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Tinkered with little DIY projects involving solder lately? Don’t be surprised if your clothes have additional ‘prints’ from all that soldering now!
If you ever find solder flux stains all over your clothes, would you throw them right away or try to save them from said stains?
It’s no surprise that I always go for the latter! Throwing away clothes is a big environmental problem.
Replacing stained clothes might sound tempting, practical and, somewhat, easier but guess what—there are easy, almost no-brainer, ways how to get flux out of clothes!
Getting solder and solder flux out of your clothes is not a super easy task, but it is far from impossible.
I’ve tried many different methods and cleaning solutions prioritizing eco-friendly options of course, and luckily found some effective ways that can get rid of solder flux stains.
Before we begin, let’s start with…
Can You Clean Solder Stains of Clothes — Things You Should Know About In Advance
Being eco-friendly is a good contribution to the environment, but is there also a way to clean active, acidic solder flux without veering off the green path?
Not to mention, that stuff burns clothes.
Well… not literally. But, it leaves nasty cloth stains behind like it was stained by bleach!
Even regular, water-soluble solder flux can leave a pasty stain on your clothes if you don’t pre-treat it the right way.
But, before you jump in and bring out your baking-soda-mixed-with-vinegar-cleaning combo, you need to know this: The kind of solder flux you use AND the stain it produces will determine a different cleaning method you’ll perform.
⚠️ Treating every solder flux stain the same way is the number one mistake most electronic enthusiasts make. Cleaning solder flux from the PCB board is NOT the same as cleaning it from fabric.
Fun Fact: Did you know they’re using pine tree resin to make solder flux?
How to Clean Solder Out of Clothes — The Easy Way
A great perk of solder is that it can go from liquid to solid in a blink of an eye! The moment it touches your clothes, it’s like breadcrumbs!
So, if you have fresh solder on your clothes, quickly make your way outdoors, shake it out of your shirt a couple of times, and all those little pieces of solder should be gone.
But hold on! There’s more to it than meets the eye.
Getting rid of solder in woolen and polyester clothes is a different story.
With woolen clothes, you can use a good clothes brush or a sticky clothes roll to get rid of most solder.
As for polyester clothes, this type of fabric can burn easily. What more if it comes into contact with solder splatters?
Your sleeves will definitely end up riddled with solder spots like earth after a meteorite shower, when wearing a polyester shirt while soldering.
Here’s a secret when cleaning solder out of clothes: Most solder has tiny amounts of solder flux built into it. Landing in a semi-solid state, solder starts to unleash bits of solder flux onto the fabric.
Those tiny bits of solder flux stains last for a lifetime! Unless, you treat them immediately after cleaning solder out of your clothes.
How to Clean Solder Flux Out of Clothes
This guide will cover how to treat easy and also die-hard solder flux stains. It will take you by the hand and show you what to avoid, what pro tips to use, and what warnings you should note.
Here are some of the ingredients and tools you’ll need to get ready before cleaning solder flux stains:
- Isopropyl alcohol or IPA
- Ethanol (if your local pharmacy doesn’t sell IPA)
- Paper towels
- Baking Soda
- A cloth brush or even an old toothbrush will do
- Steam Iron
- Steam Cleaner (optional)
Warning: Dealing with substances like IPA and ethanol in a closed space is dangerous! So always keep your windows wide open!
How to Clean Resin Solder Flux Out of Clothes
Cleaning resin solder flux out of clothes is a breeze. Here, you’re dealing with the pure, organic solder flux. The staining damage, in this case, is the least.
But that doesn’t mean you can drop your stained T-shirt or jeans right into the washing machine!
Even the harmless solder flux stains should be pre-treated, and this is how you do it:
- Mix an ounce of IPA and 1/3 ounce of acetone in a small glass.
- Dip a piece of paper towel into your mix.
- Use the dipped part of the paper towel to clean the flux-stained area.
- After a couple of scrubs, the stain is gone.
- Put your clothes into a washing machine with a dash of laundry detergent (yes—you can absolutely use sustainable products here!) and select Normal wash cycle.
💡 Solder flux stains DO NOT evaporate like the Isopropyl-mixed solvent. Instead, the flux gets dissolved. The paper towel cleans that dissolved mess out of your clothes.
