Fiber Optic Cleaning – Vital for Installation Success
Reliable and trouble free optical connections are key to any successful installation. Cleaning is extremely important for the long-term reliability of any fiber link, and, happily, cleaning is very easy to do.
Fiber optic components are very small, so any contamination can easily interrupt signals. The outer diameter of a standard strand of optical fiber is 250 microns (µm), or approximately 0.01 inches/0.25 millimeters. That 250 µm measurement, however, does not correspond to the actual light-carrying part of the fiber, the fiber core. In a multimode fiber, the core is only 50 µm in diameter. A single mode fiber has an even smaller core: only 9 µm. (Read more about the difference between single mode and multimode fibers.)
For reference, human hair is anywhere between 17-180 µm in diameter, with an average of 50 – 75 µm.
The actual light-carrying part of an optical fiber is minuscule. As a result, any contaminate covering the end-face of your connectors can tremendously impact signal transmission. The World Health Organization defines dust particles as ranging from 1 to 100 µm in diameter. A few specks of dust could completely interrupt your signals, negate your test results, and in general cause major headaches.
Even a brand new connector needs to be cleaned prior to insertion. The “dust cap” is only there to keep the end from getting scratched prior to being cleaned. In our video (link), you can see what happens with one touch of fingertip to a connector end face. (The example in the footage is multimode fiber.) Dirt, skin oils, and particulate are present over the entire connector end face.
The solution? Clean your fiber connectors!
Cleerline Fiber Optic Cleaning Solutions
We have a number of cleaning solutions available. All of these are available in the SSF-CKIT01E Cleaning Kit and are also sold separately.
When inspecting your connectors always make sure your laser or optical light source is off, and never look directly into an optical light source or link when the laser is active. Lasers in fiber optic systems usually don’t operate at a visible wavelength. You can damage your eyes without seeing any light!
We recommend starting with a dry cleaning method, like a “One Click” type cleaner as shown in the video. If after this, contaminate is still present, move to wet cleaning.
For full instructions on each item, view the kit instruction sheet.
Dry Cleaning Tools
- One-Click Type Cleaner, available in SC or LC: To use, simply insert appropriate cleaner into connector ferrule. Push until there is an audible click. Inspect ferrule.
- Optipop-type Connector Cartridge Cleaner: This will work with all connector types except for male MPO connectors (with pins).
- Fiber Optic Swabs: these are not intended to be used on connector end faces. Use swabs to clean bulkheads, feedthroughs, etc. Swabs are sized for 1.25 mm (LC) or 2.25 mm (SC) openings.
- Wipes: Wipes can be used for wet or dry cleaning with all connector types.
Wet Cleaning Tools
Both swabs and wipes can be used for wet cleaning. For wet cleaning, make sure to first completely disconnect your links. Use wipes to “wet-dry” clean end faces moving from wet to dry areas on the wipe.
- AquaKleen™ optical grade water-based cleaning fluid.
- Wet cleaning with wipes: spray a small amount of AquaKleen™ onto a portion of a wipe to dampen. Move connector in figure N motion from the wet area to dry area on the wipe.
- Swab: dab swap onto lightly wetted wipe to dampen. Insert swab into bulkhead and rotate several times, going in the same direction each time.
Just these simple steps can be the difference between a failed and a working link. Don’t forget to clean!
For more information on cleaning, refer to the Fiber Optic Association at https://www.thefoa.org/tech/ref/testing/test/scope.html and https://www.thefoa.org/tech/ref/termination/cleaning.html.