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Fiber Optics Cleaning Methods

Methods and Steps in Cleaning Fiber Optics
Bare Fiber, Connectors, Adapters


Air - Air cleaning is done without wipes to blow away dust and other particle contamination. It is sometimes used after drying or dry wipes when lint has been a problem, even with "lintless" cleaning wipes. Use the supplied narrow tube nozzle extension and blow at an angle across the surface you are cleaning and in a direction away from you. Do not tilt or shake the air can.

Alcohol - Isopropyl alcohol is the most commonly used solvent to loosen particle contamination and dissolve oils. It is used on wipes, through sprays, soaks, and ultrasonic cleaning. Use only the highest concentration available (look for 99% in bottled, and highest in canned or wet wipes). Replace wipes often. Clean dispensers often. Keep soaks and ultrasonic baths filled to copacity and covered between uses. Replace and clean soaks and ultrasonic baths as per the amount of usage - daily in a high use, assembly or manufacturing environment, less in lab use.

Wipes - Both dry and wet wipes are used in the cleaning process. Wet wipes are used to loosen and remove contaminants. Dry wipes are used as a final wipe to remove any residual oils and evaporative water spotting. Use wipes in a single circular or straight wiping motion. Avoid wiping back and forth as this returns your surface to an area of the wipe that has removed contamination. Replace wipes often. Larger wipes may be used multiple times if a different section of the wipe is used. Remember, single use where contamination has been removed.

Swabs - Use swabs when cleaning adapters or the face of a connector through an adapter. When cleaning adapters, a straight single in/out motion is all that is necessary. Rotating the swab in an adapter is useless as the floating sleeve will turn with the swab. When cleaning connector end faces through an adapter, a single rotation after insertion to contact is done. Do not rotate back and forth as this could cause scratching by returning removed contamination to the connector surface. Some companies recommend up to 4 uses of a cleaning swab, but a used or contaminated swab should not be reused. Remember that connector cleaning is best done through disassembly and disconnect, rather through the adapter since only a partial clean can be done and dirt and oils may be trapped in the adapter area.

Soaking - Sometimes a solvent soak is necessary to loosen particle contamination or remaining insulation particles after stripping. Only soak the fiber and not insulation.

Ultrasonic - Ultrasonic cleaning is done often in a manufacturing environment where consistency is necessary in procedures. It eliminates the need for handling or touching the fiver or connector. Ultrasonic cleaners work well for removing remaining insulation from stripping, dust, dirt, lint fibers, and oils, without the need for contact cleaning with wipes.


Open air dry- Not good unless using a fast evaporating solvent, such as a higher flammability alcohol (like ethyl alcohol) and would not commonly be used because of increased fire and health hazard.

Pressurized air dry - Best results are obtained when quickly drying the wet cleaned component to avoid water spotting. Use pre-filtered canned air and keep upright to avoid any chance of propellant being sprayed.. Remember that not all canned air is the same and tests should be done to determine which manufacturer will provide the best for your application.

Wipes - Wipes will be used to dry the component surfaces as a final operation in the cleaning process. The dry wipe will remove any spotting and oils that would possibly be left after an alcohol and air clean.


Hand scopes, video scopes, and microscopes are used for inspection of the fiber optic surfaces before and after cleaning. When first working on a cleaning problem, it is good to inspect before to see what the real problem is so you can use the right cleaning or troubleshooting procedure. For example, you may be performing the best cleaning procedure possible, but inspection may reveal a certain type of damage that cleaning will not remedy.

Some notes on inspection:

- Inspection is not always necessary if your procedure is correct and consistent or repeatable.
- Eye inspection will find larger contamination, but not small or oil contamination. A scope is necessary.
- Scope inspection is very time consuming, especially with tens, or even hundreds of connectors in an installation. Is it necessary in your application?
- An adapter scope, one with a camera head at the end of a narrow "snake," is a good tool, but best cleaning and inspection is done through disassembly and disconnect if at all possible.


Repolishing can be performed in cases of damage that resulted from mishandling or inadequate cleaning over time. This is done only when scratches, chips, or burns have occured on the connector face fiber core area. With the proper repolishing, a connector can be restored to new condition. Repolishing is most often needed in areas with high number of reconnecting, such as testing, debug, and research and development, since the chances of contamination and hot plug laser burns are introduced each time the connector is open.

Some notes on repolishing:

- Repolishing is the last option to restore a signal when a replacement cable or jumper is not available.
- Repolishing should almost never be necessary with proper care and handling.
- A properly trained and skilled technician is necessary when repolishing.