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Thread: Best ultrasonic cleaning fluid?

  1. #1
    Master MST's Avatar
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    Best ultrasonic cleaning fluid?

    What ultrasonic cleaning fluid do you use?

    I've never used a dedicated solution and have been known to use Fairy Liquid, however, I feel the time has come to use something with a bit more oomph to shift the wabi!
    Last edited by MST; 8th October 2019 at 18:38.

  2. #2
    Master Bodo's Avatar
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    L&R I use, cleaner and rinse twice. Essence of renata is great for balances and other parts at times. Sometimes IPA but not on pallets.

  3. #3
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Fairy Liquid for me, although interested to hear of something better..

    Quote Originally Posted by Bodo View Post
    Sometimes IPA but not on pallets.
    India Pale Ale?

  4. #4
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Connoisseur...40448863&psc=1

    These in hot water. Twice as effective as washing up liquid.

    Sent from my SM-G973F using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    Fill the bath with water. Fill a small glass jar with hot water containing plenty of fairy liquid. Repeat the procedure. You do NOT need to immerse the item in the bath, ultrasonic radiates straight through the glass. Unless I`m missing a trick I can`t see how any so-called 'specialised' solutions are any more effective.

    For movement parts I use L & R extrafine cleaning solution, eye-wateringly expensive, but once it's 'spent' and contaminated I use it for dirty jobs such as bracelets and cases. It contains ammonia and it'll cut through grease.

    I also use L & R no 3 rinse in the same way, onc eit's too dirty for movements it's fine for other jobs.

    These are specialised watch cleaning solvents and they are expensive, £40/US gallon. A cheaper everyday alternative is white spirit with a few drops of washing up liquid in. Isopropanol's good if you can get hold of it but bear in mind the toxicity.

    When removing grime form bracelets it's best to use hot detergent and a toothbrush to break up the thick stuff before using an ultrasonic cleaner.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bodo View Post
    Essence of renata is great for balances and other parts at times.
    She's a broad minded girl that Renata!

  7. #7
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    ipa=iso propyl alcohol. its not hard to get. its not toxic either, so long as you don't ingest it. i wouldn't bother with it, deffo don't try and fill a bath (use the jar trick). it is quite volatile. Its the main constituent in car clutch and brake cleaner and EGR cleaner(the stuff in the aerosol cans), and those little sachets with alcohol wipes, that's IPA.

  8. #8
    Master Bodo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markrlondon View Post
    India Pale Ale?
    Before, during and after, Mark!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy67 View Post
    She's a broad minded girl that Renata!
    Aye, that she is. :)

  9. #9
    Master Bodo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by walkerwek1958 View Post
    Fill the bath with water. Fill a small glass jar with hot water containing plenty of fairy liquid. Repeat the procedure. You do NOT need to immerse the item in the bath, ultrasonic radiates straight through the glass. Unless I`m missing a trick I can`t see how any so-called 'specialised' solutions are any more effective.

    For movement parts I use L & R extrafine cleaning solution, eye-wateringly expensive, but once it's 'spent' and contaminated I use it for dirty jobs such as bracelets and cases. It contains ammonia and it'll cut through grease.

    I also use L & R no 3 rinse in the same way, onc eit's too dirty for movements it's fine for other jobs.

    These are specialised watch cleaning solvents and they are expensive, £40/US gallon. A cheaper everyday alternative is white spirit with a few drops of washing up liquid in. Isopropanol's good if you can get hold of it but bear in mind the toxicity.

    When removing grime form bracelets it's best to use hot detergent and a toothbrush to break up the thick stuff before using an ultrasonic cleaner.

    I use the old stuff to get the first clean of mainspring and barrels done with....but I sometimes struggle to find it in the murky jar.... :)

  10. #10
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LondonNeil View Post
    ipa=iso propyl alcohol.
    Aha, thanks.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bodo View Post
    Before, during and after, Mark!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LondonNeil View Post
    ipa=iso propyl alcohol. its not hard to get. its not toxic either, so long as you don't ingest it. i wouldn't bother with it, deffo don't try and fill a bath (use the jar trick). it is quite volatile. Its the main constituent in car clutch and brake cleaner and EGR cleaner(the stuff in the aerosol cans), and those little sachets with alcohol wipes, that's IPA.
    To clarify, isopropanol IS toxic. I may have been out of the chemical industry for a few years but I haven’t forgotten everything ! IPA is toxic and narcotic by inhalation, you do not want to be breathing it in an enclosed area. It’ll also skin absorb so you shouldn’t splash it over your hands. Usually your body heat will cause it to evaporate but prolonged contact is best avoided.

    IPA is no more volatile than water, but having a much lower heat of vaporisation means it’ll evaporate faster so its easy to end up with dangerous concentrations in the atmosphere. It’s a good cleaning solvent but it should only be used in a ventilated area.

    I recall having to evacuate a laboratory at work following a spillage of isopropanol, I had to run the subsequent enquiry and dish out the appropriate bollocking......happy days.

