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Solvent for ultrasonic cleaner?


Feb 5, 2006
New Jersey
I just picked up a rather large (about 25 gallon) heated ultrasonic parts cleaner.

I'm trying to decide what I want to use for a solvent.

A few things that are important:

1: Non acidic. I'm using this in a small, poorly vented shop and I don't want to instarust everything that isn't in the tank. I also don't want to die.
2: No caustic (aka sodium hydroxide, lye)
3: As environmentally friendly as possible.
4: Must be compatable with all metals (aluminum, brass, steel, magnesium, etc).
5: Primary uses will be cleaning machine parts and probably auto parts also.

I'm not looking for absolute maximum performance, of course only the specific specialized cleaner for that application will give me that. That would require stocking 10 different cleaners, half of which will kill me.

Things I have considered:

1: Simple Green clear (diluted)
2: Saftey-Kleen (I have someone willing to give me 25 or so gallons of clean stuff).
3: Some type of concentrated citrus degreaser. (diluted)
4: Dishsoap. Extremely efficient grease remover. Might grow a Marge Simpson with the suds though.

I'm all ears to any ideas, cautions, or experiences. I use small jewlery sized ultrasonics all the time for cleaning EDM parts, often with diluted acids, but 25 ounces and 25 gallons of the stuff are entirely different animals :eek:
I have a small Branson unit, due to the fact it is heated, it warns not to use flammable solvents. I use an alkaline cleaner, diluted with about 4 to 5 parts water. All I clean is steel, though.. The alkaline cleaner might damage aluminum if left in too long...
I would take a different tact. Fill the tank with plain water and put the parts to be cleaned in a plastic bag with the best solvent for the job. Solvent use (and disposal) goes down because it doesn't take much for a specific job and frequently the small quantities of solvent can be easily reused (filtered or not, etc.). The plastic bag doesn't interfer with cleaning and you can run many different bags/solvents at the same time. This is a standard approach in many prototype shops.
I use any of the standard ones.. Purple Power, Mean Green, Greased Lightning, etc.. Really, they are about the same.. Mostly made up of Sodium Metasilicate, diluted with water.

Interesting topic... I used to know the guy that started Mean Green.. He told me that there was only a nickel's worth of chemicals in a spray bottle of any of the alkaline cleaners ...
I use butyl carbitol (Diethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether) mixed with water as a cleaner. This is a water soluble solvent that isn't too bad to work with. You can also add sodium carbonate or sodium hydroxide for more cleaning power if needed.

I use these solutions in a 30 gallon heated tank with a Branson ultrasonic driver and transducers. Works great and it's all water based for easy rinsing, cleanup and disposal.
I use Mr. Clean and Amonia it will get off everything and it wont hurt your machine I am a goldsmith and have been doing that for 18 years and still have my same ultra sonic. All the stores I have worked in use the same stuff. Some of the other stuff you guys are using sounds great too I will have to give it a try.
dloc has the correct approach for large cleaning tanks.

I have a ten gallon, heated 1000watt tank. You don’t want to have to fill the entire tank with cleaner unless the size of the part is large. Smaller containers within the large tank work well. Plastic bags transmit the ultrasonics well, very well.

This way you can use more caustic cleaners when needed or softer cleaners too. And you can use both at the same time.

For high heat applications I have found the oven bags for turkeys work good and they are pretty large, and durable.

For cleaners I use everything from Tri-111 to 409 kitchen cleaner. Also, liquid dishwashing detergent works really well on heavy carbon.

You want a wetting agent to break the surface tension of plain water. Many household cleaners have this surfactant and other chemicals to keep the dirt from redepositing on the part. JRouche
Do not clean brass parts in ammonia or ammonia containing cleaners. Ammonia will attack brass. I am not sure how ammonia affects other nonferris metals.

As far as I know ammonia is good on steel and glass.
The bag idea isn't bad, but I know 99% of the time I will just want to throw some parts in there and flip the switch.

Perhaps I can do both, an alkali cleaner in the tank, and if I absolutely have the need for something stronger I can bag it.

Again, I can't really use anything too strong as the shop is unvented, and small. Outside is really not an option as it will weigh about 300lbs full of water and there is a pretty steep ramp just outside the door. Thus the need for a decent, mild all around cleaner.

It does have a drain, so I could get a few buckets and drain out a cleaner if I have to, but that goes back to the part about warehousing stuff that I already don't have room for.
LPS Precision Clean
MSC #: 31733306
If you look at the LPS MSDS sheet, it's diluted Sodium Metasilicate, just like Oil Eater, ZEP Patio Cleaner, ...


Purple Power, Greased Lightning, ZEP Purple et al are a different composition based on sodium hydroxide (lye):


A lot of the commercial ultrasonic cleaning solutions are dilute ammonia with a touch of soap to emulsify the dirt. I use Parson's Ammonia Cleaner in my ultrasonic cleaner -- works great.
A good cleaner that can be heated and is user friendly is D/solve from brownells.$129.23/5gals or$37.14/1gal. 1 gal makes 5gals.or make it stronger if you want.
Wow, I didn't know you could post here unregistered, sounds like an open door for Spammers!

I think I'm going to start cheap, easy, and flushable... dishsoap. Looking at the MSDS from a lot of those cleaners, I don't think many of the alkili cleaners are a whole lot different anyway.

A lot of those cleaners (thank you all for the links) look like exactly what I need, but they don't list pricing and I have a good feeling if I have to ask...

lazlo, I regularly clean EDM parts in acidic soloutions, either Hydrochloric (toilet bowl cleaner) or Phosphoric (AC500 EDM cleaner). Works like a champ, and I will probably make a small stainless dish to clean smaller parts with in acid as well in my large unit. Don't be scared of a little acid! Acid's are not flamable, just make sure you avoid the fumes!

If all I was doing was steel and stainless steel, I'd use an acid cleaner full time, but I intend to do aluminum, plastics etc. And I don't want acid fumes from a 30 gallon ultrasonic cleaner in my small shop either ;)