Soldering 101: How Long Do Soldering Tips Last?

Soldering tips are essential for performing any soldering task successfully. Once you begin soldering, it’s common to wonder about their longevity, which is why we often get asked this all-important question: How long do soldering tips last?
Well, the answer is that it depends on a variety of things. Truthfully, there is no set amount of time for tips to expire. However, this does bring up another common concern. How to make a soldering tip last as long as possible. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to extend the life of soldering tips.

Solder Quality Matters

Choosing solder may sometimes seem like it’s not a big deal but, actually, it does matter what type of solder you use. Solder quality ranges from adequate to high, and when you want to protect your tips, always go for the highest quality solder you can comfortably afford. The reason why is because low-quality solder contains impurities that can build up on the tip, making it more difficult to work with over time.

Alternatively, quality solder always melts effortlessly when it reaches an optimized temperature. For instance, a 60/40 lead/tin solder, should melt easily at a temperature of 460 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, a low-quality solder may only partially melt at this temperature. Read manufacturer details about solder to get more information about its performance.

Optimize Temperature

Take care to heat your soldering tips to the best optimal temperature for that particular tip. Overheating tips can lead to their early burnout due to damage. The temperature sensor of your soldering station can help you keep track of optimal heat. Resist the temptation to raise the heat higher than needed when the tip temperature naturally decreases while in use. Also, get in the habit of reducing the temperature to the “idle” setting or turning the unit off when the tip isn’t being used.

Keep Tips Clean

Regular cleaning of your tips can help extend their life. Clean tips also give you peak performance. Before each use, you can remove corrosion, grease, and oxidation with alcohol and a clean cloth. Avoid cleaning tips with a damp or wet sponge. Constant wetness can lead to tip metal fatigue or failure.
Metal wool (made of brass or stainless steel) is another reliable and safe way to clean soldering tips. Soldering iron tip cleaners make cleaning easier.

Be Careful With Flux

Flux is a cleaning substance prized for its ability to remove oxidation from metal. It is often used during soldering to keep tips clean. Even so, caution should be taken when using flux because dipping tips into it can cause corrosion. Water-soluble flux can lead to damaged tips once tips reach a high temperature. It is best to avoid cleaning tips with flux, but it can be useful in some cases. If you do use it, be sure to get rid of all excess flux from the tip by thoroughly cleaning it afterwards.

Protect Tips With Tinning

Tinning is an easy method that can protect your tips from the dreaded oxidization. It also makes soldering easier. Do the following:

  1. Clean the tip
  2. Coat the tip with a small amount of tip tinner
  3. Clean and tin your tips after working a few joints
  4. Wipe the tip clean after you’re done and turn the unit off

Storing Tips

Proper storage methods can keep tips in good shape for longer.
In the iron. Prevent tip seizing by loosening the screw that holds the tip in place.
Outside the iron. After tips cool, store tips in a well-sealed bag, case, or container.

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