Choosing the Right Ultrasonic Cleaner
For somebody new to the idea of ultrasonic cleaning it can be difficult to decide which is best for them. Fortunately, picking the ultrasonic cleaning equipment that will work best for your specific project is quite simple, all you need to do is ask yourself a few questions:
• What size tank do I need?
• Do I need heat in my tank?
• Is a parts basket necessary?
• What kind of cleaning chemistry will work best?
• How much ultrasonic power do I need?
• What brand should I buy?
What Size Tank Do I Need?
The easiest way to answer this question is to look at your parts, measure the largest of them, and buy a matching tank. While this is the simplest way, it may not be the most cost effective. The cost of an ultrasonic cleaning tank increases quickly with its size, so if you only have a few large parts and many smaller ones it would be silly to buy a larger tank to accommodate them.
Note that there is usually no issue with cleaning half of a part while the other half sticks out of the top of the tank. Once that half is done, you can simply flip the part around and do the other half. This will save you a ton of money by allowing you to buy a smaller tank.
Here’s a model grid showing sizes and other specs for quick comparison of the Crest Powersonic units.
Do I need heat in my tank?
The short answer to this question is “yes”, the long answer is no with a “but”. An ultrasonic cleaner works best at between 140 and 170 degrees F, so a heated tank will greatly increase its cleaning potential. You could always fill your tank with hot water and new solution each time, but many find this to be a hassle and not cost affective.
Is a parts basket necessary?
A parts basket has two important functions. First, it holds the parts up off the bottom of the tank, preventing inhibition of ultrasonic transmission and protecting the transducers. Second, it allows for easy removal of parts from the tank.
Note that parts baskets are not your only option. Reputable manufacturers will offer a complete line of accessories, including mesh baskets, perforated steel trays, beaker covers, solid trays, and support racks.
Here’s a quick look at the selection from Branson Ultrasonics:
What kind of cleaning chemistry will work best?
This is kind of like asking “How far is up?” Everybody’s cleaning application will vary to some degree, and thus need a different kind of cleaning solution. It’s important to do the research and find out what ultrasonic cleaning solution will work for your specific cleaning application.
A great place to start is with the soil. If it’s a single substance, like machining oil or drawing compound, a quick call to the manufacturer will get the solution. After all, who needs to clean it up more than the folks making it?
If you have an unusual cleaning application, or one involving multiple soils, it’s best ot talk to someone with ultrasonic experience when making your choice. We offer free application consulting to help with this.
*NOTE: Don’t listen to anyone who recommends using a solvent with a flash point, or one that is flammable. This will void your machine warranty and possibly cause a fire.
How Much Ultrasonic Power Do I Need?
This is a common question with a nuanced answer. See below for my explanation to one of our customers:
I am trying to choose an ultrasonic cleaner, and using the power specification to compare brands. But they don’t seem to be something I can compare apples to apples.
Is there a standard I can use?
The ultrasonic power spec can be really difficult to pin down in a meaningful way. 240w measured how? Peak to Peak? RMS? Average? Includes the heater? What kind of transducer is involved? Peizoelectric? Magapak? Rod? Are we measuring watts per gallon – or watts per square inch of radiating surface? Is it variable frequency? If so, at what point in the spectrum is power measured? Is this the point that matters for your application?
As you can see, it becomes a jumble pretty quickly. It doesn’t help that manufacturers (understandably) quote the specification in whatever way makes then look best.
If you choose a major manufacturer with a good warranty, you’ll most likely be OK. Look for power levels of at least 35 watts per gallon excluding heat.
If you can pre- test your application with a small inexpensive unit, even better. (Make sure it is a real ultrasonic machine). I am often asked if I know where a unit can be borrowed – not likely. Once people have their machine set up and things running smoothly, the last thing they want is to risk cross contamination.
We do have a small unit that has really good power, and I often recommend it for application testing. The Gemoro 2.6 has a lot of ultrasonic power for the tank size, and it’s out least expensive unit that includes heat.
Best bet – email me with your application info and I’ll tell you what I think. I can pretty much tell you if your application will work – seen them all at this point.
We have a ton of free ultrasonic cleaning information on our website. Please visit to learn more, of just give us a call toll free: 877-962-6847