Fiber optic connectors are totally different than any other electronic or electrical connectors. They have to be perfectly clean in order to work. Most people are not aware of this fact and could easily overlook its importance. Another fact is that fiber optic connections are harder to trouble shoot in case of service outage. For this reason, please learn carefully on how to clean a fiber optic connector as below.
Cleaning Method Choices
Fiber connector cleaning sometimes can get confusing since too many methods are available and every single vendor says they are the best. Now let's examine it one by one.
:: Compressed Gas
Compressed air is also referred to as “canned air". It is used to blow dust from fiber connector end face.
Advantages: The least expensive and effective for large dry particles. Non-abrasive approach which won't scratch the connector.
Disadvantages: Has little or no effect on particles below 3 microns in diameter. And proved to be ineffective if the contamination includes oil, fingerprints, dried solvent residue, etc.
:: Lint-free wipe and solvent
This was the first developed approach for cleaning fiber connectors. The oldest one used some sort of lens paper, cloth and sometimes solvent to clean. The most common solvent is IPA which tends to leave a residue as it dries slowly and dissolved/suspended solid are left behind.
Advantages: Cheap, work well if trained properly. New types of solvents which leave almost no residue are becoming more popular.
Disadvantages: Unreliable. Largely depends on technician's skill.
To properly clean fiber connectors utilizing the wipe and solvent method, follow the procedure below:
Step 1 Using a Kim Wipe and cleaning solvent, moisten the wipe by placing on top of the solvent and push down 3 times, this will saturate the wipe.
Step 2 Once the wipe is saturated, place on a work surface with a second (dry) wipe.
Step 3 Wipe the connector, end face down on moist wipe (this will remove most of the large contaminates). Follow by repeating process on the dry wipe, with a minimum of 3 strokes per connector (more may be necessary)
Step 4 Once complete, insert connector into a optical microscope to verify connector cleanliness. If connector does not pass visual inspection, repeat process from [Step 2 - Step 4]
:: Swab and solvent
There are two types of popular swabs in the fiber optic industry: general purpose and special built.
The general purpose swabs are cheap but very unreliable. The special built swabs are much better but this is still a highly iterative approach. To properly clean fiber connectors, receptacles, adapters, and other fiber connection points utilizing the swab and solvent cleaning method, follow the procedure below:
Step 1 Using a cleaning swab and cleaning solutioin, moisten the swab by placing it on top of the solvent dispenser, place your finger over the swab tip and push down 1 time, this will saturate the swab.
Step 2 Recessed connection points: Once saturated, insert the moistened swab into the receptacle, adapter, or other connection point and rotate the tip back and forth 1/4 turn 10 times while applying various pressure.
Step 3 Exposed connection points: Once saturated, rotate the tip 10 revolutions around the connector while applying various pressure.
Step 4 Once complete, insert connector into a optical microscope to verify connector cleanliness. If connector does not pass visual inspection, repeat process from [Step 2]
:: Connector Reel cleaner
Two primary brands exist on the market for reel connector cleaners: Cletop and Optipop. There are other brands available but not as popular as these two.
The reel cleaner has a ratcheting mechanism, sliding dust cover, resilient pad, and replace tape reel. To properly clean fiber connectors utilizing the Cletop cleaning system, follow the procedure below:
Step 1 Using the single fiber or MT ferrule Cletop cleaning system, advance the cleaning tape by pressing and holding the green button located on the bottom of the cartridge.
Step 2 Holding down the green button, wipe the connector, end face down, in the direction indicated on the cartridge.
Step 3 Insert the connector into an optical microscope to verify connector cleanliness.
Step 4 If connector does not pass visual inspection, repeat process from [Step 1 - Step 3]
Colin Yao is the sales manager at Fiber Optics For Sale Co. and he is an expert on fiber optic technologies and products. Find out even more about fiber optic cleaning kits , fiber optic cleaning supplies , fiber optic connector cleaning on Fiber Optics For Sale Co. web site.