How Can I Clean a Spray Fluxer in a Wave Solder Machine?

Cleaning inside wave solder machines is a challenge. The heat turns any flux residues inside the machine into a nasty, black, burned-on sludge that can be very difficult to remove.  The pallets, fingers, conveyors and other components also build-up this coating. It's very difficult to remove.

In most wave solder machines, the big worry is the flammability of any solvent you select. Many companies use IPA as a finger cleaner, down in the back of the machine, but to use flammable solvents near a heat source is a recipe for a tragic accident. So let’s make this really easy: never, ever use flammable solvents in a wave solder machine.

In addition, you need a cleaner that is noncorrosive and residue-free. No strong acids or alkaline cleaners can be allowed, plus you wouldn’t want those chemicals mixing, even slightly, with your fluxes. In addition, you need a cleaner that is relatively slow-drying, so the solvent has sufficient tack time to work on the flux residues. This eliminates many nonflammable cleaners like HFCs from DuPont and HFE solvents from 3M; they're great cleaners, but they’ll flash-dry so quickly the cleaning won’t get properly done.

This leaves you with nonflammable, nuetral-pH, water-based hydrocarbon cleaners. The Reflow Oven Cleaner (#MCC-ROC) from MicroCare is a fine choice. It will work just fine in this application. Conveniently, it will use any latent heat in the wave soldering system to boost the cleaning power of the solvent.

The nonflammable Reflow Oven Cleaner uses the residual heat to speed the cleaning of ovens, pallets, wave solder machines, conveyors and more