How and When to Use Solder Wick
Wouldn’t it be great if we were all perfect and never messed up a soldering project? Unfortunately, in the real world it doesn’t work that way. For small projects solder wick or desoldering braid is here to save the day.
What it is: Braided pieces of copper wire, typically anywhere from 18-42 AWG. This is ideal to use when you need to get as much solder off as possible for a bridged joint, or removing a component. Using a desolder pump can be cumbersome with both hands full and make the task a little difficult, but also doesn’t remove the unwanted solder as efficiently as the wick does when used properly.
To use solder wick, simply place the end of the wick over the solder you want to remove and then place your heated solder tip over it. The braid heats up and encourages the solder to “wick” into it. When it starts to work, you will actually be able to see the solder being pulled up into the solder wick. This also works well for small joints that are close together as you can cut the end of the wick at an angle so you have a small, precise point to work with.
If the solder wick becomes fully saturated (as shown above) with solder and there’s more you need to remove, simply cut that portion off and continue. When you are done removing all the unwanted solder, cut the used portion off and it’s ready to be used again. Now, this isn’t ideal if there is a large amount of solder that needs to be removed. In that scenario it would be easier to start with a desoldering station or pump, then tidy it up with the solder wick.
Solder wick is available with or without flux, and with multiple types of flux. Flux helps clean the surface(s) being heated which inevitably helps the solder flow. It is recommended to add flux to solder wick that isn’t already coated with it or solder wick that may already have it but it is aged. For more information on flux and the different types, please refer to the blog found here.
In summary, solder wick is not the right tool for every job, but it is a very good item to have on hand for quick fixes.