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What Can You Clean with an Ultrasonic Cleaner?

Cleaning parts with ultrasonics

An ultrasonic cleaner, also called a sonic cleaner or ultrasonic washer, is an electronic cleaning device that uses sound waves to clean objects. Ultrasonic cleaners are available in various sizes and can be used to clean a wide range of items, including automotive parts, medical devices, jewelry, dental instruments, eyeglasses, and more.

If you're considering using ultrasonic cleaning to make your facility more efficient, you need to know if this technology can complete the job you have in mind. So you may be asking, what can ultrasonic cleaners clean? Read on to find out.

How Does an Ultrasonic Cleaner Work?

Ultrasonic cleaners use high frequency sound waves (produced by an ultrasonic transducer) to create cavitation bubbles in a cleaning liquid. When the ultrasonic cavitation bubbles collapse, they create a cleaning action that can remove debris, dirt, grease, and other deposits from surfaces.

The ultrasonic energy produced by high frequency sound waves helps to loosen deposits that are difficult to remove with traditional cleaning methods. As a result, ultrasonic cleaners can be used for a wide variety of cleaning applications. Most ultrasonic cleaners operate at frequencies between 20 kHz and 400 kHz and typically use water or a water-based solution as the cleaning fluid.

What Are Typical Applications for Ultrasonic Cleaners?

The number of items that can benefit from ultrasonic cleaning is vast. The reason? There are just two basic eligibility requirements before something can be cleaned in this manner. The cavitation that powers ultrasonic cleaning and scrubs contaminants off parts will only occur in a liquid environment. As such, you must be able to immerse the item without causing damage. Some qualifying items might surprise you.

For instance, most of us would react with horror at the idea of combining electronics and water, but as long as proper drying techniques are used, an ultrasonic washer will not only clean electronic components, but also clean them more quickly and completely than any other method.

The second requirement is that the part can be dried relatively easily. This eliminates items that are absorbent, but most others can simply be air dried with a blower. For this reason, ultrasonic cleaning is used to remove unwanted materials from everything from jewelry to long rifles, from super-delicate lenses to massive engine parts, from surgical instruments to motherboards. You may be wondering if ultrasonic waves will damage relatively brittle materials, such as glass or ceramics. The ultrasonic cleaning process is perfectly safe for these materials.

Cleaning isn't the only application sonic cleaners are used for. For example, by using a nitric or citric acid solution in the ultrasonic tank, you can passivate stainless steel.

What Contaminants Do Ultrasonic Cleaners Remove?

In general, as long as a contaminant can be removed from the surface it's on, it can be removed with an ultrasonic cleaner. Contaminants that might require time-consuming applications of elbow grease can be lifted free in a few minutes. That's why, to cite one application, disaster restoration firms will use ultrasonic cleaning to remove soot from smoke-damaged items. For an example of the dramatic results users can see, watch this short video of filth being blasted off the surface of a copper part.

Ultrasonic cleaning will remove anything from common dirt and engine sludge to the sort of oily chemicals that can prevent paints and other coatings from adhering to finished products. This includes lubricants, grease, buffing and polishing compounds, cutting oils, and more. One of the few things ultrasonic cleaning won't remove is spores and viruses. If you're cleaning medical instruments, they will need sterilization after other contaminants are removed in your ultrasonic washer.

One thing to bear in mind is that you need to select the ideal ultrasonic cleaning solution for the task at hand. For example, a mildly alkaline cleaning solution is suitable for most general cleaning applications whereas tougher jobs may require a highly caustic detergent.

Is an Ultrasonic Washer Right for You?

If there's doubt about whether ultrasonic cleaning is the right fit, we’re happy to offer free testing. You can arrange to submit a typical item from your facility and our staff will test clean it, providing you with detailed results and proving the cleaning effectiveness of our sonic cleaners.

Our customers have blasted grime off everything from golf clubs to oil refinery equipment, from Venetian blinds to nuclear waste cleaning robots. But if you'd like more information on how some of our customers used these highly reliable machines in an industrial environment to reduce costs and deliver a cleaner product, you may want to learn about Ushers Machine and Tool or download Ultrasonics to the Rescue, a case study of the results seen by Componex.

Contact us today for help choosing the best ultrasonic cleaner for your needs and for more information about any of our units, including configurations, tank capacity, and custom options.