Proper care and maintenance of your soldering iron bit involves tinning, wiping (and wetting) and also periodic cleaning of the bits shank. These actions are very important and quite simple to perform, but are often neglected. When performed properly they will not only ensure the longest possible working life for your soldering iron bits, but they will also have positive effects on the overall performance of your soldering iron.
TinningTinning may not be necessary if the bit you are using is new and arrives pre-tinned from the manufacturer, or has been used previously and been properly maintained. When a bit does need to be tinned (or re-tinned) it must be clean and free of any surface oxidation before it will accept any solder. Once the bit is properly tinned, care should be taken to prevent bit de-wetting by occasionally cleaning and adding small amounts of fresh solder, especially if the bit is being subjected to long periods of inactivity or idling.
If the bit to be tinned is un-plated copper it should be cleaned and dressed with a single cut, flat file. After filing the bit it should be heated in the iron. When the bit reaches the lowest temperature required to melt solder, a rosin core solder should be fed onto the bit. Do not allow the iron temperature to rise too high before applying the solder, because excess heat will cause the bit surface to re-oxidize and no longer accept the solder.
If the bit is plated it should never be filed, or heavily abraded. Care should be taken to ensure the plating is not damaged or removed, as this will shorten the working life of the bit dramatically. When pre-cleaning is necessary for plated bits, they should be cleaned with a mildly abrasive emery cloth and may require an acid flux to remove the oxides before tinning, or re-tinning.
Courtesy of American Beauty Tools