-12-17

Hi Mr. M, Happy holidays! Taa Daa... Hooray for my lighted screen! I finally did it, I replaced my laptop screen backlightbulb! After this long journey, I'm grateful for all your support and encouragement... helped me be able to go through some difficult times. I've learned a lot of backlightbulb, it's hard to do but it's still "fun" to do(after finished it, I can say that). Thanks, Mr. M!!!

handson (author)Mr. M 2007-11-14

Thanks for your encouragement. I will try to finish the job... when complete a project, I'm sure feels great that it may forget the struggle even happened :( :).

handson (author)Mr. M 2007-10-06

Thanks Mr.M!!! I got a "RadioShack 30-Watt All-Purpose Soldering Gun yesterday", maybe too big? I'll try to practice first. I guess I'll check the lea/tin also today in the store, thanks again!

nprince (author)2012-04-12

There are so many mistakes here its not funny.

1: Power does not equal temperature. A 30W iron is not inherantly cooler than a 40W. In the same way as a ferrari and a mini are capable of 30mph and 90mph, the ferari just gets there faster.

2: Lead free solder does NOT require a higher temperature. What is needs is more POWER in order for the iron tip to remain ata stable temp. 80W is the min for good high speed lead free solder (And the right size tip)

3: @Vspec. You are right Lead fumes are not good. However lead can not be vapourised buy any soldering iron, Unless it reaches 1000's of Centigrade because its faulty. Its the Rosin flux that creates the fumes and yes its not good for you.

gojason (author)nprince2014-03-12

Thanks for the clarification. Very well explained about the iron power and temperature.

tunghaichuan (author)2013-08-26

Rather than a wet sponge, I like to use brass wool cleaner. Like this:

It cleans the tip without lowering its temperature.

gojason (author)tunghaichuan2014-03-12

yes. you are right at that point. but web sponge has its own advantages as well.

mr fat (author)2012-03-10

A well done guide!

Vspec (author)2011-06-14

luckily i use solder with a 92% lead content so i never have to worry about it not melting. you just have to use a fume hood, lead fumes are no good.

Tim Temple (author)2011-04-21

If you don't have a rheostat for your soldering iron, you can control the temperature with a shot glass of water. When the resin burns off, just tap the water with the tip and re-solder it.

fini2 (author)2008-03-12

cool dude, i made a pnumatic cannon with copper pipes, this helped alot to "seal the deal". ...ok bad pun...

grk2meet (author)fini22010-07-10

lol seal the deal

rivetgeek (author)fini22008-11-02

I sure hope you dont have much pressure in that. copper isn't rated very high for air, but it sure does make great shrapnel

dragus (author)2009-12-06

HEy this is really halpful but i was wondering if you could do some tips on "lead-free" solder because it requires a bit more heat. i am desoldering the front usb ports and the plug for the ring of light from my 360 mobo and am having trouble with some of the pins. the solder just isnt melting. help

councelor.dnb (author)dragus2010-03-23

 Dragus, you may have done this already, but check out I've had four 360's with RROD, and fixed two of them myself. I couldn't have done it without the tutorials on that site.

Also, I've had the same problem you're experiencing de-soldering analog sticks from controller motherboards. I've tried the vacuum tool and the de-soldering braids, and even made some of my own which worked occasionally. 

The best thing I did was buy a better variable temp soldering iron. That helped a lot. Good luck with the 360 mother board.

M4industries (author)2010-02-28

 The wick happens to overheat most components. Plus, it does a terrible job of removing solder. 

BTW, did you take any pictures at all? Why the googled images?

shams (author)2008-12-15

are ceramic tips good??

sharlston (author)shams2009-10-19

no brass are best but are rare

stephenniall (author)sharlston2010-02-01

Id rather use copper ! higher heat conductivity

Derin (author)2009-06-21

i use those cleaners,it makes the tip shine like it never did

flashcactus (author)2009-04-28

there is also a type of tips that does not oxidize, and never has to be cleaned(u just have to clean the oxidized solder off it.)

but i thought u just said it never has to be cleaned

Father Christmas (author)2009-01-24

the one thing i have to say about this is; "lead free solder requires more heat to melt, so your soldering iron might not be strong enough. 40 watts is enough to melt it, so you can get a 40 watt soldering iron, or higher" I have just recently bought a 25w iron and it easily heats to 850 in 30 seconds which is not in the lease bit problematic for using lead-free solder. Other than that, I like the concept

