Cleaning Optical Transceivers and Fiber Cables: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cleaning optical transceivers and fiber cables: A step-by-step guide

In the first post of our “Cleaning Your Optics” series, we highlighted the importance of keeping optical transceivers and fiber cable connectors clean to ensure optimal performance. We’re now going to walk you through the best practices for cleaning dirty optics and fiber cables with a set of compact, inexpensive tools that should be an integral part of every field tech’s toolkit.

Cleaning Optics

Step 1 (Optional): Troubleshooting Inspection

If you suspect an optic may be malfunctioning, we recommend inspecting the optic before cleaning. If your facility has a scope, insert the scope into the optic and view. If the optic is clean (as in Photo A below), then it is likely an internal malfunction or a dirty fiber cable. Inspect the cable as well.

If you do not have a scope handy, it is still safe to begin the cleaning process as well.

Step 2: Click Once to Clean

We recommend a one-click cleaner (pictured below) as a primary device for cleaning your optic. At roughly the size and shape of a kitchen lighter, it’s a compact and durable device every tech should have. Depending on what optics you have in your network, you may need multiple one-clicks for each respective connector type on your optics (e.g., LC/SC, MPO, etc).

To use, just insert the tip of the one-click into the transceiver, push in, and release quickly. When it audibly clicks, it will wipe the surface of the laser with a fine ribbon. One or two clicks with the device will remove most debris; any more clicks after this will only shorten the life of the cleaning device (each one lasts about 500 clicks).

To remove more stubborn contaminants, try the alternative below.

Step 3: Swab Away

If the one-click doesn’t clean your optic completely, you can try dry optical connector swabs. These one-use swabs are a lower-cost, disposable alternative to the one-click. Just insert the swab end into the optic and gently twist around to dislodge the contaminant

As a last-ditch effort to clean a particularly dirty optic, you can try a swab with a liquid optical connector cleaner, although this is not recommended in most cases because such cleaners can leave residue behind that may require further cleaning.

Cleaning Cables

Step 1: Troubleshooting

After you’ve inspected the optic according to the recommendations above, perform the same steps on the fiber cable that plugs into the optic. If neither the optic nor the fiber cable connector shows signs of dirt or debris, the optic may have an internal defect.

Step 2: Clean Your Cables

The connectors of cables can be cleaned with a cable-cleaning device, as pictured below. These devices contain replaceable cartridges that last about 400 cleanings.

As with the optic cleaners, these devices are connector-specific, so you will need one for LC/SC duplex (below left) and MPO (below right) fiber cables.

To clean your cable, retract the door covering the cleaning pad and gently swipe the cable connector along the pad in the direction indicated on the device. Do not swipe back and forth, as this might lead to re-contamination.

As a lower-cost alternative, disposable cleaning wipes and pads are available in several different packages and configurations, as shown below. Simply wipe the connector in one direction, as with the cleaning devices mentioned above. If you need to clean further, discard the wipe and use another.

Our final post in this series will cover some important tips for ongoing maintenance and proper handling of optics. Interested in learning more about these cleaning products and specific recommendations? Contact us now!

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