    By all means use chemicals for cleaning but always be aware if the hazards. IPA is also flammable, another reason to treat its use and storage with respect. Many of the IPA based cleaners are aqueous solutions of IPA rather than pure, so the hazards are ( literally) diluted.

    I didn’t know it was used in brake and clutch cleaning sprays, I thought they contained trichloroethylene. IPA used to be used in de-icer sprays and in windscreen washer solutions, but in each case it’s diluted with water and isn’t neat.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bodo View Post
    I use the old stuff to get the first clean of mainspring and barrels done with....but I sometimes struggle to find it in the murky jar.... :)
    Big mistake I made before quitting work was not getting hold of some distillation and filtration equipment. We decommissioned a few labs during my final couple of years and I scrapped lots of stuff that wouldíve proved useful for purifying used watch rinse/ cleaning solutions. A simple up and over distillation would be sufficient to recover most of it for re- use, any water could be easily removed too. Cleaning fluid could be filtered for re- use by removing suspended solids. Given the high cost of the cleaning solutions this would've been worth doing but itís too late now.

  13. #13
    Master Bodo's Avatar
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    I had wondered about that but then thought it would be too much hassle. The fact I have to spend another 80 ish on more cleaner and rinse as running out again makes me wince a tad...

  14. #14
    Master Bodo's Avatar
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    Yeh I thought trichloroethylene was the degreaser used on brakes etc...I used to use it...awful stuff so avoid it now. Was often touted as a replacement for one-dip but renata works well for that I find.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bodo View Post
    Yeh I thought trichloroethylene was the degreaser used on brakes etc...I used to use it...awful stuff so avoid it now. Was often touted as a replacement for one-dip but renata works well for that I find.
    I’ve used trichloroethylene for degreasing hairsprings but not for a long while, I find that a good blast of ultrasonics and L & R cleaning solution does the trick just as effectively.

    Chlorinated solvents are cumulative poisons, the body doesn’t metabolise them. Back in the 70s we used carbon tetrachloride and chloroform liberally in the labs, by the time I retired carbon tet was virtually banned and chloroform was treated with far more respect. Dichloromethane used to be used in paint strippers and trichloroethylene was commonly used as a degreaser in garages, not sure what the current regulations are but I’ll bet these substances are far more rigidly controlled.

    Biggest worry with any chemicals is regular exposure over a long period of time, cumulative effects are a concern and the problems only come to light when the damage is done.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by walkerwek1958 View Post
    Fill the bath with water. Fill a small glass jar with hot water containing plenty of fairy liquid. Repeat the procedure.
    I admit I'm tired, it's been a long day, and sleep not here yet - but, I don't follow these instructions .... Fill a bath, and then fill a jar with warm soapy water. What happens then? Do you shake the jar to do the cleaning? Why do you need to fill the bath first? Maybe it's a bloke thing and instructions, or maybe I need my bed ...

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by jukeboxs View Post
    I admit I'm tired, it's been a long day, and sleep not here yet - but, I don't follow these instructions .... Fill a bath, and then fill a jar with warm soapy water. What happens then? Do you shake the jar to do the cleaning? Why do you need to fill the bath first? Maybe it's a bloke thing and instructions, or maybe I need my bed ...
    Put the jar in the bath.

    As for a safe degreasing solvent, limonene will work (though relatively high boiling point might be an issue). Alternatively, 3M Novec 7100 would be ideal though no idea if easily obtainable for home use.
    Last edited by Kingstepper; 9th October 2019 at 01:52.

  18. #18
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    Not come across limonene before, just had a read to find out what it is......every dayís a school day! As a non- chlorinated solvent limonene should be safer, and the higher boiling point is an advantage. Ultrasonic cleaning doesnít involve boiling even though bubbles can sometimes be seen, itís the vibration that does the cleaning. Ultrasonics causes dissolved air to be liberated, hence the bubbles that are sometimes seen. This is one of the lab uses of ultrasonics, itís used to degass solvents used in chromatography, itís also a useful way of getting things to dissolve faster.

  19. #19
    Realise solvents are not boiled, just concerned it may hang about afterwards, but at least parts will smell nice.

  20. #20
    Journeyman Curtis's Avatar
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    I have used both and find an ultrasonic electric toothbrush and a mild soap eg Simple, is just as effective.

    Sent from my SM-G950F using TZ-UK mobile app

  21. #21
    I havenít found the cheap ones (Lidl etc.) particularly effective.

  22. #22
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    I gives the watch that I am wearing a 5 minute soak in a bowl of water, every Saturday, with a normal dose of Fairy Liquid ( I like my hands to be as soft as my face) and also chucks the wifes Datejust in as well along. I then gives it a scrub with a very soft tooth brush. I have been doing this for years and all my watches are perfectly clean.

