Is “Axial Rotation” Helpful When Cleaning Swabs Are Used On Connector End-Faces?

This question was in an email from a customer in Australia. They wrote that a competing fibre connector cleaning stick stated that their cleaners DO NOT use an “axial rotation” cleaning action. They claim axial rotation is a negative in the telecoms industry, and recommend rather a gentle sweeping type of cleaning action. Is this something that we need to be concerned about? Is it even real?

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There is no doubt that cleaning a fiber end-face inside the alignment sleeve is a challenge. It’s hard to imagine how one might impart a “gentle sweeping action” across the surface of a LC connector, deep inside the alignment sleeve.

But there are other factors that might come in to play here. You will notice in our CleanStixx product descriptions we use the term “dimensional stability”. This refers to the precision with which we make our CleanStixx; the tips on our CleanStixx are EXACTLY the same diameter, every time, on every stick.

This contrasts with the main competition, which are foam sticks and “wrapped cloth” sticks. These devices vary in their diameter quite a bit. They also are very snug as they go into the alignment sleeve (see illustration, example “A”). Because they’re squeezed into the alignment sleeve so tightly they only can rotate around the center of their axis. This means they will have difficulty cleaning the outer perimeter of the contact zone.

In contrast, the Sticklers CleanStixx are very slender and slide into the alignment sleeve with room to spare. This is an intentional design element. When you spin a Sticklers swab, the tip will gently wobble, sweeping across the end-face from side to side. It is in this manner that the Sticklers products clean the entire end-face consistently, while other products cannot (example “B”). Additionally, the tip of the CleanStixx spreads out a tiny bit (“mushrooms”) and creates spaces between the fibers which pick up debris, just as the tread of a car tire might pick up pebbles from time to time.

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The CleanSitxx also are made of a sintered polyester fiber material, something like a paint brush. As noted above, when the CleanStixx is gently pushed onto an end-face, the fibers flare out or “mushroom” slightly, allowing the space between the fibers to pick up particulate (see illustration). Foam swabs and cloth swabs lack this capability. Additionally, the capillary action of the individual fibers have a very high capability to pick up liquid contamination. This means they just work better.

There is no doubt in my mind as to which technology delivers better end-face cleaning, “axial rotation” or not.