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Cleaning Oxidized Track Ready For Soldering Droppers

Online Train Club member Erik has this question for fellow hobbyists:

“I want to clean some old oxidized track as I want be solder droppers on various part of the track. I had a go scrubbing it using a small stiff wire brush with borax powder and some sugar soap. I’ve only done a couple of pieces as it is such a slow job. Is there a easier and better way to bring the shine back? I thought about using a fiber glass pencil, but I think it would be messy and will wear away to fast. I thought someone might know of a ‘secret solution’ of chemicals I could use to make the task easier?”

Add your comment below if you can assist Erik.

22 Responses to Cleaning Oxidized Track Ready For Soldering Droppers

  • Matt Jacksonsays:

    I used to build control circuits when dinosaurs roamed the earth and a lot of times the copper-stranded wire was badly oxidized and wouldn’t take solder for tinning. I used a mild acid that was roughly like “Tarnex” liquid tarnish remover. It not only stripped the oxidation, but it acted like an acid flux, evaporating as the solder flowed into the wire. If there’s something around that’s similar, you could use that to clean the oxidation from the track. Hope this helps

    • Neil Glennsays:

      Unless you neutralize the acid, it can continue to eat into the metal, & cause more corrosion. Acid is not recommended to use as a flux on electrical circuitry (it actually can flow elsewhere and is conductive!). Have you tried using paste flux and heating the area you wish to solder? The flux within solder is just a small amount, best if you are soldering fairly clean copper or other metals. I regularly use paste flux to clean the soldering tip of my iron & gun. Then add solder to keep the tip clean. Just plunging the tip into the flux & wiping off with a damp sponge or rag KEEPS my tip clean. Perform often!

      • Chrissays:

        I have been soldering for years. Tin the tip of the soldering iron and use a damp sponge to wipe it clean. Works great but heat the spot for soldering then feed solder. Some people put solder on the tip and touch what they want to solder. This gives you a cold solder joint.

    • Donald Burtesays:

      Industrial alcohol on a cloth using a foam “hand square is th easiest and most non-aggressive method and have used this for many years. Light acid has long term problems with patina on the tracks.

  • Petersays:

    Use a track cleaning pad like the one that Peco make. Available worldwide.

  • Williamsays:

    I use 1000 grit sand paper the finer the better after i did my entire layout i went through with 3n1 oil on a papertowel an cleaned the rails up i do that twice a month at the beginning an end of each month an i have no issues with my locomotives what so ever dont go wasting money on stupid crap u dont really need

  • Joesays:

    I have used a Bright Boy (available on-line) or similar. You could also use a very fine grit emery paper – just be careful not to rub too hard.

  • Tom Osterdocksays:

    Similar to Matt Jacksons post I use tarnex. I had track that sat outside for a couple of years and in the garage for about 10 years. soak the track in tarnex and I am ready to go. Worked well on switches also. I have a soaker box and tarnex just for that purpose. I don’t like to mix chemicals so the box is only for tarnex.

  • Bob Caulfieldsays:

    Soak the track In vinegar over night.

  • Robert Mooresays:

    Use a carbon stick that you will find in an art supply shop.
    a light rub works wonders on track.
    If you are using brass track get rid of it, buying used nickle silver at swap meets this will cut the price.

  • phil johnsonsays:

    I like to take a half round file to the web of the rail. then apply flux and solder. I am assuming you are using nickel silver rail. tin your wire the same way. avoid brass and steel at all costs.

  • David STOKESsays:

    Don’t even think about rehabilitating brass track -sell it to the recycler. Don’t even give it away, that’s like spreading the flu

    Steel and nickel silver track should NEVER be attacked with any form of “sandpaper”. This leaves scratches (yes, even the really fine stuff) where even more dirt and grime will lodge. Use track rubbers or “Brightboy” rubbers. These are designed to do the job, that is their purpose in life!

    I would also advise against using oil on your track as a general rule. Wahl clipper oil being the only exception, and even then only use it sparingly. I have used powdered graphic (sold for easing Yale type locks and padlocks), but it was not overly successful.

    I was recently given a box of old Hornby (Meccano) O Gauge tinplate track that is very rusty and have not been game to even look at it yet, but when the time comes it’ll get a soaking in Coca Cola (the only reasonable use for this “drink” in my humble opinion), and a good rinse off. Hopefully that will remove the rust and I’ll hit it with silver and black paint.

  • Stuartsays:

    You could try hydrogen peroxide.

  • Joe deBysays:

    Quickest way…wipe down the track with Wahl oil available at any beauty supply store. I learned this trick over 40 years ago dealing with the unique brass of Mantua diesel locomotive wheels. Wahl is a conducting oil used on hair clippers,.

  • Joe Graffisays:

    A couple of comments have mentioned FLUX. Use ONLY “rosin core” flux AND “rosin core” solder!
    I use nothing on the rails for protection but I do use 2,000 grit “wet’n’dry” polishing paper moistened with alcohol only when I get glue or paint on the rails. Otherwise, I use a piece of masonite affixed to the bottom of a freight car to clean the track about once a month.
    Regardless of what I use, I immediately go over all the track with a pad made from denim jeans material moistened with 70% alcohol.

  • Tonysays:

    Ok everyone listen up!
    Use CRC 2-26 Electrical Contact Spray.
    a little goes a long way.

    no more frequent cleaning! Apply once every year and you’re good to go!

    First clean your tracks normally. Then spray it on a track cleaning car, run it around your layout.
    VOILA! Amazing!

  • jimsays:

    rebuild layout—use new nickel silver rail…

  • Rick Guerciosays:

    While you don’t ever want to use steel wool, you can purchase STAINLESS STEEL wool. It is thicker and doesn’t break off into fine pieces like regular steel wool. It does a great job of cleaning track. I precleaned all of my layout track before mounting it with a grit sphere mounted in my drill press. I bought them at Harbor Freight. They do a quick, thorough job. I cleaned over 600 pieces of s gauge track after wearing myself out trying elbow grease and various brushes, wools and sandpapers.

  • David Broadsays:

    If its that badly tarnished sell it to someone who has upgraded to Radio Control and battery power.
    To get decent electrical contact slide the track base away from where you want to solder and file the web bright with a file, this applies even with new track if you want a 100% joint. Steel track will continue to rust if it starts to rust an while this is manageable on DC with a few sparks, it will cause problems on DCC. When you clean track clean the inside corners of the track because that is the bit wheels run on rather than the tops of the rails, traction tyres grip the tops electrical pick up is through the corners.

  • Franksays:

    I use rubbing alcohol. And use home made cleaning cars. The pad is made of wood. Ply or mdf is fine. That way when you run your trains the cleaning car is part of the train. Every now and then clean the face of the wood with sandpaper to remove the tarnish you see on the wood. That’s all I use and don’t have problem with running trains or soldering as Including the the area to solder ad use resin core only.

  • chris lesebergsays:

    Over a period of time and experience the hard way I used those fiber scrub pads the wife uses in her pots and pans with either rubbing alcohol or the commercial industrial alcoholfor the best non abrasive .Recommend to wear rubber gloves like surgical type will safe irrational of the Hans when using the commercial type alcohol.

  • RockyJohnsays:

    Avoid the hassel, scrap the track and save up to buy new track with nickel silver rail. In the long run this will save time and avoid rusting rails.

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