Keep it Clean: From the Endface to Your Tester
November 16, 2020 / General
Cleanliness has long been a best practice in fiber optic installation, but since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no longer just the fiber endfaces you need to worry about. If you think about how often your cabling tools and testers are touched by you and others on the job site, it’s clear that they too need to be cleaned.
While a fiber endface and your frequently touched Fluke Network tester are cleaned for two completely different reasons, the goal in both instances is to clean without causing any damage. So, we thought we’d cover some best cleaning practices, from dust on your endface to germs on your tester.
Golden Rule Practices
By now, we hope that anyone deploying fiber optic cable plants understands the importance of connector cleanliness and following the golden rule of inspect, clean and inspect again. After all, fiber endface contamination remains the number one of cause of fiber network issues.
When it comes to the cleaning, there are some best practices in mind to prevent damage. First of all, make sure you’re using the right tools for the job. Canned air is not recommended as it really only succeeds in blowing particles around that can settle back onto fiber endfaces and often expels a propellant that can become yet another contaminant to remove.
Pen-type cleaners (such as our Quick Clean cleaners) are good for most instances where you’re removing dust and other common contaminants. One click is almost always enough to clean the endface thoroughly.
More stubborn contaminants require wet cleaning. This should be done with a solvent and wipes rather simply more aggressive dry cleaning that can leave a static change and attract even more dust, but it also needs to be the right solvent. Isopropyl alcohol can leave behind a “halo” that causes attenuation and is difficult to remove and even spread from one end face to another. A solvent specifically formulated for fiber endface cleaning is best.
And don’t forget pressure and overall technique. Cleaning against a hard surface or pressing down too hard can damage a fiber endface. You want just enough pressure to conform to the endface geometry—one or two short strokes is typically sufficient. And when you’re done cleaning, don’t forget to inspect the endface again—it takes just over a second for a Fluke Networks’ FI-7000 FiberInspector Pro to certify fiber endfaces to the IEC 61300-3-35 standards.
Cleaning Your Equipment
The CDC recommends cleaning frequently touched surfaces to avoid risk of infection, and as we enter flu season amidst rising COVID-19 infection rates, cleaning and sanitizing your Fluke Networks’ tools and testers is more important than ever. Unlike fiber endface cleaning, when it comes to cleaning your test equipment, you actually can use isopropyl alcohol. But beware of the alcohol percentage. While a concentration of 80% may be okay for hand sanitizer, it’s not recommended to use an isopropyl alcohol concentration of more than 70% as it may damage the markings or screen on your tester. Also always avoid using any type of acetone as it can dissolve plastics. Fluke also offers meter cleaning wipes, but these should be avoided for everyday cleaning and not used on the LCD screen. Using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is a great option for everyday tester cleaning.
Never use an abrasive cleaner on your tester, especially when cleaning the screen as it can leave behind scratches that can make it difficult to clearly see your test results—especially in dimly lit spaces. When cleaning the screen, we recommend using a microfiber cloth much like you’d use to clean your smartphone or eyeglasses. Commercial lens cleaner works great for this. Just be sure to use a fresh cloth each time and don’t rub it dry—let the screen air dry and make sure the cleaner evaporates quickly and leaves no residue.
Dirty ports are very common on fiber optic testers – in fact, most testers coming in for service require port cleaning. A dirty port on your tester will cause poor results but note that cleaning the actual test port needs to follow recommendations for endface cleaning—not those for surface cleaning of the tester itself. The simplest method to clean your test ports is to use Quick Clean™ cleaners as shown in this knowledge base article for the CertiFiber® Pro and this one for the OptiFiber® Pro. If contamination is heavy, you can use a swab dampened with Fluke Networks Cleaning Solvent and follow with a dry swab. Thankfully, dirty ports will generate warning message when using the CertiFiber Pro or OptiFiber Pro.