Dirty connectors account for more than 90% of performance problems in optical networks, which might indicate that we gotta keep focus on preaching/teaching the basics.
When it comes to fiber cleaning products, new techs might find choosing among all the options available confusing.
⚠️ As a starting point (not meant to be exhaustive), you may use this quick guide for choosing what and when to use fiber cleaning tools and consumables:
⚠️ Always inspect connectors before cleaning. Cleaning connectors without inspecting first, might create more problems than help.
⚠️ When inspecting, if heavy dust particles or sand are observed, consider first removing the connector and flushing it out with a small squirt of connector cleaning fluid to avoid scratching the connector end face when making contact with the cleaning device.
⚠️ The fiber connector inside the connection port and the port itself should also be inspected, and when needed, cleaned with fiber cleaning sticks or lint free swabs.
👉 Fiber cleaning fluids are not created equal… 💥
💡 For fiber connectors, always use cleaning fluids that are designed for this, not isopropyl alcohol. Connector cleaning fluids are designed to help dissipate static and repel dust.
💡 For cleaning fibers, as in when preparing for splicing or before termination, use fiber cleaning fluid or high grade isopropyl.
👉 Cleaning tools work best when used as intended by design
For low pollution areas, a general guideline would be to use "all dry" connector cleaning methods: Dry tools with lint free fabric like push on cleaners, automatic “clean and advance” devices like Jonard's FCC-300, and cassette cleaners are often ideal for cleaning connectors in low pollution spaces like data centers and other controlled areas.
For high pollution areas, a general guideline is to use "wet to dry" connector cleaning methods: In high pollution areas, like in some outside plant environments or when assembling connectors with chemicals, you might need to use a wet to dry method to get heavy contamination from the connectors.
Wet to dry connector cleaning refers to using devices or lint free fabric that allows application of connector cleaning fluid on a small area of the fabric, to enable cleaning the connector with a swiping motion from the wet to the dry area of the fabric.
For low volume splicing fiber preparation, you may use fiber cleaning fluid with lint free wipes, or single use pre-soaked individual fiber cleaning pads with isopropyl like Jonard's FW-50.
For high volume splicing fiber preparation, my go-to choices are high grade isopropyl and lint free wipes; however, when I travel by air I leave the isopropyl and instead take individual pre-soaked pads and non-flammable fiber cleaning fluid like Jonard' FCF-3, for individual pads are in small sealed containers so are often allowed in carry-on bags while many fiber cleaning fluids are non-flammable and TSA approved. Please check with TSA or corresponding agency for safety and compliance when traveling by air with chemicals or electronic equipment. Stronger lint free wipes like the Jonard's DW-90 are also great for cleaning both connectors and bare fibers for splicing, as well as cleaning your precision equipment like the cleaver and splicer v-grooves or even the work area.
Ultimately, the choice will likely come down to a mix of factors including preference, availability, and price of the tools and consumables. Make sure to inform yourself of the pros and cons of the available options before you buy and apply in the field.
Fiber on, FiberWizards!
Let’s go 🚀
About the author: Jerry Morla, MBA, MSL, PMP, CFOS/I. Founder of Knowledge on Demand LLC. and the FiberWizards, Master Instructor and Director for the Fiber Optic Association (The FOA). Jerry's passion is to develop industry leaders. He has over 25 years of experience in the telecom field and has trained and certified thousands of technicians around the world.