The Chemistry Behind Ultrasonic Cleaning Solutions
Choosing the right ultrasonic solution for your product is just as important as choosing the right ultrasonic cleaner. The best way to start is by assessing what you are cleaning, the material it’s composed of, and the substance you’re removing from it. Ultrasonic technology can clean a wide range of objects from medical equipment to dental instruments to watches to industrial parts, but different solutions are better formulated to items made of different materials. Further, specific cleaners are more suited to the task of removing particular substances such as grease, oil, waxy compounds, or carbon residue from the item being cleaned than others. Overall, using solutions with a high volume of quality active ingredients is paramount.
How Ultrasonic Cleaners Work: The Cavitation Cleaning Process
Before cleaning your soiled items ultrasonically, it’s helpful to understand how this unique technology works. The ultrasonic machine converts electrical energy into ultrasonic energy, producing sound waves out of the human range of hearing. After adding your solution to the tank, ultrasonic waves form which are so strong you can see them pulsing throughout the water. These waves create cavitation bubbles which implode at rapid speeds operating as powerful microscopic vacuums. They collapse, releasing energy and matter inward. When the bubbles implode in the tank they pull debris off the material, thus cleaning it.
Use a Solution Specifically Designed for Ultrasonic Cleaning Machines
No matter what cleaning solution you use, experts recommend making sure it’s labeled as an ultrasonic cleaning solution. While it can be tempting to cut corners by using a dish detergent or an all purpose cleaning fluid in your ultrasonic cleaner, for the machine to work effectively, you need a solution designed for what occurs when ultrasonic energy is injected into liquid. Ultrasonic cleaning requires a solution with a certain viscosity and a specific density for high frequency sound waves to form properly.
Jim Ferone, L&R’s Chief Chemist, says that using solutions specifically designed for ultrasonic cleaners is imperative because some other products have ingredients in them that will attack the material you’re trying to clean (such as aluminum) and could also damage your cleaning unit. It’s also ineffective to simply use water in an ultrasonic tank to remove soil from your items. Specially designed ultrasonic cleaning solutions work perfectly on different metals, ceramics, composite materials, and even plastics. Finding the right cleaning solution that is suited for the material you’re cleaning is key.
Some Materials Require a Two-Step Cleaning Process
When iron or metal alloys that contain iron are placed in a water based solution they could rust or become damaged. For these materials, the best practice is to use a two-step solvent or petroleum based cleaning process. First, you process the item with the cleaning solution and then rinse it with the solvent.
Cleaning items this way prevents them from rusting. You’ll leave some residual cleaner on the item after the cleaning cycle which is why it’s essential to follow the first step with a final rinse to remove it.
Ultrasonic gun cleaning also requires a two-step process: cleaning and lubricating. Overall, using solutions with a high volume of quality active ingredients is paramount. L&R’s non-ammoniated safety ultrasonic weapon cleaning solution is a great choice for removing tough oils, greases, and carbon from gun parts. Then the safety ultrasonic weapon lubricating solution conditions and lubricates the gun afterwards. Cleaning your guns ultrasonically allows you to access all their grooves and crevices that you can’t reach manually.
Many Materials Can Be Cleaned with an Aqueous Solution
Aqueous ultrasonic cleaning solutions are water-based, solvent free degreasers. They can be used to clean most metals including stainless steel, carbon steel, brass, copper, magnesium, as well as most plastics, ceramics, and composite materials. These solutions are easy to use, especially compared to manual cleaning methods—you simply clean your item in the properly diluted solution in your ultrasonic machine and then rinse it with water.
Another benefit of these solvent-free solutions is that in some cases you can heat the solution when using this type of chemistry to achieve an even deeper clean. However, heating up the solution when cleaning plastic is not recommended because the material could deform.
L&R’s solvent free (SF) cleaning line includes the SF-1 Solvent Free Degreaser which is phosphate free, non-toxic, and water-based. It is completely free of glycol ethers or hazardous solvents. L&R’s SF-50 Heavy Duty Degreaser is a biodegradable concentrate formulated for carbonaceous soils, greases and oils. In addition, the SF-50 is safe to use on most aluminum alloys at temperatures below 140°F. These two solutions are better for the environment since they are water-based.
Industrial Applications for Water-Based Solutions
In addition, solvent free solutions are optimal for industrial parts cleaning because they are designed to remove light oils, greases and soils from a wide array of materials including aluminum, stainless steel, copper, brass, magnesium, 3D printing parts as well as some plastics. Aqueous solutions are the ideal partner for your ultrasonic machine in a wide range of industrial cleaning applications including parts finishing, parts detailing, metal finishing, pre-treatment, degreasing, and batch processing. Cleaning your industrial parts with water-based solutions results in an immaculate job every time and you can even clean interior cracks and crevices.
An Enzyme Solution is Best for Breaking Down Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats
If you’re a dental or medical professional seeking out a product to remove organic debris and residues, biofilm, inorganic soils, tissue, mucous, and blood from instruments and medical equipment, an enzyme solution is ideal for your purposes. Some enzymes eat protein, some eat blood, some eat fat, some eat amino acids. Ultradose Enzyme Plus, complete with three different enzymes does it all, providing a broad spectrum cleaning job. This solution is safe to use on stainless steel, plastics, glass rubber and aluminum and attacks protein chains at a molecular level. Moreover, it promotes infection prevention and instrument reprocessing.
Water-Based Solutions are Optimal for Cleaning Jewelry
Using a water-based ammoniated product safe for gold, silver, diamonds, precious metals and gemstones to clean your jewelry will lead to the best results. Some people opt for homemade solutions, but we strongly recommend against this because exposing your jewelry to excessive levels of ammonia can discolor or damage your gold jewelry or cause fracture-filled diamonds to appear cloudy. L&R’s Ellanar Ammoniated Jewelry Cleaner Concentrate keeps jewelry clean, shiny, and luminous without ever harming it if used as the manufacturer’s guidelines instruct. In addition, it’s a quick and simple process: you clean the jewelry in the ammoniated solution in the ultrasonic tank and then rinse it with water.
We also carry the Ellanar Non-Ammoniated Jewelry Cleaner Concentrate which is another ideal solution for all your jewelry cleaning needs. It is more suitable for use in close quarters or for people who find the scent of ammonia too strong.
Ultrasonic Cleaning Solutions for COVID-19 Infected Items
L&R’s Ultrasonic Germicidal solution is COVID-19 approved and has shown effectiveness against viruses similar to COVID-19 on hard non-porous surfaces. Ultradose Germicidal is also effective against other microorganisms such as HIV-1, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Trichophyton, salmonella, Staphylococcus, Serratia Marcescens, Herpes Simplex, and mycobacterium bovis (TB). This cleaning solution can be used as a virucidal, tuberculocidal, fungicidal, germicidal and a deodorant and it eradicates residual microorganisms all in one easy step. Its dual purpose formula works as both an ultrasonic cleaning solution and a hospital grade disinfectant. In addition, it can be used as a pre-cleaning or post-cleaning soak.
Our Complimentary Cleaning Evaluation
Not sure if ultrasonic cleaning will work on your product? Send us a sample of the item you need cleaned plus a bit of information about its material composition and what you’re trying to remove. Our expert ultrasonic chemists and engineers are happy to clean the item in our lab and create a complimentary cleaning evaluation report to find out what the best solution and ultrasonic cleaning system are for you.
Our dedicated team prioritizes our customer’s satisfaction above all else. We have ninety years of experience developing ultrasonic cleaning solutions for customers representing a wide range of different industries. Over this span of time we’ve created and refined our solutions by responding to our customers’ evolving needs and the types of messes they want to clean. We value our customers’ comments, concerns and questions and are constantly searching for new ways to make our products even more effective and user-friendly.