Using an Ultrasonic Cleaner

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by jevoltin, Aug 24, 2006.

  1. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    I am in the process of cleaning about 75 Athearn HO engines (mostly diesel) and a few Rivarossi HO scale steam locomotives. All of these had been stored for maybe 10 years, probably in a hot environment like an attic. I have been disassembling and cleaning by hand with good results, but this process is fairly slow. I am curious if it would be safe to use an ultrasonic cleaner on a major portion of each engine. I have seen periodic mention of using ultrasonic cleaners, but I'm uncertain of what parts/assemblies can be safely put in an ultrasonic cleaner.

    Taken to the extreme, I have seen advertisements that show entire engines placed in an ultrasonic cleaner.

    I'm also curious what cleaners and/or detergents are recommended for such an ultrasonic cleaning operation.
  2. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    I just posted in a thread about my swap meet locos that I completely disassembled all the F7's I bought there and put them in an ultrasonic cleaner. I used an industrial-strengh degreaser and water. Many of the parts, including some motors were corroded from being in water. The ultrasonic cleaned everything great. After the motors dried, every one of them ran.

    I tired about a year ago to put some diesel engines in the ultrasonic without disassembling them, and they were a bit more difficult to get running. I'm considering taking them all apart again and doing it all over, this time disassembled. I put all the small screws, driveshafts and other small parts in a small strainer and cleaned them up as well. I even put the shells in there for a few minutes. The cleaner took care of all the corrosion, but left pitting where it ate into the housing. That would have happened no mater how I cleaned the parts.

    So far so good, now to reassemble and see if everything runs and looks as good as I hope for.:D
  3. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    Thanks for describing your experiences. I had read your previous posting with interest, but this reply provided some additional detail. It sounds like I can save quite a bit of time by disassembling the engines, but using the ultrasonic cleaner to remove all of the dirt, grease, etc.

    Did you follow the industrial degreaser cleaning with an ultrasonic cycle in just clean water (to rinse the parts)? I'm concerned about residues from various cleaners, degreasers, etc.
  4. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    As you can tell, I'm impressed with the job it does. You should see what it does to jewlery. :thumb:

    I used about a 50/50 mix of cleaner and water. The degreaser was non-solvant based, and not abrasive. That was probably a bit lower ratio than they recommend (they say anywhere from 1:32 up to 1:6.5 dependent on the application). I kept most parts in from about one minute to no longer than about ten minutes. I gave all the parts a rinsing under a water spray since I didn't want to keep changing the cleaning solution. I took them outside and air dried them which never takes long around here.:D After cleaning ten sets of engine parts, the solution was absolutely mucky dirty, so it really did its job.:thumb::thumb:
  5. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

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    Don i use 96% aclohol in mine mixed with nothing WARNING but don't put painted objects in it unsee you want to strip them.:( the most i do is to remove the shells off locos.
  6. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    Does the alcohol ever remove paint from trucks, etc. that are visible after the shell is replaced on the engine?
  7. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

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    I've not had any factory paint on metal come off in the alchol but then its never in there more that 3 or 4 min at a time,that the best i can tell you. i do use it for stripping plastic shells though.
  8. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    That's good to know. I think I'll try it on a couple of scrap shells before I put in some good ones. I'm not that crazy about putting volitile stuff in my ultrasonic. I tried it once and it got so hot I couldn't touch it and it finally shut down before I could turn it off.:rolleyes: :rolleyes: I can't remember what I put in it, but it might have been acatone or laquer thinner. :D
  9. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

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    Don mine is a home made affair as are most of my modeling tools it has a stanless body and i never recall that the alcohol getting hot but i do take every precaution with as any volitile stuff i use.
  10. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

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    Thanks, Don... that was some great info. Thanks for sharing.

    Bob
  11. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    Thanks for all of the suggestions. Now, I need to buy a few supplies and begin experimenting. Off to the store...
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

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    I bought an ultrasonic denture cleaner many years ago. I used it on old Lionel trucks and I liked the job it did but it didn't clean the wheel treads -- they had to be scraped.
    I just used water with a tad of wetting agent. What commercial cleaner is there?
    The denture cleaner doesn't hold anything larger than a Lionel truck as the lid has to be on.
  13. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    What type of alcohol do people recommend? Isopropyl Alcohol?
  14. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    David, What wetting agent do you recommend?
  15. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

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    Yeah, just plain old rubbing alcohol. I was buying mine at the 99 cent store until one day I noticed that they changed from 70% down to 50%. As Jim points out, you can get it at 96% but I'm guessing the cost is a lot higher than the deluted stuff. I've never given it a thought to use it in my ultrasonic until Jim mentioned that's what he uses. I'm going to try it next time and see how well it works. Not as harsh as acetone and I like that.
  16. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

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    Don i get mine in mexico for less than 3$ a liter in the states you can get Everclear at a liquor store but don't know the price , another sorce would be a racing store might be cheeper.
  17. trainman4

    trainman4 Member

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    ultrasonic cleaner

    I've used one of those cleaners on some of my Nscale engines using 70%Alcohol and it did the job ok.I first removed the shells as i wasn't sure about the results.I was happy with the results. I did it on some old bachamn diesels and i did put a steam engine in after taking the shell off.:thumb:
  18. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    Thanks for all of the good advice, descriptions of past experiences, etc.
  19. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

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    John: I probably used liquid detergentor liquid soap. I have one of those liquid soap pump bottles; when it's nearly empty I fill it with water and mix. I don't know if it works or not but I've just found two more trucks to clean.
  20. jevoltin

    jevoltin Member

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    This evening I performed an experiment using alcohol in my ultrasonic cleaner. I put an old shell in 70% isopropyl for about five minutes (two minutes followed by three minutes). The paint in some areas came loose and many other areas look unaffected. In certain areas, entire patches are now the original black plastic. I was hoping for a more uniform stripping action, not patchey stripping.

    I suspect there are two possible problems.

    1. More concentrated alcohol may be required. I only used 70%.

    2. More time may be needed to remove factory paint.

    Can anyone comment on these observations? Otherwise, I will continue with my experiments.