27. Jun 2022

Cleaning fiber optic connectors

The two most common methods of cleaning fiber connectors

A cross-section of a dirty optical fiber viewed with a fiber microscope.

The most common causes of failures and malfunctions of optical networks or optical fibers are dust, dirt, grease or oil deposits on fiber optic connectors. Airborne dust in particular can easily collect on a fiber end face. In addition, improper handling of fibers, such as rubbing connectors clothing or touching surfaces, can also cause body oils to remain on the fiber connector.

Although the dirt particles are usually tiny and imperceptible to the human eye, such contamination of the fiber optic connector often results in degradation of signal performance. This can lead to a variety of problems or, in the worst case, failure of the entire system for optical links.

The cleanliness of each end-face connector is essential to ensure the availability and performance of the optical network. This is because even a small particle on the fiber core can affect network performance. Only a clean fiber connector can transmit data smoothly from one point to another.

Every time the fiber connector is removed and reconnected, care should be taken to ensure that the connector is dust-free, as contamination easily travels from one port to the next when touched. Contamination is the most common cause of fiber optic failure. Therefore, it is advisable to perform a detailed inspection of all end-face connections on a regular basis.

How to clean the optical fiber?

The optical fiber after cleaning: Grease and dust have been removed.

The two most common methods of cleaning fiber connectors are dry cleaning and wet cleaning.

  • Dry cleaning uses a cassette cleaner or fiber push cleaner, where the connector face is wiped against a dry cleaning cloth in one direction so that contaminants are removed. Dry cleaning is especially good for removing airborne dirt particles that have been deposited.

    Note: However, dry cleaning is not very effective in removing greasy and oily substances!
  • If it is found during cleaning that the dirt has not been removed after dry cleaning, wet cleaning using wipes and solvents is required to ensure that no more dirt remains on the face or plug. This is because wet cleaning can remove airborne contaminants as well as oil residue.

    Here's how it works: wet cleaning involves first running the face against the wet area, then wiping on a dry area to remove any residue from the face. It is not recommended to perform wet cleaning for bushings and partitions as this can cause damage.

What equipment is needed?

This is where the fiber connector is "pulled off" over a cleaning belt and cleaned in the process.

Choosing the right fiber cleaning tools depends on the type of fiber connector: the roller fiber cleaner is effective for cleaning almost all fiber optic connectors such as LC, MU, SC, FC, ST, MPO/MTP and MTRJ.

The cassette cleaner is alcohol-free and removes dust, oil and other contaminants. In addition, the cassette cleaners need to be replaced only after more than 500 cleaning operations and no additional tools are required. If the cassette cleaner is used, it should be pulled off in one direction only to prevent contaminants from being wiped back.

Special cleaning cloths can be used dry or with a special cleaning alcohol to effectively remove common contaminants from optical jumpers and patch cords. These cloth and blended wipes, made of abrasion-resistant and lint-free material, provide the absorbency to remove contaminants from the end surface, leaving fiber optics free of dust and scratches.

Lint-free cotton swabs are ideal for cleaning contaminants from 1.25mm to 2.5mm fiber adapters and connectors. In general, the appropriate tool for the fiber or connector type should always be used. Do not use any other cleaning products, as they may leave residues or damage the fiber.

Contact Person
Christian Baumeister
Director International Sales
+49 6103 834 83 333