Cleaning the Brazed joint

After you've brazed the assembly, you have to clean it. And cleaning is usually a two-step operation. First - removal of the flux residues. Second - pickling to remove any oxide scale formed during the brazing process. Flux removal is a simple, but essential operation. (Flux residues are chemically corrosive and, if not removed, could weaken certain joints.) Since most brazing fluxes are water soluble, the easiest way to remove them is to quench the assembly in hot water (120F/50C or hotter). Best bet is to immerse them while they're still hot, just making sure that the filler metal has solidified completely before quenching. The glass-like flux residues will usually crack and flake off. If they're a little stubborn, brush them lightly with a wire brush while the assembly is still in the hot water. You can use more elaborate methods of removing flux as well - an ultrasonic cleaning tank to speed the action of the hot water, or live steam.
The only time you run into trouble removing flux is when you haven't used enough of it to begin with, or you've overheated the parts during the brazing process. Then the flux becomes totally saturated with oxides, usually turning green or black. In this case, the flux has to be removed by a mild acid solution. A 25% hydrochloric acid bath (heated to 140- 160F/60-70C) will usually dissolve the most stubborn flux residues. Simply agitate the brazed assembly in this solution for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. No need to brush. A word of caution, however - acid solutions are potent, so when quenching hot brazed assemblies in an acid bath, be sure to wear a face shield and gloves. After you've gotten rid of the flux, use a pickling solution to remove any oxides that remain on areas that were unprotected by flux during the brazing process. The best pickle to use is generally the one recommended by the manufacturer of the brazing materials you're using. (See the Handy & Harman recommendations for pickling solutions.) Highly oxidizing pickling solutions, such as bright dips containing nitric acid, should be avoided if possible, as they attack the silver filler metal. If you do find it necessary to use them, keep the pickling time very short. Once the flux and oxides are removed from the brazed assembly, further finishing operations are seldom needed. The assembly is ready for use, or for the application of an electroplated finish. In the few instances where you need an ultra-clean finish, you can get it by polishing the assembly with a fine emery cloth. If the assemblies are going to be stored for use at a later time, give them a light rust-resistant protective coating by adding a water soluble oil to the final rinse water.



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