Anyone who solders should know the basics of how to use a solder wick, which is braided copper wire. This tool will help to remove solder from any solder joints that you need to change. This is an especially useful tool for those who need to remove solder from circuit boards or when removing components, wires, or excess solder used on terminal posts or other types of soldered joints. Because soldering can be difficult when you first begin, a solder wick would be handy to clean-up any mistakes that you might make. The use of these wicks is very simple, and they can save you from damaging components or PC boards that would otherwise get over-heated trying to remove excess solder with the soldering iron alone.
Step 1 - Prepare Safety Materials
Set up the exhaust fan so that it will carry the fumes from soldering away from you. If you do not have an exhaust fan, or if the material on which you need to work is not in a location where a fan will work, you can use a safety mask. Do not forget to wear your safety goggles to protect your eyes from solder and other debris.
Step 2 - Plug in the Soldering Iron
Plug the soldering iron into the outlet and while waiting for it to reach its working temperature, moisten the cleaning sponge or a small piece of cotton cloth to clean the iron's tip. Make sure that the iron is safely in its holder so that it does not fall out. It will generally take three to five minutes for most soldering irons to heat to their optimal temperature.
Step 3 - Use the Solder Wick
To provide better contact and therefore better heat transfer, once the soldering iron reaches its operating temperature, use the moistened cloth or sponge to wipe off the tip and thus removing all dirt and debris gattered on it from previous use. With the tip back to its shiny appearance, take a length of the solder wick and hold it on the joint from which you need to remove the solder. Now that the soldering iron is heated up, you can apply the iron to the tip of the wick as well. The heat from the soldering iron will melt the solder. As the solder melts, it will be drawn onto the copper wiring. Be careful however not to overexpose any components or circuit board to excessive heat, so if it seems to take too long for the solder to melt, touch the soldering iron to your solder wire, but just barely so to just "wet" the end of its tip as this will improve conductivity and heat transfer. The solder will then flow up the braid and stick to it. The process through which this occurs is called capillary action, and that's the action that removes the solder from the joint.
Step 4 - Cut the Wick
When the wick is coated with the solder that needed to be removed, take the wick away from the heat and return the soldering iron to its holder. You can then cut off the tip of the solder wick that is now covered in solder. Check any of the other joints that might need to have solder removed and repeat the process. If you have one joint that has a large amount of solder, you may have to repeat the process.
Step 5 - Clean Up
Turn off the soldering iron and wait for it to cool down when you are finished. Dispose of the solder covered wick and clean up your work area so that it will be ready for you the next time that you have to solder.