Tips wanted on using an ultrasonic cleaner in the home shop
Close
Login to Your Account
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 36
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    South Carolina
    Posts
    889
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    3
    Likes (Received)
    79

    Post

    Hi,
    I just acquired a good quality ultrasonic cleaner and would value any experience on their use in the home shop.

    It is a Branson 5 gallon cleaner and appears to work properly except for the heater.

    I expect to use it for general parts cleaning. What particular uses have you found for ultrasonic cleaning and what cleaning solutions have served you best?

    Branson has a good website but I'm looking for practical experience.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    northeast
    Posts
    1,721
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    7

    Post

    You should have a parts basket but for the much smaller cleaner that I have, I've found various sized cooking strainers to be invaluable for small parts. For extremely small parts, I stole a stainless steel tea infuser from my wife. This thing is stainless steel mesh about the size of a golf ball and is split in two, spring loaded. You could safely do even watch parts in one of these without loosing them.

    As far as what to do with it, I've used it many times when cleaning old machine hardware from parts that have been disassembled. I'll load it up with greasy bolts, washers, nuts, springs, etc. and use about 50:50 Simple Green and hot water to wash. The wash gets followed by a hot water rinse, dump the load onto an old towel and jiggly them around. Finally, they get dipped into Starret M1 but any water displacing solvent that leaves behind some protection is probably fine.

    Simple Green is alkaline and I've found that it will leave behind sort of an irridescence on aluminum if you don't get in and out quickly.

    Another cheap, non-ultrasonic cleaner that works well in other cases is Pine Sol. On N gauge hobby railroad stuff, it degreases nicely and I've used it to strip the paint off several locomotives without harming the bodies. The solution strength is somewhat important in this case.

    Den

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    4,303
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1259
    Likes (Received)
    1189

    Post

    I recently starting using a cheap Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaner in my home shop, and I *love* it. They're especially good at cleaning the crap out of intricate metal pieces, like screw threads.

    The best cleaning solution I've found it ammoniated household cleaner in a 50% solution with water. The ammoniated cleaners are actually rather hard to find these days. I've been using Parson's ammoniated cleaner from Walmart. Others swear by Mr. Clean with Ammonia, but I can't find it -- it appears to have been replaced by Mr. Clean "Antibacterial", which is Sodium Hydroxide (lye) -- no ammonia.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    peekskill, NY
    Posts
    24,213
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    4410

    Post

    The heater makes a *big* difference, and here's
    why:

    The U/S cleaner works by creating tiny bubbles
    that implode, and the shock wave is what knocks
    the dirt loose. The bubbles are easier to
    form (cavitate) when the water is warmer, nearer
    to the boiling point.

    Any cleaner will heat the solution by itself
    because of the power being applied to the tank
    from the transducer - but you can speed things
    up by draining and re-filling the tank with
    hot water beforehand.

    I like to put the parts in a plastic beaker,
    with the solution or solvent I want to use, and
    put that into the hot water in the tank. Make
    the water level in the tank such that it equals
    the level of the solvent in the beaker, so the
    energy couples into the beaker best.

    For really greasy ugly stuff, I use plain WD40
    as the solvent, and for fine stuff I'm partial
    to alcohol.

    Jim

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    ohio-USA
    Posts
    1,339
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    85
    Likes (Received)
    25

    Post

    Jim- do your beakers tend to want to float when you put them into the hot water bath?

    Markus

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    315
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    9

    Post

    Biggest thing is keeping the tank clean. What I've found to work best is just putting parts in plastic bags with whatever cleaning solution I want and then dipping the bags in the tank. Plastic bags won't hamper the ultrasonic waves and I noticed no reduction in cleaning performance. Best part is that when the parts are clean, just pull the bag out of the tank and you're done. Keeps you from having to clean the tank and constantly draining it to change cleaning solutions.

  7. Likes bigfloyd, Edster liked this post
  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Boonville, NC 27011
    Posts
    670
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    5

    Post

    Anvil,

    I nominate you SmartGuy of the week. Great idea.

  9. Likes swiss blade liked this post
  10. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Jersey
    Posts
    3,934
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    283
    Likes (Received)
    485

    Post

    Damn,How come I didn't think of that idea!! Thanks anvil, I hate cleaning the tank. No more.

    my wheels don't slow me down

  11. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    98
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    2

    Post

    Do not clean ball or roller bearings in an ultrasonic cleaner. The vibriation of the components of the bearing will cause surface damage on the raceways and rollers or balls. We ran tests on several groups of bearings and found that even after a short cycle in the cleaner there was enough damage to cause rough noisy operation when we tested the bearings in a noise test machine. This program was initiated when customers complained about noise after ultra sonic cleaning the rust inhibitor from new bearings, since it was not compatible with the lubricant they were using in the application.

    Ed

  12. Likes Edster, gggGary liked this post
  13. #10
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    4,303
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1259
    Likes (Received)
    1189

    Post

    What I've found to work best is just putting parts in plastic bags with whatever cleaning solution I want and then dipping the bags in the tank.
    I do this with glass spaghetti or pickle jars. The glass transmits the ultrasonic energy like it wasn't even there -- just make sure that the water level outside the jar is pretty close to the level inside the jar.

    The nice thing about using glass jars is that you can use solvents. After I'm finished using my spray painting rig I disassemble the gun and put the parts in a glass jar full of lacquer thinner, and then put the jar into the ultrasonic tank filled with water. The spray gun parts are squeaky clean in 4 minutes.

    Same idea for grungy, rusty parts from machinery or machine tools I'm cleaning/restoring: I throw the parts into a jar of Ed's Red (homemade gun cleaning solvent) and let it rip for 4 minutes. It won't take off all the rust (although it does remove flaked rust), but the parts are completely cleaned and degreased after 4 minutes.

  14. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Canberra, Australia
    Posts
    592
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    0

    Post

    Don't be tempted to put heavy items on the bottom of the tank. The ceramic elements that generate the ultrasonic energy can be broken or unglued by distortion of the tank. Always use a basket or suspend with bare wire.
    Soft stuff put in the tank will absorb energy, so glass containers are best, followed by rigid plastic. Thin plastic bags are a neat idea I haven't tried.
    Just because you can see the dirt pouring out of holes etc. it doesn't mean the items are clean. They are now in a dilute suspension of dirt, if you want to get perfect cleanliness you need to sonicate in five changes of clean solvent, and even then there is sometimes stuff that will wipe off. Dirty tank water is like washing in dirty dishwater.

    - Mike -

  15. #12
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    JAPAN
    Posts
    1,225
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    10

    Post

    I have a small one that I either use hot soapy dishwashing liquid in or window glass cleaner.

  16. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    peekskill, NY
    Posts
    24,213
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    4410

    Post

    Plastic beakers or containers do tend to float
    if the parts are small or light, and the solvent
    level in the beaker is too low.

    Also it is correct, in principle, that one
    should avoid putting heavy items right on the
    bottom of the tank.

    If one keeps the beaker barely sitting down
    (by adding or dipping water out of the tank)
    one can keep most of the weight off the
    transducers.

    I've never had trouble with that but some
    cleaners suspend the containers or beakers
    though cut-out holes in the cover. This
    really is the prime way to do it.

    Jim

  17. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    South Carolina
    Posts
    889
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    3
    Likes (Received)
    79

    Post

    Thanks for all the tips. This group always amazes me with the collective experience and willingness to share.
    Much appreciated.
    Jim S

  18. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Lagrange, OH
    Posts
    16
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    1

    Post

    I have a CAE Blackstone 1.9 gallon cleaner that I use for pretty much anything that will fit in the tank. If you have ever cleaned a DIRTY revolver before, you know how much work that can be. Using a concentrated cleaner recently made by L&R even cleaned out the bore... After four cleaning patches it was as clean as it has even been. My buddy tossed in his semiauto .22 and we didn't even field strip it to see how it would perform. Took everything off. Amazing. It has had it's share of carb and misc car parts in it too with similar results.

    Likewise, I have cleaned parts with solvents using a glass jar to hold the part with the solvent inside the jar while suspended in the tank. This is the only way to safely use a flammable solvent in an ultrasonic cleaner. I use one of those "squeeze clamps" to hold the mouth of the jar. Then I clamp the end of that clamp with another clamp to the top of the tank (I have a bench top model so it has a generous top). Recently, I cleaned a fuel injector that was stuck open in fuel injector cleaner with excellent results. That plastic bag trick is a great idea, can't wait to try that out...

    One item that I didn't see mentioned was the degassing the solvent. Anytime you fill the tank this should be done for approximately 10 minutes. All you have to do is turn the ultrasonics on in an empty tank. The reason for this is to get out the oxygen that is in the solution. You should see small bubbles coming to the surface when you do this. You want the oxygen out because it will act as a "cushion" and the cleaning won't be as efficient.

    If you feel that the cleaning power of your cleaner is lacking, I common test is to scribble on a ceramic stone with a pencil and then put in in the tank and see how long it takes to remove all the graphite. Another test is to put a strip of aluminum foil inside for a period of time (usually a few minutes) and see how perforated it gets. It is best to perform these tests when you first get your cleaner that way you can establish a "standard". Lastly as mentioned above even though you don't have a heated tank, the action of the ultrasonics will heat up the solution. Don't let your solution level drop below the fill level that should be on the side of the tank.

  19. Likes Stradbash liked this post
  20. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Williams Lake, BC, Canada
    Posts
    2,892
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    6

    Post

    I had a job in quality control once where one of the products was an alpha radiation counter. Alpha can't even penetrate a piece of paper so the counters had an air chamber at STP with a rubber membrane about the thickness of a soap bubble, Inside was a grid mounted on teflon standoffs connected to the input of a mosfet with a gain of 10 million. The standoffs had to be clean. Not just visibly clean but truly free of any contaminates whatever or they would conduct leakage current to the chamber wall.

    We used three ultrasonic baths in sequence. The first was acetone, the second was distilled water and the last was anhydrous ethyl alchohol. Between baths the parts were rinsed in pure water. The last bath removed any trace of water. That combination of solvents will remove just about any organic contamination in existence.

  21. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansaw
    Posts
    1,237
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    1

    Post

    I use Simple Green, Cascade, or just plan old dishwashing soap. I also have some weapons cleaner I bought from L&S. I use it on gun parts when I do not want to chance changing the finish. I love mine. I use it to clean almost everything. I wish I had one big enough for my dog.

    I really like the idea about using plastic bags and jars. What a great way to clean a spray gun. I learn something new every day.

    Good Night All

    Grits

  22. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansaw
    Posts
    1,237
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    1

    Post

    Something I left out. Tell your wife it is great to clean jewlery and it is an easy sale.

    Grits

  23. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Russellville, AR 72802
    Posts
    474
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    7
    Likes (Received)
    26

    Post

    When using simple green, the ultrasonic is good for getting dirt and oil from under your fingernails.

  24. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    MA
    Posts
    3
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    0

    Post

    What ever you do, don't clean pearls. They will shatter. I think there are some other gemstones that will shatter also.


Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •