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I have done some soldering in the past but I have never taken any course or had proper training on how to use a soldering iron, but I need to be able to start soldering more regularly. My soldering tip has turned completely black within about 2 hours of work. I was tinning and wiping it with a sponge as I was working but at some point it became unexpectedly black and started to repel solder. I can not tin the solder to the tip anymore and it is completely black. I have tried using a damp sponge and adding flux but neither of things things work. Any suggestions?

EDIT: This was resolved by buying .03" solder, brass solder tip cleaner, and "tip tinner".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Too hot? Keep the temperature around 380C. \$\endgroup\$ – Gregory Kornblum Mar 22 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Turn down the temperature. Your iron isnt supposed to be hot enough that your flux burns. Then add a LOT of liquid flux to it. Maybe even let it soak in a small puddle for like 10 seconds and then re tin. sponges suck. use brass wool. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Mar 22 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DKNguyen I have been using 350C. Maybe that's still too hot? I know you are not really supposed to talk about product recommendations on here but do you have any suggestions for the particular type of flux or brass wool? \$\endgroup\$ – ee94jrlc Mar 22 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ 350C is too hot. It needn't be that hot if your tip is sized properly to your work piece. err on the size of larger rather than smaller. I use 4mm chisel for through hole which is actually larger than the pad. just brass wool used for washing dishes is fine. just rosin flux, liquid or gel. nothing special \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Mar 22 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GregoryKornblum Do you mean 280C? 380C is very hot. \$\endgroup\$ – Hearth Mar 22 at 2:27
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Turn down the temperature. Your iron is not supposed to be hot enough that your flux burns. Then add a LOT of liquid flux to it. Maybe even let it soak in a small puddle for like 10 seconds, wipe, and then re tin.

Damp sponges suck because they cool down the tip and let stuff resolidify. Use brass wool; The same kind used to scrub pots and pans.

Lead free solder is more sensitive to lack of finesse, lack of flux, insufficient iron quality, and wrong tip size. The 1010 does not look obviously defficient so I am going to guess your tip size is bad which forced you to raise your temperature too high. I only go to 350°C if I am soldering something like a penny with lead free and I don't let it sit at that temp since I can smell burning flux. I am normally at 250°C for 63/37 and 300°C for lead free. It also helps if your iron automatically turns down the temp on the stand but yours does not.

Use a 2.4-4mm wide x 0.5mm-1mm thick chisel tip for your standard. Or 3mm bevel/hoof tip. Unless your board is high density, you can almost always go double the tip size compared to the pad, and you need to for SMD drag soldering. Larger tips are needed to use copper wick too, even if the pads are small.

You want tips with large thermal mass and able to produce large contact area. You also want the tip to be as short and blunt as you can get away with for easy heat conduction.

Conical tips fail all these criteria. Stay away from them. They blow. I do not even know why anyone bothers making them except at the smallest sizes where the tip point basically becomes one dimensional.

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Like others have suggested, the temperature you are running is likely too hot. You should always solder at the lowest possible temperature, and turn off your station during any breaks. Just doing this can significantly increase the lifespan of your soldering tips. The oxides form naturally on the surface due to air exposure, so keeping the tip tinned (and protecting the plating with a blanket of solder) will further slow this process.

Oxides can be removed by using a brass or copper cleaning sponge. Soldering tips are often copper that is coated in layers of iron, nickel, and chrome. Using steel wool or sand paper will easily scratch off this coating so be sure to avoid this.

I have had success bringing abused tips back to life by scrubbing with a brass sponge and then soaking the iron in a tin of flux for several seconds. You may need to cycle through this several times to fully clean the tip.

Here is a resource with more information on extending soldering tip life (as well as various mechanical and abrasion failures that can occur)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I seem to recall reading that you can sometimes revive heavily-oxidized tips with ammonium chloride (aka sal ammoniac), too. NH₄Cl decomposes on heating to hydrogen chloride and ammonia gas, both highly reactive compounds that would be able to eat away at the corrosion; following that treatment, you could re-tin the tip and have it not quite as good as new, but a fair bit better than it was. Never tried it myself, but it should work fine, and it seems others have had success. \$\endgroup\$ – Hearth Mar 22 at 2:47

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