Soldering basically refers to joining two metal pieces with a filler metal piece. A tool (soldering iron) with a heated metal tip is used to carry out this task. When soldering, one needs to take certain precautions in order to avoid any mishaps or accidents.
Soldering Vs. Welding
A lot of people consider welding to be synonymous with soldering. This is not true. In soldering, a separate metal strip is heated to connect two terminals; whereas in welding, two metallic ends are heated to such an extent that they fuse together.
Soldering, these days, is mostly used in electronics, plumbing, and other metalwork. If you’re relatively new to soldering, you must follow a few basic rules about the process.
Basic Guide to Soldering
- Ensure that the tip of the soldering iron is clean
- Heat the pad and the component end simultaneously, and take proper care that you do not burn the circuit board or any plastic matter.
- Once the pad and component ends have heated enough, take a solder strip of the required length and apply it at the proposed joint. Don’t withdraw the iron until the solder is properly fixed.
- Next, ensure that the joint is proper and connects the right terminals without bridging any connections.
- Once done, place the soldering iron in its holder, and allow it to cool.
Even if you know how to solder, you could be missing on some safety precautions that are vital to prevent hazards.
Safety Precautions While Soldering
Use Solder and Soldering Iron Safely
- Unplug the soldering iron after use.
- Do not touch the tip of the soldering iron, its temperature can be as high as 400ºC and can cause severe burns.
- When soldering, always use clamps or tweezers to hold the solder metal or component ends to be heated.
- Keep the cleaning sponge wet when soldering. Dab the iron into the sponge occasionally if it is to be used for longer intervals.
- Use eye protection when soldering as solder can spit.
- In case, the soldering iron (hot) accidentally falls off your hand, don’t try to catch it. Let it fall, and even break. Attempting to catch it may burn your hand, and you would anyway drop it.
Avoid Exposure to Toxic Fumes
- Use lead-free solder.
- Work in a properly ventilated area, and avoid inhaling the fumes emitted by the flux.
- Metal fumes can be hazardous and can lead to chronic health disorders that include brain damage, nerve problems, reproductive problems, muscle and joint pain, etc. Use a respirator or a mask to avoid inhalation. You can also consider getting a bench-top fume extractor to prevent inhalation of toxic fumes.
Avoid Electric and Fire Hazards
- Wear non-flammable clothing that won’t catch fire in case of a mishap.
- Do not keep any object or substance that is highly flammable on your work bench.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and use it if required.
- Do not solder live (electrically charged) circuits. Disconnect the circuit board from the power source before beginning to solder.
- Plug the soldering iron into a grounded socket in order to reduce the risk of electric shocks or short-circuits.
- While soldering an electronic gadget, ensure that the solder is correct before re-assembling it and powering it up. Wrong solders can lead to short-circuits.
Burns and Injuries
- In case you end up scalding your hand or any other body part, hold it directly under running water.
- Avoid applying creams or ointments of any sort. Keep the scalded area dry, and apply an antiseptic tape.
- Have a first aid box at your disposal and use it if required.
- If the burn or injury is severe, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical attention.
- Discard all hazardous waste including cleaning sponges and lead solder waste.
- Wash your hands with soap after you finish soldering.
- Use dispensing bottles to store cleaning solutions to reduce inhalation of fumes.
- Choose an appropriate soldering iron as per your purpose of use, as they come in different wattage. Too much heat can damage the circuit board.
If in the past you didn’t follow some or any of these safety precautions, begin following them consistently from your next soldering job. Undergoing any of the hazards involved in soldering could inflict permanent damage to your health.