How to Clean Water-Soluble Solder Flux Out of Clothes?
“Oh, cool, it’s water-soluble! Does it mean a simple tumble process will clean those stains easily?!”
Water-soluble solder flux is mildly active. In English, it has some kind of acid built into it. Lactic, stearic, or even citric acid. It all depends on the manufacturer’s choice.
Cleaning water-soluble solder flux has more steps because of that acidic part. It also involves the use of baking soda.
Here’s how you clean it:
- Place a piece of paper towel underneath the stained part of your T-shirt or jeans.
- Use steam iron and set it to mid-heat.
- Iron the stained area with your heated steam iron in a counter-clockwise manner.
- After 5 minutes of ironing the area, stop. Turn off your iron and remove the paper towel underneath.
- Then form a small amount of baking soda paste.
- Apply it to the stained area.
- Spread it as much as possible using a cloth brush or toothbrush
- Wait for around 30 minutes and rinse the paste off the area.
- Put your stained T-shirt or jeans into the washing machine and wash in Normal mode.
Pro Tip: Ironing the stained area, you’re melting the solder flux in fabric. Being more fluid, it effortlessly escapes onto the paper towel underneath. Then, baking soda has less solder flux to deal with and neutralize.
You can also rub the IPA solution previously mentioned. But I wouldn’t dare ironing anywhere near Isopropyl. The last thing you want is to go kaboom and say…
How to Clean Inorganic Solder Flux Out of Clothes
Huge solder flux stain on his T-shirt?
It’s just a working shirt.
It’s his last good working T-shirt, and cleaning inorganic solder flux stains is almost impossible!
And it is…
Unless you follow these steps:
- Start with cleaning the stain with an IPA-acetone cleaning solution.
- After the solvent has evaporated, rub baking soda over the area.
- Rinse the stained area.
- Bring out the big guns – a steam cleaner!
- Steam clean where the solder flux stain used to be.
- Repeat 1st step.
- Wash it in normal cycle.
Some inorganic solder flux stains can leave a whiteish, grayish residue at the edges. In that case, forget about the IPA-acetone solution.
Instead try this eco-friendly mix – isopropyl with baking soda, 50:50. That way, isopropyl will dissolve the solder flux, while the baking soda neutralizes salty, acidic residue.
Some inorganic solder flux contains heavy agents that even baking soda doesn’t neutralize.
In that case, mix isopropyl with regular blue Windex, also 50:50. The trick with Windex is, it contains ammonia.
That acidic residue doesn’t stand a chance when treated with ammonia and isopropyl!
💡 Using a steam cleaner when dealing with stains, especially solder flux ones, is a game-changer. Putting a 50:50 water-vinegar mixture into your steam cleaner yields the best results!
Be careful though. Cleaning flux stains with a steam cleaner is effective, but don’t get too much ahead of yourself. You can deal more damage with a steam cleaner than those flux stains did, by bringing the steam nozzles too close!
Solder Flux Eco Solutions
Solder flux stains are one of those inorganic oily stains. And cleaning them might be a real challenge, but not an impossible one.
Your best eco-friendly allies in getting rid of those stains on your clothes are:
- Baking soda paste
- Isopropyl and acetone
- Steam cleaner
- Any eco-friendly detergent
Don’t forget your safety and clean flux-stained clothes in a well-ventilated area. The last thing you want is getting light-headed from isopropyl or acetone, even though we all like to smell it.
💡 If you’re often dealing with heavy inorganic solder flux stains, it’s about time you switch to another heavy-duty solder flux brand. There are plenty of them out there, who get the soldering done quite well without leaving you with bleach-like stains all over your shirt.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will dissolve solder?
Solder is effortlessly dissolved in isopropyl or ethanol. Add a couple of ounces of acetone into isopropyl, and you’ll have a powerful, solder cleaning agent. Acetone improves isopropyl’s strength.
Can solder be removed?
Removing most solder from PCB boards and your clothes is easy. However, when it comes to solder in the plumbing industry, that’s not the case. The solder used in plumbing has an absolutely different chemical compound than the soft one used in electronics. And cleaning that kind of solder of your clothes is a whole different chapter.