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Fibre Optic Cleaning
5 March 2018
Cleaning
A high-quality fibre optic installation starts with clean fibres and connectors. Clean mating surfaces give you faster transmission rates, higher bandwidth and maintenance-free operation. FOCCUS™ brand products from Chemtronics provide all the tools needed to quickly clean connectors and ports.
The point cannot be driven home enough that the number one cause of fibre network issues and failures is contaminated connectors. Competent Fibre technicians should at least know that they are supposed to clean and inspect every fibre end face before making the final connection…. but are they cleaning fibre end faces correctly? Let’s take a look at some best practices.

If you’ve ever seen a technician using canned air dusters for cleaning fibre end-faces, you’ve witnessed a very ineffective practice. Not only do canned air and dusters just succeed in blowing particles around, they are not all adequate for cleaning oils, residues, or small charged dust particles. Instead, use fabric and composite wipes made of a lint-free material that provides the absorbency to remove contaminants from the end-face, remembering to discard wipes after they’ve been used—a dirty wipe is the next dirty end face.

Yet beware of using wipes alone—often referred to as “dry cleaning”—as this can leave a static charge on the fibre end face that actually attracts statically charged dust particles. A combination of composite wipes and solvent is really the way to go—solvents boost the cleaning ability of the wipe while eliminating the issue of static charge.  

Even the use of solvents has a best practice when it comes to fibre cleaning. First of all, don’t use too much as it can leave behind a film, and if you do, make sure to use a new dry wipe to get rid of the excess (but not too much dry cleaning or we’re back to the static charge issue). Don’t just use any old solvent -  Isopropyl alcohol can leave behind a difficult-to-remove “halo” as it dries, causing attenuation. The difference between specialized fibre cleaning solvents and general purpose IPA cleaning solvents is easy to see.

Specialized solvents (top) vs. isopropyl alcohol (bottom)

            

Chemtronics developed a patented technology and proprietary Combination Cleaning™ process to give clean connections the first time, every time. Their Fibre optic kits include all the tools you need to tackle any situation.



For cleaning fibre end-faces inside ports or equipment, Chemtronics offers lint-free mechanical port cleaning devices called ‘Clear Connection Tools’ CCT. They can be purchased individually or in kits for achieving Combination Cleaning™. They come in three different sizes for cleaning 1.5 mm, 2.5 mm and MPO style connectors. 

Speaking of MPO style connectors…Beware!  Consider a multi-fibre MPO interface with an array that features a much larger surface area than a single fibre connector. Unfortunately, this larger area makes it easier to move contaminants from one fibre to another within the same array.

And the larger the array, the higher the risk. With 24 fibre MPOs used in high-density fibre interconnects, the greater number of fibres are more difficult to control as not all the fibres protrude at exactly the same height. Height variances across the fibres can increase the risk of not every fibre being properly and equally clean.  When cleaning an MPO connector, make sure the entire end face surface touches the wipe. Apply medium pressure and wipe in a direction perpendicular to the array.

Back to Basics
While some of these may seem like the most basic aspects of fibre cleaning, no blog on fibre cleaning best practices would be complete without these reminders.
  • Never touch the fibre connector end face with your oily fingers
  • Never touch the clean area of the wipe, cleaning fabric or swab
  • Never touch the solvent dispensing tip
  • Always were the appropriate safety glasses
  • Always keep protective caps on unplugged fibre connectors
  • Always store unused protective caps in a sealed connector
  • Always discard used wipes immediately
  • Always follow the golden rule of cleaning:  ALWAYS inspect, clean and inspect again. Even if you think you have properly cleaned the fibre end face, you still need to follow it.

Get the Right Tool for the Job with the Chemtronics Fibre Optic Cleaning Kits Selection Guide. Also, for a limited time only, get your Chemtronics CCT cleaners from only £45*. Contact to your account manager for more information!