Dave from uC Hobby sent us link to a Lab Tip about repurposing a bottled water bottle as a soldering station water bottle. Good tip (just make sure it doesn’t encourage you to over-water the sponge. You want it to be damp, not soppy).


This made me think of one of my soldering tips. When I first started doing a lot of electronics work, especially cannibalizing old components for parts, I couldn’t figure out what to do with all of the solder flakes you suck up into a Desoldering Pump. Putting it on your bench in a pile is no good ’cause it ends up flying all over the place (and it’s not something you want to be traveling around your work/living space). So I got a leftover food container and cut a hole in the top to fit the pump’s nylon tip. I also put a moist paper towel in the bottom for the solder flakes to stick to. When I’m done with a soldering session, I just fold up the towel and throw it away. No fuss, no muss.

(BTW: I don’t use a sponge with my soldering set-up, I use the Solder Tip Cleaning Genie, which I love (seen bottom-left in this photo). You can read my review of it on Street Tech.

Lab Tip – Soldering Station Water Bottle – Link

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • DonTron

    Yeah, the sponge isn’t so good, it can shock the iron plating resulting in low tip life. The solder-sucker probably isn’t as good as solder wick. But the most important thing is to understand the problem: Solder has a flux core, but the problem is that if you need more flux, you’ll use too much solder, which then must be removed and disposed of. One tip is to use a pen eraser on what you are going to solder every time. Then the amount of flux needed will be enough to remove just the oxidation that forms after cleaning with the eraser In tough cases, use some liquid flux, this spares the solder as well.

  • Anonymous

    testing a comment

  • Gareth Branwyn

    Yeah, I know that a lot of folks swear by the solder wick, but I prefer the solder sucker. It’s just very satisfying to thwock up that solder when you’re desoldering stuff. But I rarely use a solder sucker to remove “too much solder,” I only use it in desoldering old components for reuse elsewhere.

    Good tip about using an eraser to clean solder points before soldering.

  • vic

    I used to keep all the little flakes and solder leftovers and melt them over the stove once I had accumulated a significant amount. I probably breathed more lead fumes in the process that I should have, but well it was a fun thing to do :)

  • frank the tank

    is it me or is the Soldering Tip Cleaning Genie nothing more than a copper brillo pad in an ash tray.

  • DonTron

    Yeah, its just a Cu scrubby. I got a cool lookin’ R2D2-like holder for mine. The solder sucker is problematic in ways. It clogs, losing efficiency, needs to be cleaned. The fallout isn’t healthful, and as componentry gets smaller, the likelihood of creating a short is high. The tip of the solder-sucker is Teflon, and is not a good thing to breathe when inadvertently heated. If one gets the wrong angle with the solder-sucker, he has to reheat the join, adding stress. The copper braid isn’t perfect, either, in that it increases total heating in order to be used. It is good to stock it in several sizes. The solder sucker does work well on the ‘big stuff.’
    Another tip is to ‘pre-tin’ both sides of a join before merger. Now, one knows that he has achieved proper wetting, at the expense of an extra thermal cycle.
    It is a good idea to clean the flux out of your joins after soldering. I use a steel brush and ‘white lightning.’

  • Bob Darlington

    I prefer a very wet sponge, soppy, dripping, etc. I understand about thermal shock issues and premature wear on tips due to thermal cycling. While soldering almost daily for most of my life since I was 9, I’ve had to replace tips about once or twice a year (I have a lot of different tips for different types of work) so this is probably not something anybody needs to worry about if they only pull out the iron once a week or so. eBay is a wonderful resource for Metcal tips (I use Metcal) so I don’t need to pay full retail price of 40 bucks a pop. I get away spending roughly $15 a year on tips which makes this very affordable in exchange for the convenience of a good sopping wet sponge for cleaning my tips.

  • Brad Martin

    Lead-free solder quickly destroys tips when used with a sponge. It only takes a day or two. Cu pads are the only practical alternative for the future.

  • tyler_durden

    Don’t worry about “lead fumes”. The vaopr pressure of lead at soldering temperatures is zero. Smoke from flux is another matter. Hook up a small fan to clear the smoke away from the working area.

  • DonTron

    Yeah, the flux is made from something like turpentine pines, and it can be very allergenic. My soldering set-up has a fan in front of a window, so I can pump the fumes outside. One of these days, I will have a sensor turn on the fan. Somebody makes this little pot of pumice and flux, or they used to, this is also a good way of tip cleaning, I think. Russian (solid) flux is less irritating for some reason, they sell it on Ebay.

  • Alon

    Never understood the argument between solder wick & solder sucker.
    I use both – First I use the solder sucker to remove most of the solder. Then, if there is still some solder remains inside the PCB hole, eliminating the pin extraction, I use the solder wick to absorb it.

    This way, I save a lot of solder wick, and also save the struggle to hermetically fit the sucker tip to the small PCB hole, to suck the last drop.

    Another tip – used solder wick is great for thin coating of exposed copper surface. Just wrap it around the iron’s tip, and use it like marker to “paint” the surface.

  • DonTron

    Let me state, for those constructing rather than desconstructing joins, that, all things being equal, a join with less solder is the preferred join.

  • neato

    But where can I find one??

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