How to use an ultrasonic cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaners make short work of the most fiddly and delicate cleaning jobs.

Ultrasonic cleaners use high-frequency sound waves to create tiny bubbles. As those bubbles expand and explode, they remove materials that cling to the surface of objects. You could use an ultrasonic cleaner to restore your jewellery's sparkle or to remove stubborn dirt deposits from a bike chain.

How does ultrasonic cleaning work?
If you were playing music through a waterproof speaker and placed it in a bucket of water, you'd see the water ripple due to the sound waves coming from the speaker. An ultrasonic cleaner works on a similar principle.

When an ultrasonic sound wave hits water it rapidly creates bubbles. Those bubbles expand and then burst. When they burst against the surface of an object they dislodge anything sticking to that surface.

The formation of those bubbles and their explosion is called cavitation. Ultrasonic cleaners contain a device called a transducer. This converts electrical energy into ultrasonic sound that can't be heard by the human ear – this causes cavitation.

How to use an ultrasonic cleaner
If you're planning to clean small objects such as jewellery, a small ultrasonic cleaner will do the trick.

Step 1
Fill the ultrasonic cleaner's tank with water and add a small amount of a suitable cleaning solution. The amount of water and cleaning solution you add will depend on the size of the cleaner's tank, so be sure to read the instructions before you start.

Step 2
Carefully place the objects you wish to clean into the tank. It's a good idea to wear gloves so you don't get any of the cleaning solution on your skin.

Step 3
Connect the ultrasonic cleaner to mains power and turn it on. Many ultrasonic cleaners will automatically power off at the end of a cleaning cycle, which is around three minutes.

Step 4
Once the cleaning cycle is finished, remove the items you cleaned and allow them to dry. Empty the cleaner's tank and let it dry before packing it away.

Choosing the right ultrasonic cleaner
If you plan to clean large objects, a large and powerful ultrasonic cleaner is a useful addition to your workshop. Larger cleaners often have different power settings and allow you to set a timer so you can control how long an object is cleaned for.

Tank size is important. If you're planning to use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove grime from engine parts or tools, then investing in a larger cleaner is worth considering. If you're concerned about using cleaning solutions for your delicate items, you may find you get a great result by simply relying on cavitation with clean water.

An ultrasonic cleaner can really help speed up many cleaning tasks. Whether you're giving a special object a once-over, getting your glasses crystal clear or removing the grime from an engine component, there are lots of ways to use one of these handy devices.

-August 2020

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