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solder stains on basement floor

Doug Member Posts: 7
As a homeowner with great respect for the trade, nothing irks more than dripmarks left under the joints. I'm talking a series of otherwise great plumbers, none of whom has ever used a dropcloth on their own, who will go along with a request to be careful, but then almost always eventually forget to keep doing so, leaving us with a trail of stained concrete in their wake. I don't understand it. There must be some tricks of the trade for cleaning up these areas.....or are we forever stuck with them as reminders of the otherwise good work done above?


  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited December 2011
    "grapes" on joints:

    As a very old member of the "Wipe Every Joint" club, I may have been guilty of more than one solder splash on the wall or floor. If you see that the fitting is wiped, there is a very low likely hood that the whole socket isn't fully soldered. If there is a grape hanging off the bottom of the fitting, there is a good possibility that the whole fitting isn't covered. If you are soldering a Tee, the center of the fitting may absorb heat and if heating the end, the solder may not flow to the inside, middle of the fitting. If, after soldering a fitting, if in the time it takes to pick up a rag and wipe the Grape, the Grape won't wipe off, the fitting wasn't heated enough. If you can wipe the whole fitting, after you solder it, it will most likely not leak, ever.

    Being old fart/old school, I still use my Prestolite with a #3 tip, not those blow torches now so in favor where you can't reach the back of the fitting or burn everything in sight.

    If I'm piping in an area with a lot of piping, I put cardboard on the floor and on top of any flat surfaces.

    So, I have to say, the guys that wipe, even if they spash around, are your best bet. Stay away from the ones that leave Grapes on the bottom of fittings, and sliders and snots on the sides of pipes. So unprofessional.

    Anything I do, anyone who comes to work around and sees what I do, I want them to say that that guy did a nice job. I want my work to look just like that. And try to do it that way. Not "Who is the Hack" that made this mess".

    The old times all told us, but I haven't heard it said lately, You can do the nicest most perfect job in the world. But if you leave a mess behind, people will think that you did a lousy job. But, you can do a job that doesn't come out as well as you would like, and you leave everything, neat, tidy and better than when you got there, people will think that you are a genius and did a wonderful job.

    That means cleaning the dust off of everything in the area, and cleaning solder splashes off things that you had no part in. Sweeping the floor around the area you were working in. Carry a box of kitchen trash bags in the truck so you can put the trash in the bag and leave it in the trash. Believe me, the customer will notice.

    "No one ever hired and paid me to leave a mess in their house."
  • Ron Jr._3
    Ron Jr._3 Member Posts: 603
    edited December 2011
    I solder 20 to 40 joints a day

    on a boiler replacement . I wipe the joints that have excess solder at the bottom , with steel wool .

     Although I don't condone it , I can understand why some guys don't wipe the joints . Cause the solder can be flung everywhere if you're not careful and cover just about everything !

    Covering floors is a must ! If it's directly around the boiler area we sprinkle oil dry on the floor cause drop cloths just don't work in this high traffic area ( they bunch up , you trip on them , etc ) .

    Is the floor just concrete ? Not painted ? Muriatic acid has worked for us with very bad concrete staining ( usually fuel oil ) . Is it the solder or the flux that's in the concrete ?
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Solder on things:


    Try the cardboard. You can put it wherever you like, cut it around things, and never trip over it. I save the cardboard from all my water heaters and such for these situations. When I need to carry stuff in a house, I run the cardboard on the floor. If I use drop clothes, I put cardboard on top so I don't trip and fall.

    I don't see the advantage of steel wool. I buy boxes of clean white rags from my wholesaler to wipe. It wipes the paste off the pipe and fittings. I also use the clean rags for cleaning PVC fittings. I use them on oil burners. But I don't use a rag that I have used on oil when wiping solder. You get that nasty fuel oil smell.
  • MIke_Jonas
    MIke_Jonas Member Posts: 209

       I take great pride in my solder joints. I also take great pride in keeping a customers' home and boiler room clean.

       My use of ProPress goes behind cleanliness. Several years ago, I had to solder multiple copper lines buried up inside of some 120 year old solid-as-a-rock oak joists. It was the end of a long day and I was ready to go home. It dawned on me there are certain dangers to holding an open flame next to wood that is so old and dry.

        That was the last time I used my torch. I bought my ProPress kit the next day. While most customers will never understand or appreciate it, none of my work involves having an open flame inside their home. It's a minor detail to be sure, but some plumbers would look at splattering solder all over a job as being a minor detail as well.
  • Doug
    Doug Member Posts: 7
    following up

    I think I should have said it's the flux. Kind of a gooey material (that if left alone, darkens up if the basement humidity rises) that I can clean off, but not the stains left behind on the unfinished concrete floor.
  • Doug
    Doug Member Posts: 7

    I did find this recipe for flux removal on the web.....

  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    some guys

    can leave a mess behind no matter what they are doing, or how they are doing it. I use cardboard, wipe all solder joints, and wash the joint with a wet rag when done. The acid will not turn green if there is none left on the connection.I still prefer to solder pipes, and in 30 years, have not burned a house down as of yet-knock on wood. A neat clean solder connection, to me, looks more secure and level than a pressed joint. I haven't seen one yet that stays level looking, and I feel that in time, the seal will fail. Just my opinion, and not meant to offend others. I have priced switching over to press fittings. Machine and many various sized fittings, not worth it to me.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Soldering near wood:

    Here's a trick I use that works really well for those places that make your feet itch.

    Get a spray bottle used for soap or watering plants. You can adjust the head to spray like a squirt gun or a wide spray like for leaves. Before you solder, spray the area liberally with water. Then, adjust the spray so it is more directional. Solder away. It doesn't work well with Turbo blow torches. Nice with prestolite air/acetylene. As soon as you are done, spray the whole ares. If you have serious charring, stop and spray. This works especially well when there is rotten wood. Thee rotten wood absorbs large amounts of water.

    Most of the places I get to, a Pro Press is out of the question. My Milwaukee PEX expander is bad enough
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited December 2011
    Following up:

    Those are "snots". The best reciepe for removing then is just after you solder the joints, you wipe it off with a rag.
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