First, let’s understand why a fiber optic connector needs cleaning.
You may never need to clean the RJ45 connector for your computer’s Ethernet network connection, then why do you need to clean a fiber optic connector if it serves the same purpose as a networking connection?
While, the answer lies in how optics work differently than electronics. In electronics, as long as you have a contact between two connectors, they work perfectly; or at least most of the time.
But for optics, light beams travel in straight lines, they bounce off whenever they hit anything and thus loss their energy.
So in order for a light beam to carry the information signal and travel thousands of miles of optical fiber, its path must be kept crystal clear, including fiber optic connectors in the network.
What part of a fiber optic connector should be cleaned, exactly?
OK. Now comes the critical part. What part in the fiber connector needs cleaning, exactly? The short answer is the ferrule’s body and its end face. But what exactly is a ferrule?
Ferrule is a cylindrical and also the most critical part in an optical fiber connector. It is usually made from stainless steel or Zirconia.
Zirconia is a type of white colored ceramic which is an extremely refractory material. It offers chemical and corrosion inertness to temperatures well above the melting point of alumina. Zirconia is the preferred material for high quality fiber optic ferrules.
Ferrules have a tiny hole in the center which holds optical fiber in place. Then the fiber is scribed and precisely polished to flush with the end face of the ferrule.
Two fiber connectors can then mate to each other with a mating sleeve. When mated, two ferrules’ end faces contact each other perfectly and thus pass light from one fiber to another.
Ferrules get dirty from dust, stain and debris made by constant plugging and unplugging after having been used for a while. These contaminations will block the light path and thus seriously reduce the light power and may disable the network connection.
Is there only one method for fiber connector cleaning?
There are many different ways to clean a fiber optic connector. They are not exclusive but rather complementary to each other. When one method failed, you can always try another method. And that is why there are so many fiber optic supplies for cleaning fiber connectors available on the market.
1. Air spray. Air dusters are used to blow loose particles from optical fiber connector end face. Optic grade is more expensive. Air spray is a non-abrasive fiber optic cleaning method.
2. Lint-free wipes with isopropyl alcohol. The operator folds the lens paper (such as the lint free wipes) into 4~6 layers and lay it flat on a table. He then holds the connector vertically straight and cleans the end face in figure 8 motion.
3. Reel fiber optic connector cleaners. Connector reel cleaner is a dry cleaning method with a quick, reliable operation and uniform results. They use 2 micrometer weaved polyester cloth to clean optical fiber connectors. This is an abrasive fiber optic cleaning method but pad underneath cleaning cloth mitigates this significantly.
4. Stick or swab type cleaners. These specially built Cletop sticks come in 2.5mm and 1.25mm versions. They are designed for dry cleaning fiber optic connector mating sleeves, bulkhead adapters and receptacles.
5. In-situ cleaning. This semi-automated fiber optic cleaning method is specially designed for fiber optic connectors plugged in patch panels and hardware devices.
6. Pre-saturated or soaked wipes. Pre-saturated wipes are good for cleaning glass fiber or connector end faces. They are available in a convenient pre-saturated towelette. The towels are durable and non-linting. Pre-saturated wipes are a convenient option for field use.
Fiber Optics For Sale Co. offers all types of fiber optic supplies for fiber optic cleaning.