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Ultrasonic Cleaning?

Discussion in 'Repairing your own Gear' started by Wayward Son, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. Wayward Son

    Wayward Son Solo Diver

    Greetings fellow wrench turners. I've decided to finally make the jump & start doing my own reg service this year.

    I have a mixture of vintage and late model scubapro, Some Mk5 and R109's as well as newer Mk2/Mk11/Mk25/G250V sets, so some chrome & some no chrome & plastic.

    Wondering about any how-to, tips & trick that are generally need to know about cleaning this stuff after disassembly?

    Nothing urgent, I have manuals to read (thanks rhwestfall!!!) and am making a list of tools & parts to get, but I expect to actually start on one set a bit later this winter.
    rhwestfall likes this.
  2. lowviz

    lowviz Solo Diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Northern Delaware or the New Jersey Turnpike
    You won't like this, but here goes:

    Save up for a Bransonic (or equivalent) ultrasonic bath. I used to be tech research support for a major pharm company. I repaired the industrial version of same as a favor. (I'm published, PM me.)

    The best test is to put warm water into the tub and see how long it takes for the tone to change. The ultrasonic energy will knock the dissolved gasses out of solution and then the power goes onto the part and the temp rises.

    Trick: put an asparagus can full of isopropanol into the buzzing solution. Put your part into that can for really hard to clean items. Dark secret: pyridine. (BEWARE! it kills any elastomer)

    Anyway, a cheap buzzer from Harbor Freight isn't the same by a long, long shot. Crap.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
    Sanpaku and Jax like this.
  3. spoolin01

    spoolin01 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: SF Bay Area, CA
    I degrease/clean with Simple Green in the sonicator, followed by a rinse and then sonicate in a dilution of white vinegar in water for final demineralizing. I rinse again with water, usually just in a bowl, then set out to dry. I use 10% or so of kitchen vinegar in water. You can use more, but it's not needed that I've found. Too much or too long can attack plating. I might forego the vinegar if the plating already looks worn or chipped. I usually go 8 minutes max at each step, not because it appears critical, that's just the most my jewelry cleaner will do at once. If the parts look free of scale and verdigris to begin with, I shorten the time. I clean both plastic and metal this way.

    Warm water at each step improves the process. I've got both a cheap jewelry cleaner and a lab model and I don't see a difference. The lighter jewelry model is the one I prefer using.
  4. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
  5. bl6394

    bl6394 Cave Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Mansfield, TX
    I bought the Harbor Freight cleaner. It was a toy and got thrown away.

    I've replaced it with an L&R Ultrasonic Cleaner from Global Scuba Mfg. If you're lucky - you might find a gently used Bransonic or L&R on eBay.

    Regarding the solvent - when I became a Scubapro equipment tech - they recommended the GSM Hydrosonic solvent. It's expensive - and there is a haz mat shipping charge - but it works well.

    Scubarpro regulator parts (even the plastic second stage bodies) are pretty durable - and most can be run through the bath - within reason. Some parts of some other manufacturers may have less sturdy construction - and are not recommended for the ultrasonic cleaner. Follow the mfg recommendation.
  6. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board Staff Member

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    I have yet to have a plastic item deteriorate or fail in my ultrasonic cleaner. I got it off of E-Bay and I use the expensive solution from Global. Most reg manufacturers ask that you DON'T use Simple Green on regs. Way too harsh on brass.
  7. Hickdive

    Hickdive Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Glasgow, UK
    Dilute Simple Green Crystal for normal cleaning. The same plus a teaspoon of citric acid powder for heavy cleaning. Dilute Virosol is more expensive alternative. Biox for degreasing. No more than 40 deg C temperature and no longer than 10 minutes per session. All parts must be fully immersed.

    You can clean and/or degrease anything metal or plastic without risk to chrome or discolouration of plastic following these simple rules.
  8. DA Aquamaster

    DA Aquamaster Directional Toast ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: NC
    If you are just doing your own regs there really isn't a need for a high dollar ultrasound machine, or high dollar cleaning solutions.

    The Harbor Freight cleaners are plastic cased, but they have a stainless steel tank that is 2.5 liters in size (although it's a little shallow), a non temperature adjustable 100 watt heater, and 80 watts of ultrasound. They work ok and can be found for around $75. You may need to keep stuff in it longer, but it'll get it done, and if you'e only doing your own regs once a year, it's enough.

