In this part, I will show you how I maintain my soldering iron as best as I could. There are better advises out there and also in YouTube so mine might not necessarily be correct.
Tinning is a process where you put a thin protective layer of solder to cover the soldering iron bit from oxidising. As for electronic components and wires, the purpose is also the same but it also allows for quicker transfer and melting of solder.
SWITCHING ON YOUR FIRST SOLDERING IRON
Do not worry if smoke comes out of the soldering iron for the first time. The heating element gets hot for the first time and is burning off the protective oil or something. After a while, the smoke would stop. But before you switch the Iron on, please follow the next crucial step.
TINNING A BRAND NEW TIP
Before I switch on my new soldering iron, I would wrap the tip with some length of solder. As the tip heats up, the solder will start to melt, from the tip and down to its stalk, coating the exposed iron evenly. I find this method more effective than just feeding it. But do note that this method only applies to the sharp tip.
CLEARING THE TIP
Over time, when you feel that the soldering iron’s tip is getting too hot, you will want to ‘clean’ it. You will notice the solder does not want to stick to the surface of the tip. The surface is now baking and burning off the left over flux from both the resin-core solder and the solder flux. I would wipe the tip on a damp piece of soldering sponge (or a wad of wet tissue when the sponge got lost) before each soldering. But never wipe the tip off a dry surface which can cause burnt marks.
Once in a while, I would dip the tip into the vat of solder flux, then feed it with lots of solder while spinning the tip. This would re-coat the tip and also, removes the burnt flux. After wiping it on the damp sponge, I re-coat the tip again, this time with lesser solder. When it is time to switch the soldering iron off, I would repeat the same steps. This time, with more solder until it becomes a blob. As the both the iron and the solder cools, the thick blob would protect the tip until the next soldering session.