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There are many materials commercially available for fiber optic cleaning. Some are marketed specifically for the fiber optic industry, while others are considered "raw materials" or generic in nature but can be used for the same purpose. This section will begin with those raw materials and then describe custom manufactured and packaged products. New products are always being developed that simplify and improve the cleaning process.


There are applications for each type of swab. Choose the proper type of swab after experimenting with results. Manufacturers sometimes recommend multiple use of swabs. In some applications this may be alright, but in others, only a single use is suggested. Available through lab supplies distributors, fiber optic suppliers, and direct from manufacturers.

Cotton tipped- Various sizes are avaiable, with different materials and lengths of sticks. Used dry or wetted with your choice of cleaning fluid, these are not the best in tight or unseen areas where cotton fibers may come off of the swab and adhere to connectors or become lodged in small openings. Least expensive of the swab type cleaners.

Foam tipped- These are designed to be used with your choice of cleaning fluid. These come in various size tips with different materials and lengths of sticks. Care should be taken to wet it properly and to dry the freshly cleaned surface. Medium priced of the swab type cleaners.

Felt style tipped- Similar to the foam tipped, except the tip is stiffer. A hard felt-type tip softens and swells with wetting. Again, care should be taken to wet it properly and to dry the freshly cleaned surface. Medium priced of the swab type cleaners.

Poly Film- This is probably the newest style of cleaning material or fabric. This swab uses the woven film similar to the tape and reel cleaners (see Wipes). The woven material is wrapped to the end of a stick and can be used both wet and dry. The film does well in removing both particles and oils. Dry use is recommended for final cleaning. Higher priced of the swab type cleaners.


Isopropyl alcohol is the most commonly used of the alcohols in fiber optic cleaning, due to its low cost and safety qualities (toxicity, flammability, environmental/disposal). Alcohol will loosen particular contaminats and aid in removing oils. It is used on swabs and wipes, by directly spraying, in soaking tubs, and in ultrasonic cleaners. The better alcohol is the higher concentration (lower water content). 99% is readily available in bulk, small bottles, and pressurized spray cans with nozzle extensions. Always replace the cap on bottles or the concentration will degrade because of humidity absorption. Also, degradation will result when storing a bottle with little fluid and more air space for the same reason of water absorption. If a previously opened bottle is not used in a generally short amount of storage time, it should be disposed. Spotting on a cleaned surface will indicate degradation. Available through lab supplies distributors, fiber optic suppliers, and direct from chemical manufacturers.

Bottled- Available in different size bottles from quart to gallon size and larger. If there is high use, it is cost effective to purchase in the larger containers. But care must be taken to ensure the alcohol maintains its concentration after opening. See Rebottling below.

Canned (spray)- Pressurized canned alcohol is used to jet-wash away contaminants. Very convenient but higher waste. Higher cost than bottled.

Dispensers- Pump dispenser containers are available for you to refill when necessry. Remember to clean the surface bowl and dispose of used wipes or the alcohol used each time will be contaminated and spread that contamination to all other surfaces. Both glass and plastic dispenser bottles are available with pump lid and bowls made out of plastic or stainless steel.

Rebottling (smaller)- Costs savings can be significant when buying alcohol in bulk. When opened and longer storage is necessary, the alcohol can be transferred to smaller bottles to reduce the air space of a larger container.


Many different materials and styles of wipes are available. Choose one right for your application. Look for tight weave and minimal or no fiber loss. These are used both dry and moistened. Available through lab supplies distributors, fiber optic suppliers, and direct from manufacturers.

Natural fiber- Cotton wipes in various weaves are available, in different absorbancies, thicknesses, and pad sizes.

Synthetic- Similar to the cotton wipes, but stiffer and sometimes less absorbant. Available in different weaves, absorbancies, thicknesses, and pad sizes.

Moist- Pre-moistened wipes are available in tubs (tear off) and individually prepackaged. The tubs should be closed after each use to keep the wipes from drying out. The individual packaged wipes are single use only. These tend to come with a lower concentration of alcohol (40%-60%). Look for higher concentration of alcohol where your application requires it.

Dry film- Woven film similar to the tape and reel cleaners (see Wipes) is used in a card style, designed for single wipe and clean of connector tips or faces. This allows for removal of both particle and oil contamination.


Adhesive type cleaners are used to remove particle contamination. It is important to choose one that the adhesive does not cause a new contamination or damage, whether it is the adhesive itself that adheres to the connector face or a contaminant that was on the cleaner before cleaning causing cross-contamination or scratching and chipping damage. Available through office supplies, fiber optic suppliers and direct from manufacturers.

Tape- A high quality common adhesive tape can be used. Available most anywhere. Other types of tape, such as foam-backed, can also be used.

Pads and Sheet- Available in a pocket-sized sheet, this product has individual pads for single-use tip or end face cleaning. Keep the adhesive pads covered or contamination will result.

Stick- The same material as the Pads and Sheet product is used on a stick designed similar to a swab. It is used to clean the end face of a connector that is already installed, through the adapter.


Air is used for drying and clearing surfaces and areas of contaminants separately or after cleaning with a fluid or wipe. Open air drying is sometimes done but has problems of allowing water spottong on the surfaces. Canned or pressuring air is available in different size cans. System or house air, pressurized air that is piped throughout a building, can also be used. All air used in fiber optics must be free of particle and oil contaminants. Testing should be done when selecting a canned air to ensure the cleanliness, especially any residual film problems. Proper filters must be used when using house air. Canned air is most commonly used because of its portability and reliablity of cleanliness. Available through lab supplies distributors, fiber optic suppliers, and direct from manufacturers.

Open air- Room air is free, well, at no additional cost. You may open-air dry, but it is not the best and most often allows for evaporated water spotting.

System or house air- Pressurized air that is piped through the lab or building supplied through a compressor. Proper filters must be used and testing done to ensure the air is free of particle and oil contaminants.

Canned air- Not all canned air is the same. Even though it is sold through a cleaning supplier, it may not be best suited for fiber optic cleaning. Choose a high quality canned pressurized air that, when tested on a dark glass or shiny plastic surface, leaves no residual film or oil. Do not spray from a can that has been shaken or inverted within the last half hour or some propellant may be sprayed out and possibly contaminate the surfaces you are trying to clean.