    However for about twice the money you can get a Kendall commercial grade cleaner in 2L or 3L sizes for $125 and $150 respectively. They are all steel, and the 2 liter model (large enough for a single regulator) has 100 watts of heat and offer 60 watts of ultrasound. The 3 liter model has a 3" longer tank, enough for two regulators, and has 100 watts of heat and 120 watts of ultrasound.

    An E-bay search will show several industrial ultrasound machines in 2, 3 6, and 10 liter sizes that all appear to be made by the same company. The specifications look ok, but I don't know how well they actually work.

    I have a gallon of the $60 Global solution in the closet and it's been there a few years. You use it straight from the bottle, so folks who use it tend to use it until it's really bad looking, and that's less than good.

    I prefer Blue Gold for ultrasonic and O2 cleaning, as well as for O2 cleaning tanks. It is horribly over priced in dive shops and on dive store web sites at about $90 per gallon, however you can get 5 gallons of it for about $150 (shipped) through an aviation supply company. It's used for cleaning jet turbine parts and despite being used for aircraft purposes, they don't rip you off by marking the price up 300%. You dilute it 30 to 1 for ultrasonic cleaning purposes and 15-1 to 20-1 for O2 cleaning purposes, so a gallon goes a long way. Buy five gallons and use it for decades, or do a group buy split it five ways and invest all of $30 into 30 gallons of ultrasound solution - 1/60th the cost of the Global solution. You can afford to change it when it starts looking dirty.

    Simple Green Crystal also works great, and it doesn't have the obnoxious smell of Simple Green. I don't buy into the hard on brass argument with Simple Green or Simple Green Crystal as it's largely dependent on how much you dilute the solution. You only need to use it at a 30-1 ratio to be effective for ultrasound use, or for degreasing and O2 cleaning. It goes for about $14 per gallon, so the end cost is about $0.45 per gallon, and once again there's no need to use the stuff until it's black.

    Cleaning solutions come in two types - acidic cleaners and alkaline cleaners.

    The Global solution, Blue Gold and Simple Green (both regular and Crystal) are all alkaline cleaners. They are the go to choices for degreasing and oil removal.

    Acidic cleaners, like acetic acid (white vinegar) or muratic acid (a 30% solution of hydrochloric acid) are useful for removing mineral deposits.

    You'd want to dilute the muratic acid 10 or 15 to 1 to create a 2% or 3% HCL solution but even then it's going to remove some chrome if you soak it very long and/or don't neutralize the acid in a baking soda bath after you're done. In stronger concentrations HCL is the method of choice for removing chrome so you'll want to keep that in mind.

    A mixture of 50% white vinegar and 50% water is a better option for removing salt, calcium, other mineral deposits, spots of corrosion, or organic growth from the surface, cracks and crevices in your regulator parts.

    In short, if you don't to a good job of rinsing your regs, you'll need to use both an acidic cleaner to remove deposits and an alkaline cleaner to clean and degrease the parts.

    Some people will whine that an acidic cleaner like acetic acid removed the chrome from parts of their reg, but those are the parts where there was heavy corrosion on the surface and the chrome was already compromised. The ultrasound with the acetic acid cleaner will remove the corrosion - which contains the remains of the chrome plating that used to be under it, exposing the underlying copper plating, or in some cases the brass. (Brass scuba regulator parts are plated with copper, then nickel and then chrome.) Don't let it get that bad in the first place and you won't lose chrome.

    As noted in prior posts some plastics don't do well in ultrasound and ultrasonic solutions, so it's best to either avoid them entirely, or limit it to very short periods.

    Teflon coated parts should also not be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner. A couple examples of teflon coated part are the piston spring and the diaphragm spring used in Scubapro piston and diaphragm first stages.
  9. lowviz

    lowviz Solo Diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Northern Delaware or the New Jersey Turnpike
    That goes back to people that tried to clean Plexiglas/Lucite in methanol in an ultrasonic bath. Try it with a scrap piece, the plastic will come out full of cracks.
  10. Wayward Son

    Wayward Son Solo Diver


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