2006 Soldering Regulations

Prepare to say farewell to an old friend
A historical article in which Martin Hickman writes about the proposed changes to regulations on Solder that came into force during 2006…

The words ‘Health & Safety’ produce a reaction in most people. To some they are a modern day curse in that they prevent the cutting of corners and may reduce profits. To others they are a means of challenging management and a means of achieving an easier life. Somewhere between these two extremes and misuses lies common sense which has certainly made the world a safer place. One of the current ‘hot issues’ is the concern regarding levels of lead in the environment and the effect on our health. In recent years we have seen the demise of lead additives in petrol, the production of lead free paint and a wholesale reduction of fittings containing lead used in the plumbing industry.

A new initiative is now on the horizon but advancing quickly. By 2006 it is intended that solder regulations will be introduced to ensure that lead will be removed from the vast majority of electronic components and processes and in particular from solder. Now most of you will know that for countless years solder has, for all purposes, been made from a mixture of lead and tin, that for electronics use it is usually 60% tin and 40% lead, sometimes with traces of copper, etc. All this will go!

Hobbyists are not required to go lead free, and lead-containing solder can still be used by amateurs after that date, so at the moment there are no plans to stop the manufacture of standard 60/40 tin lead flux cored solder.

New alloys are being tried such as; tin/silver, tin/silver/copper, tin/copper, tin/zinc. So how do the new alloys perform and what are the implications?

  • The melting temperature of non-lead alloys is significantly higher. Tin/lead melts at about 188°C whereas the lead free alloys all melt at around 220°C. This is not a problem if you have a temperature-controlled iron, but fixed temperature irons may have a problem. The increased temperature used for the soldering process does, of course, produce more of a problem in terms of the heating of components, and joints need to be made as quickly as possible.
  • Contamination with existing lead products is a concern as this produces a somewhat dull, speckled joint.
  • The lead free solders do not flow as well and any trace of dirt makes it significantly worse. To make matters worse there is a possibility that rosin flux, a standard for many years, may also be phased out in due course for a ‘safer’ alternative. There are lead free solders with rosin free flux on the market, but I haven’t tried any of these.
  • Lead free solders are significantly dearer than standard tin/lead.

Having experimented with lead free solders a little, I can share with you a few results.

  1. With a fixed temperature iron, melting may possibly be slightly slower, but the only real degradation, in this respect, was the rate of being able to carry out a sequence of joints, which was a little slower, presumably due to the slightly longer recovery time to achieve the necessary heating capacity again.
  2. The ‘flow’ of lead free solders was less in all situations and the resulting joints seldom looked quite so nice and shiny as the ones we are all used to.
  3. The better (and more expensive) tin/silver/copper alloy gave superior results to the cheaper alloys.
  4. Soldering two bare copper wires together gave a better joint than that to a standard tinned PCB or existing joint which, as predicted, gave an inferior patchy looking joint, due to the contamination by existing lead content.
  5. Additional flux was of considerable benefit for copper that had been lying about for a little while and needed just that little bit extra cleaning.

However, there is nothing like trying it for yourself! If anyone cares to write in and say how they got on and whether or not they agree with my findings, it would be interesting to hear.

Martin Hickman

You might also care to visit our other soldering information pages. The Soldering home page provides links to other resources including a detailed Soldering Tutorial, a Soldering Quick Fix page, a Soldering Troubleshooter, and even an article on the effects of forthcoming Soldering Regulations.

If you are seeking further information on Soldering but cannot find it here, please email info@leadsdirect.co.uk and we will try to both answer your question and make sure that the information is made available through these pages for future reference.


Leads Direct makes great efforts to provide accurate and complete information. However, portions of the information contained in this website and any documents viewed on it or downloaded from it may be incorrect or not current. Any errors or omissions should be reported for investigation and correction. The information provided in any documents whether on our website or otherwise is provided "as is." No warranty of any kind, implied, expressed, or statutory, including but not limited to the warranties of non-infringement of third party rights, title, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and freedom from computer virus, is given.

Related Items

Responsive website designed & developed by