After mentioning how much I like using a brass sponge when soldering, I came across this App Note from OK International.  This is a great note to read through.  It discusses what is inside of a soldering iron tip, why they fail, and how to keep them in good shape.

Layers of a Soldering Iron Tip
Image from OK International’s Tech Note

The note actually makes me realize two of my own mistakes.

First, most cleaning should be done with a wet sponge not the brass sponge.  (Oops!)

Second, pre-made tip tinners are meant for occasional cleaning.  Moving forward I think I’ll modify my soldering behavior so that I start with a quick clean in the brass, use the sponge while working on a board, and then use standard solder to protect the tip when done.

What other tips (no pun intended) can you think of for soldering tips?

Keep your soldering iron tip from oxidizing.

As it gets dull and gray, it’ll be harder to make good solder joints. My favorite tool to clean a tip is a Brass Sponge. The other option is a damp cellulose sponge, but I’m not a fan of those.

I have just never found a sponge gets the tip as clean as a light dabbing from the brass sponge.

Just be careful not to “scrub” too hard, you don’t want to scratch the tip. When you done soldering, make sure you clean it with the sponge then coat the tip with fresh solder. Leave that solder on the tip until the next time you use it. The layer of solder will prevent oxidation from building up while the iron sits unused.