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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Finally got brave enough to solder some fittings in my basement.

I listened to all of your tips/pointers and spent some time practicing before I went live.

My first fitting came out good looking. The second fitting, though, was tucked in between obstacles and difficult to get to (I was more concerned about burning the house down than making it pretty).

I'm wondering, tho, if there's any harm in hitting the joint with some heat to clean it up a bit? There's a good glob of solder that dripped to the bottom of the joint.

Would re-heating be joint compromise the joint if I'm not removing anything? Or could I apply heat with water still in the fitting to see if I can just melt the solder off?
 

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drain the line would be the only way to be able to reheat and clean up, but in the future, keep a spray bottle of water to wet down any close wood or if you start flaming the wood to put it out, keep a cotton rag close by , when you take the flame off the joint give a gentle wipe of any drips of solder and flux...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
when you researched soldering ...did you find that its best to wipe the joints after applying solder ...if youhave a glob there ..it won't anything honestly leave it alone...the next one will be better:wink2:
I had heard in several places not to do it until the joint has cooled, and only to remove any residual flux? Something about the shock could cause cracks in the solder itself, or the brass fitting?
 

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been soldering for 40 yrs ....trust me wipe it when its hot.. don't have to be rough with it...just use the end of a rag..stops exactly what happened to you ..imo.
I use my finger :vs_karate:
Seriously though, Ben's right. Just flick it off with a rag, wipe if needed before the joint sets.
Allow to cool a bit then clean off the flux.
 
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I had heard in several places not to do it until the joint has cooled, and only to remove any residual flux? Something about the shock could cause cracks in the solder itself, or the brass fitting?
No, removing excess solder with a wet or dry rag won't cause any cracking of anything. Copper, brass and especially solder are all ductile materials. None of them are brittle enough to crack from thermal shock. The only reason people use a dry rag or dry paper towel to remove excess solder is that it works better than a wet rag or wet paper towel, NOT because of any risk of thermal cracking. GLASS will break from thermal shocking. Steel can also break from thermal shocking, but in those cases the steel is red hot and is plunged into an oil bath. Oil cools steel faster than water because of the envelope of steam that forms around the steel when it's plunged into water. You don't have those kinds of extreme conditions when you solder.

The reason they tell you to remove any excess residual flux from the piping after soldering is because soldering flux contains a chemical called zinc chloride.

Zinc chloride is a metallic salt that behaves very much like an acid at the elevated temperatures that occur during soldering. Zinc chloride dissolves copper oxide (the brown stuff) very much more aggressively than it does bare copper metal (the orangey goldish coloured, kinda, stuff) so that if you didn't remove all the copper oxide when sanding the pipe end or brushing the fitting socket, the zinc chloride will dissolve the rest it when it gets hot. Also, if you didn't flux your pipe end or fitting socket immediately after sanding or brushing them, the zinc chloride will dissolve any copper oxide that forms on those surfaces before you get around to fluxing them.

When the solder melts and gets drawn into the joint by capillary pressure, the molten flux in that joint gets pushed out. Any dissolved copper oxide dissolved in that molten flux gets pushed out with it. So, what's left inside the joint is bare copper metal and molten solder; no oxygen atoms or molecules at all, which is what you need for a good solder joint.

But, keep in mind that zinc chloride is really only aggressively acidic at soldering temperatures. At room temperatures, it's "theoretically" acidic, but it'd take forever and a day to do any harm to copper pipe. Even on hot water supply piping where you might get 140 degree water temperatures, residual zinc chloride on the copper piping isn't really that much of a concern. About the only time where you really should remove any residual soldering flux is on hot water heating system piping where the water temperatures of 200 deg. F. are common. In that case, the zinc chloride in the residual flux MIGHT be acidic enough to etch the copper piping, thereby possibly weakening it. But, at the end of the day, and when all is said and done, I have never heard of copper piping leaking or being seriously damaged because the residual soldering flux wasn't cleaned off.

I use a popsicle stick to clean off any blobs of molten solder on the joints, and that works well too.
 

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In my last post I said:
The only reason people use a dry rag or dry paper towel to remove excess solder is that it works better than a wet rag or wet paper towel, NOT because of any risk of thermal cracking.
And I'd like to retract that because it's simply wrong. I wanted to change it, but I was too late. This site only gives a person 30 minutes to make any changes. There's newbies in here that are just learning to solder, and it's important that I don't misinform them.

People use a dry rag to remove excess solder because:

1. It works just as well, if not better, than a wet rag,
2. There is no need for speed. There is no benefit to be had in cooling the joint faster than it would air cool, and
3. An overabundance of caution. Cooling the joint rapidly will cause greater stresses in the metals involved than air cooling would, and the concern is that those higher stresses could potentially cause some damage.

But, that last point is more based on an overabundance of caution than it is on a real risk that something in the joint is going to crack.

So, wipe your excess solder off with a dry rag or paper towel to avoid causing higher stresses in the metal than you need to.
 
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