Soldering is a something that electronics hobbyists do a lot of. Most people seem to have a decent soldering iron, which works great when it is new. But as time passes, soldering becomes gradually more frustrating, and solder joins poorer in quality.

This is often the case because of two common problems: Poor solder iron tip condition, and poor pad condition. Here, I want to focus on these two issues that relate to the maintenance of your soldering tool.

You will need three easily obtainable materials: copper wool, tip tinner and no-clean flux.

  1. Start by cleaning the pads on the PCB you will be working with using the no-clean flux. This will prepare the pad for the solder by removing any dirt particles and oxidization from the surface. It will leave the pad as-new.
  2. Clean the tip of the solder iron by stabbing the copper would a couple of times. This will remove the excess tip tinner paste that you deposited in a previous soldering job (see next and last step).
  3. If you have more soldering to do, repeat steps 1 and 2 as you see fit.
  4. When you finish the soldering job, and before you turn of the iron, dip the tip into the tip tinner. This will deposit a small amount of material onto the tip. Once the iron is off and it cools down, the tinner will become solid and will protect the tip from oxidization and from gathering dirt until you use it again.

Follow this process every time, and every one of your joins will be perfect!