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With so many options available on the market it’s hard to choose which option is the most beneficial for your application. Most technicians do not realize that while you may think a patch cable straight from the factory is clean, it is most likely not, the dust caps that are supposed to protect the end face of the ferrule can even contain contaminates that will transfer to the core and cladding of the optical fiber.
Most do not realize that by simply touching the connector, the oils from your hands can transfer to the ferrule; these oils have the ability to cover the entire core of a single mode fiber and leave your patch cord in the dark. Even if the contamination is not that severe, minor contamination can cause high return loss, above average attenuation and most likely it will cause damage to the connector over time. This long-term contamination will eventually damage the connector enough that it will have to be replaced costing more in the long run when equipment needs to be replaced.
While there are clear advantages to certain products, everyone over time develops their own way of going about cleaning their optical connectors. In the below sections we will go over the benefits and disadvantages of the most popular cleaning methods such as wet to dry, one clicks cleaners, and dry cleaners. The most advantageous method of cleaning is by combining multiple methods to ensure the best results possible for your connectors, and then using a microscope to check to make sure that it is free of all dirt, debris, lint, and other contaminates that could potentially compromise the connector. By using a microscope, you are assured that the connector is good for use, and will not spread any contaminates to other parts of your system and that they comply with industry standards. A simple visual inspection is not enough because some of the contaminants may be too small to see.
One Click Cleaners / Dry Cleaners:
One Click cleaners are a simple, low cost solution to cleaning connectors contaminated with dust, dirt, oils and debris in a simple one step process, and within a one click’s time your connector has been cleaned and is ready for use. One Clicks can also be utilized within a bulkhead or in an adapter too, making them more cost efficient to the consumer. The process of using a one click is as simple as inserting it into a connector end face or adapter panel and in one swift motion, the cleaning tape is dispensed, your connector ferrule is cleaned, and finally your connector is ready for use.
Most one clicks on the market have a 500-750 click life span making them ideal when weighting the cost per click. One click come in a variety of styles, brands and ferrule sizes making finding the right one easy, with multiple options available to the consumer. Ultimately, they are easy to use, small form, and convenient to carry, making them a necessity in any fiber technician’s toolbox.
Dry cleaners such as Cletops (a cassette cleaner) and other cartridge style connector cleaners are also another easy way to clean your connectors. Most are affordable with replaceable inserts that are as easy to use as sliding the connector over a cleaning media or dry cleaning cloth that is protected from the elements until it is ready for use, a simple click of the lever and a new unused sheet is dispensed. Dry cleaners are another option for the technician that is on the go and needs a quick, cost effective and simple solution to clean their connectors when on the job site or they’re installing cables in a data center.
One Click MPO Cleaner Tool:
Proper cleaning of an MPO/MTP connector with dedicated tools is the most guarantied and the quickest method. When using an MPO cleaning tool, one click should do the trick, because these cleaners are designed to fit the fiber funnel surface and clean it evenly. In addition, the MPO Cleaner tool can also clean MPO adapters, which makes it the perfect choice for network systems with multiple usages of MPO adapters. On the other hand, although is it a One-Click cleaning process, these MPO/MTP cleaners can do up to 600 cleaning attempts.
Cleaning Solution and Lint Free Dry Wipes:
In this method you are using dry lint free wipes and alcohol to clean away long term contamination that has long settled on the connector. This is a two part solution, the lint free cleaning wipes and the cleaning solution or solvent. The 99% reagent grade isopropyl alcohol or solvent is applied to a dry wipe and then the connector is moved along in a pattern or motion. There are many different types of cleaning solutions, and solvents on the market, many coming in small sized squeeze or spray bottles that make it easy to transport to job sites. Secondly, little of the solvent is needed to clean connectors making this style of cleaning also very cost effective to the technician.
This solution is more beneficial for connectors that have a higher degree of dust particles, dirt, debris, or other contaminants on the surface and require a little more elbow grease to clean. There is a downside to this type of cleaning, if the operator applies too much force to the connector while cleaning it could cause permanent pits, scratches and other unsightly details that could compromise the viability of the connector. There is also the risk of using too much of the wet cleaning solution, which over time could potentially degrade the connector. Technicians can also utilize cleaning swabs and cleaning sticks to achieve superior cleaning results when cleaning the ferrules of the connectors. Swabs and sticks usually come in 1.25mm or 2.5mm for use with the industry standard ferrules.
Cleaning wipes are an easy and convenient solution that can be placed in a pocket or the side of a tool bag for easy grab and go cleaning. There are multiple brands of cleaning wipes one can utilize for on the go cleaning. They are a wet to dry solution meaning that the user will need to give the connector a few seconds to be dry before attempting to mate it with an adapter, or else there could be left over residue lurking within the ferrule which can also cause issues.
In conclusion any and or all of these options are better than never cleaning your fiber optic connectors, finding the solution that works for you is easy and will benefit you, your customers, and your equipment in the future. .
Steps for cleaning:
Always inspect the connectors first. You do not need to clean a connector if it’s already clean, as cleaning it might make it dirty. This is especially true for MPO connectors, which are overly sensitive. For example, for an MPO-24, dirt from the first row could potentially migrate to the second row while cleaning.
Make sure to inspect both mating connectors, as residue from a dirty connector will transfer to a perfectly clean connector once they mate.
If the connector is dirty, first try the dry method.
If the dry method fails to remove the dirt, try the hybrid cleaning method, which involves using a solvent.
Always dry your connector after using wet cleaning tools and always reinspect the connector.
Basic Rules to be Observed: