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Anyone here use an ultrasonic cleaner?

JameyJamey Posts: 2,152
edited February 2009 in Workshop
I've used an ultrasonic cleaner on bike parts before, on a maintenance course and I was very impressed with the results so I've decided to splash out on one, but I'm wondering what's the best thing to fill it with.

I've been reading up online and most of the blurb says you can use plain tap water or add a little washing-up liquid but (a) I know washing-up liquid is bad for bikes (salt etc) and (b) most of the stuff I've read is geared towards jewellery and CD/DVD cleaning rather than gunky bike parts.

So I thought I'd ask here in case anybody on these forums uses one and has found out which solution is best. I've read about some people filling the tank with white spirit but then some of the official FAQs say you should never use flammable liquid in an ultrasonic cleaner. What about citrus degreser maybe? Or is plain tap water fine?


  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    I'd use a degreaser - something like some diluted Fenwicks
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • carefulcareful Posts: 720
    Large industrial ones use nasty solvents such as trichloroethylene but these can be harmful if inhaled (and can cause dermatitis after frequent skin contact). I would go with the maker's guidance although citrus degreaser souds ok (a bit expensive though). In any case avoid too much skin contact with any degreasers.
  • White spirit is good for cleaning bits. Put what you need to cover the componet in a plastic beaker or similar container and place that in the tank and float it with water.

    The small cleaners that Maplins , Aldi and Lidl sell are OK for small light parts, but certainly not powerful enough for a chain.

    Fine for front and rear mechs, and not a lot else.

    When finished cleaning them, it can be beneficial to put the parts in a bath of oil and US clean them to reimpregnate the bushes/bearing surfaces
    Recipe: shave legs sparingly, rub in embrocation and drizzle with freshly squeezed baby oil.
  • How do? I'm new around here been lurking for a bit and I thought I'd chip in as I I've used a bit of ultrasound for my cleaning needs.

    Anyhooze, I work in a lab where I can get my hands on an ultrasonic cleaner and more solvents than you can shake a sick at. So...... if I'm at work I favour some dichloromethane for some full-on degreasing action, but seeing as you won't be able to get your hands on any and it's serious stuff let me tell you about my home cleaning habits.

    After a few comments about my, "cleaning bike bits at work again Nick?" antics, I finally got my own ultrasonic cleaner off ebay. I spent about £40 to get one with a bit of grunt that will actually clean anything rather than just move stuff about a bit. I find a bit of washing-up liquid some hot water is usually does the trick, (if you're worried about salt, just give it a rinse in water afterwards). If it's greasy, give it a whirl in some degreaser and job'll be a good'un. You could also use white spirit or any other flammable solvent without too much risk of catching fire, but if you're using solvents you're best off putting them in some sort of container sitting in some water.
  • rockmountrockmount Posts: 761
    Monty Dog wrote:
    I'd use a degreaser - something like some diluted Fenwicks


    Have one in work, use a Decon bio degradable detergent, I reckon Fenwicks would do just great.
    .. who said that, internet forum people ?
  • JameyJamey Posts: 2,152
    Vestanpeace - when you say you spent extra to get one with a bit of oomph, are you talking about the power of the unit in watts or are you talking about the frequency?

    This is the one I've just bought: ... _info.html

    Although I didn't pay anywhere near that much for it - I got mine off eBay. Does that have enough power, do you think? I went for that one because my cassette is big (11-32t) and I needed a bigger tank to fit it in.

    Let me know if you think that's suitable, please. Would appreciate your opinion.

    Might try using that cheap Daisy cleaner from Tesco (the one without salt) first and maybe Fenwicks later if it seems like the Daisy isn't doing the business.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Whats wrong with normal citrus degreaser ?
  • Hi Jamey. I nearly got a cleaner like that and I reckon it's got enough power, I think it's 50W or more you want. It's the ones for £20 or less which are a bit rubbish and they don't really have enough room for bigger stuff anyway.

    Citrus degreaser is fine, just try a few things and see what works best. I find a bit of degreaser and then a rinse in washing-up liquid or water works really well.
  • JameyJamey Posts: 2,152
    If I use citrus degreaser, should I put it in a separate beaker/tub which I then lower into the tank of the cleaner (which is filled with water)? Will the ultrasonic waves be able to penetrate the side of the tub? I'd probably use tupperware, which is pretty thick plastic.
  • robbarkerrobbarker Posts: 1,367
    As you probably saw I think a parts washer and old toothbrush are a better bet! ... t-cabinets
  • JameyJamey Posts: 2,152
    Sorry, I'm not for turning :)

    Was really impressed with the cleaning I saw. Perfectly sparkling parts with zero effort and zero muck under the fingernails. That's worth £36 in my book.
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 9,647
    Excuse my ignorance, but these work in that you put the piece of hardware immersed in water in the tank, and switch it on for what, an hour or longer and it comes out clean.....?

    Sounds great!
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • JameyJamey Posts: 2,152
    Daniel B wrote:
    Excuse my ignorance, but these work in that you put the piece of hardware immersed in water in the tank, and switch it on for what, an hour or longer and it comes out clean.....?

    Sounds great!

    Three minutes is usually long enough, and yes, you've got it right on the process.

    And yes, it's great :)

    But, as others have said, the cheaper models have very small tanks, certainly not big enough for my cassette. Best to go for a slightly larger (and hopefully more powerful) one.
  • I used to make these for a company called Branson.

    Fenwicks cleaner should be fine. I would recommend that you give them as rough clean before you put them in the ultrasonic bath though otherwise it will take a very long time in a low power bath. Just use the USB to give the final sparkle and clean the areas you can't reach with a toothbrush. Either that or by a "proper" 3kW industrial version that'll take your skin off.... :D
  • JameyJamey Posts: 2,152
    Cheers, I have been finding that I need to run it a few times on the longest cycle for really greasy stuff but I can't be arsed to clean things before using the Ultrasonic simply because the whole reason i bought the thing was so I could cut down on doing things by hand. Just want to drop things in and forget about them until they're clean.

    Hmmm... 3kW, you say... Tempting :) How much we talking here?
  • A few grand - not really for home use. Wish I'd nabbed one when the company closed though....
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