General Guidance for Buying an Ultrasonic Cleaner

General Guidance for Buying an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Ultrasonic Firearm Cleaning by Richard MacLean
General Guidance for Buying an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Essential/Highly Desirable
Most units for gun cleaning operate around 40 kHz. This provides the
best, all-around cleaning.
80-90 watts per gallon depending on efficiency of generator. Some
manufacturers have more efficient generator/transducer power generation
than others.
Critical to prevent surface damage.
Tank size
Depends on intended application and should have matching cover.
Minimum would be one handgun frame.
Cleaning solutions
Use only relatively odorless, nonflammable and nontoxic cleaners. Doit-yourself cleaning solutions not recommended and can harm finishes.
Purchase only firearm-specific chemicals such as those offered by
Brownells. Be mindful of recommended dilution ration of concentrate
and overall costs.
Lubricating solutions
Use only low flash point lubricants recommended by manufacturers.
Cleaning process
Depends on individual preferences, intended applications, and
manufacturer’s recommendations. Overall process times can vary
significantly with different manufacturers.
Essentially all units have solid-state construction for reliability.
Drain spigot
Essential for tanks over 2 gallon capacity.
Essential to keep parts off of the tank bottom. If you make homemade
suspension devices, see text comments.
Heater output sufficient to warm up the solution within 30 minutes.
Varies widely and especially on tank size. See text for discussion.
Minimum one year.
Most are now ceramic piezoelectric. The key is to have a sufficient
number to achieve the 80-90 watts-per-gallon range.
Lubrication pan
It is best to ultrasonic lubricate if you ultrasonic clean. This ensures
water displacement and coating is complete in all the nooks and crannies.
Desirable but Costly/Available in Some High-End Units
Automatic degassing
Gets entrapped gasses out prior to cleaning.
Effective for getting cleaning action into hard-to-reach places.
Modulated or “sweep”
Helps prevent damage from standing waves.
Power control
Higher power levels are required for deep tanks filled with heavy parts.
Manual or automatic
Expands your ability to use the unit for other tasks (e.g., when a higher
frequency adjustment
frequency is needed to remove smaller particles or surface damage to
delicate parts is a concern).
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Ultrasonic Firearm Cleaning by Richard MacLean
Summary Of Key Dos & Don’ts
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.
Closely monitor performance to further refine your own cleaning process; there is a learning
curve where you will see what the system can and can’t do.
Use commercial solutions specifically designed for firearms.
Fill the tanks with the power cord unplugged.
Use in a well-ventilated area.
Disassemble as far as practicable.
Keep the parts properly spaced and suspended above the bottom.
Follow local regulations for spent solutions that may contain lead.
Get the loosened gunk out of trapped areas either by disassembly and mechanical cleaning or by
using compressed air.
Thoroughly rinse and dry parts and immediately coat to prevent rust.
Lubricate as per the firearm manufacturer’s recommendations after cleaning.
Filter the solutions and clean your tank routinely; the manufacturer’s recommendations should be
the minimum.
Make up evaporation loss with fresh water.
Check pins and screws that may have loosened up after the crud was removed.
Wash hands; the solutions may contain lead
Before you buy a used industrial unit, do the necessary research to check if it has the proper
operating frequencies and power loading.
Work outside the recommended cleaning times.
Use homemade solutions.
Overload the tank.
Place wooden “furniture” in the tank.
Smoke while operating the unit; the solutions may contain lead.
Put hands directly in tank when it is operating.
Use compressed air to blow out gunk at such a high pressure that it atomizes the cleaner/lube and
creates a health hazard.
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Ultrasonic Firearm Cleaning by Richard MacLean
What Ultrasonic Cleaners Do Best
Rapidly clean parts.
Clean intricate parts and assemblies without disassembly e.g., trigger mechanisms.
Clean sealed units, provided that the design allows for the draining or manual removal of the
What Ultrasonic Cleaners Can Not Do
Extract loosened crud from tightly enclosed areas such as firing pin channels.
Remove extremely heavy carbon or lead deposits without scrubbing.
Clean soft, shiny materials at low frequencies without surface erosion.
Remove more than just superficial rust and tarnish from steel and brass, respectively.
This article would not have been possible without the assistance of the following individuals,
organizations, and companies:
Bob Ford, Bear Coat Gun Finishes; Branson Ultrasonics; Chris Peters, Metaloy Industries; Crest
Ultrasonics; Dr. Lawrence Crum, University of Washington; Fran Rickenbach, Ultrasonic Industry
Association; Glock USA; Greg Infante, Police Products Corporation; Jennifer Dorywalski, Sharpertek
USA; Lyman Products; Mike Kodner, Ultrasonic Power Corporation; Monty Crain, Brownells; Rachel
Kohn, Tovatech; RCBS; Robbie Barrkman, The Robar Companies; Sam Bass, Heckler & Koch USA;
TechPlate; Tom Bowers, Bowers Group; Trijicon.
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