I have a 25w iron and it heats to 750 and it has no trouble melting .62 lead free solder.

james.mcglashan (author)2009-04-03

thnxs that shold help i found a old curcit made by a mashain and i pulled out all the componets so when i look ed at it i found the machainmade them all the wrong way

llama lord (author)2008-09-07

what soldering iron is best? I've been using the generic radio shack pencil irons, but I'm looking for something with a bit more... quality. I've heard Weller is good... what do you think?

Atwincoz (author)llama lord2008-12-22

Weller is a decent company for soldering irons and stations; however they aren't the only ones out there that offer good quality soldering equipment. It just depends on what you will be using it for and what type of money you want to spend. I've said it before but I really am a big fan of the edsyn stations. I've been using them for a long time now and I don't think that I’ll ever go back to any other company. I have used weller before as well as pace and metcal, but I really like the quality that the edsyn irons offer. I keep one with all my repair tools and it hasn't failed me yet. I'd suggest you look at them.

bowmaster (author)Atwincoz2008-12-27

I got a Weller soldering iron for Christmas!! I have not tried it out yet through.

evanwehrer (author)bowmaster2009-01-26

I got a butane soldering iron for christmas

Mr. M (author)llama lord2008-10-23

It really depends on what your willing to spend

pyro man (author)llama lord2008-10-11

is that dwight from the office as your pic? i love that show!

moya.edge (author)2008-12-28

Great tips, thanks!

Derin (author)2008-06-24

also when soldering to components act like you will start an arc

example:first touch the iron to the solder then pull them apart after 11/2 counts

!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-07-12

cool, i have a question on solder, i have Bernzomatic Silver bearing Rosin Core Electrical Solder (lead free) but its still has the skull and crossbones on it, and a skelitin hand on it that says 'caution'. So is it toxic?? or are JUST the fumes toxic??

Here are some links regarding fume and solder hazards. In summary, the fumes from most fluxes are bad for you, even more so for lead-free solder (like the silver solder you refer to). This is because lead-free solder often requires more aggressive flux. Rosin-based fumes are one of the leading causes of occupational asthma, according to the following link.

References: Solder Fumes and You A British health department pamphlet explaining the health hazards of rosin-based flux fumes (irritation, headaches, dermatitis, asthma) and what precautions employees and employers should take. Note the total lack of any mentioning of lead poisoning.

more explanation Click expand at the end of the sentence "What is exactly in solder fumes? Am I safer using lead-free solder? (no) "

so.. is there a solder that isnt bad for you? like.. plumbing safe solder? (you can use it to fix your drinking watter pipe) cause i think its all just alluminum?

As long as you don't lick your fingers after soldering or work in a closed off room for hours on end, you're unlikely to get ill. Even when applying lead-free solder to plumbing, you still need to add flux--usually a more aggressive acid-based flux. And in fact, acid based fluxes (commonly used in plumbing) and fluxes for lead-free solder have been shown to be worse.

The first link in my previous post was written for people who have to solder day in and day out. Random hobby work shouldn't cause many problems. Note that cheap filters ($50) with carbon activated filters do not provide complete protection. You would something like what Weller talks about here that has a HEPA filter. I don't know much less safe you are with the cheaper filters.

One more fun fact: There has been no scientifically determined limit for an amount of solder fumes that aren't harmful. There's substantial evidence that fumes cause harm, but no one really knows just how much.

blahhhhhhhhh! sorry but... i am a guy that would make somthing like a .... spork. lol. is there ANYTHING that would be able to eat off of :-| lol sry bout that . heh :-Q

Mr. M (author)!Andrew_Modder!2007-07-12

It's just the fumes. The smoke from the silver also has rosin smoke in it, so it's bad to breath. I have an instructable in the works for a cheap machine that sucks away poisonous fumes.

LasVegas (author)Mr. M 2007-07-13

There is no poison in rosin flux fumes! Acid flux, on the other hand, could be harmful, but is rarely used in electronics. The rosin itself is unsafe to consume, as is the silver and any other metals in the solder.

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