  23. #23
    Master TKH's Avatar
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    Fairy is very un 'fairy' like its great at shifting 'wrist cheese'

    very hot water


    Last edited by TKH; 9th October 2019 at 16:52.

  24. #24
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jukeboxs View Post
    I admit I'm tired, it's been a long day, and sleep not here yet - but, I don't follow these instructions .... Fill a bath, and then fill a jar with warm soapy water. What happens then? Do you shake the jar to do the cleaning? Why do you need to fill the bath first? Maybe it's a bloke thing and instructions, or maybe I need my bed ...
    Err... the bath being the bath of the ultrasonic cleaner. Not a human-type bath.


  25. #25
    Master Neilw3030's Avatar
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    A question, I am having a go at rebuilding a scrap watch, got it stripped and started cleaning, but how do you clean the main spring barrel ?
    Does it come apart, Iím guessing if the spring bursts out itís done for, Iíve read that this often gets real dirty inside.

  26. #26
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    I use IPA in an 1:2 ratio with deionised water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid as screen cleaner and general purpose electronics cleaner. You can make gallons of the stuff for the price of one tiny bottle of premade screen cleaner.

    Works on glasses and lenses too. Usually mild enough for anything including rubber if you donít leave it soaking.

    I donít use Fairy as it has silica in it for abrasive qualities. Cheap supermarket own brand us usually simple detergent.

    Another option is wetting agent for film developing but Iíve often used normal washing up liquid for that anyway.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilw3030 View Post
    A question, I am having a go at rebuilding a scrap watch, got it stripped and started cleaning, but how do you clean the main spring barrel ?
    Does it come apart, Iím guessing if the spring bursts out itís done for, Iíve read that this often gets real dirty inside.
    Thereís a risk of the spring jumping out, but not if you do it carefully. Usually, you can press down with thumbnails engaged on the teeth, with the arbour touching the bench surface. This will cause the lid to pop off. The spring wonít jump out if youíre careful. If you lift the lid off thereís a chance itíll drag the arbour with it and drag the spring out, this is avoided by sliding your tweezers under the lid to hold the spring in place whilst you remove the lid.

    Next step is to get the arbour out, be sure to hold the spring in place whilst doing this.

    Remove the spring by carefully raising the centre and pulling the first coil up. Use your them to retain the spring in the barrel, keep easing the coils out whilst using the other hand to prevent the spring from jumping out in an uncontrolled manner. Walking the spring out this way is easy once youíve got the hang of it.

    One question: how do you intend to refit the spring?

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.D View Post
    I use IPA in an 1:2 ratio with deionised water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid as screen cleaner and general purpose electronics cleaner. You can make gallons of the stuff for the price of one tiny bottle of premade screen cleaner.

    Works on glasses and lenses too. Usually mild enough for anything including rubber if you donít leave it soaking.

    I donít use Fairy as it has silica in it for abrasive qualities. Cheap supermarket own brand us usually simple detergent.

    Another option is wetting agent for film developing but Iíve often used normal washing up liquid for that anyway.
    An IPA/water/ detergent mix might be more effective than a strong detergent /water solution, I might give that a try, but the detergent content needs to be far higher than the few drops Iíd use in windscreen cleaner.

    Not sure whether Fairy Liquid contains silica, but if it does it will be colloidal and wonít act as an abrasive.

  29. #29
    Master Neilw3030's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by walkerwek1958 View Post
    Thereís a risk of the spring jumping out, but not if you do it carefully. Usually, you can press down with thumbnails engaged on the teeth, with the arbour touching the bench surface. This will cause the lid to pop off. The spring wonít jump out if youíre careful. If you lift the lid off thereís a chance itíll drag the arbour with it and drag the spring out, this is avoided by sliding your tweezers under the lid to hold the spring in place whilst you remove the lid.

    Next step is to get the arbour out, be sure to hold the spring in place whilst doing this.

    Remove the spring by carefully raising the centre and pulling the first coil up. Use your them to retain the spring in the barrel, keep easing the coils out whilst using the other hand to prevent the spring from jumping out in an uncontrolled manner. Walking the spring out this way is easy once youíve got the hang of it.

    One question: how do you intend to refit the spring?
    Now that is another question, do you have to use a spring winder? is that the correct term?

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilw3030 View Post
    Now that is another question, do you have to use a spring winder? is that the correct term?
    Correct........it was a trick question.....getting it out is a whole lot easier than getting it back in!

    If itís an automatic youíll really struggle to get the spring back in without, and thereís a risk of damaging the spring, it really isnít advisable.

    If itís hand- wound and reasonably big you can get the spring back in without a spring winder but it requires care, itíll all too easy to distort the spring slightly and thatíll result in lost amplitude.

    If a new spring is being fitted itís easy, the new spring comes coiled up inside a flat washer and it can be pressed into the spring barrel easily.

    For the purpose of this exercise itís probably best to leave the spring barrel alone, a set of second- hand spring winders will cost around £100 and usually the popular sizes are worn. If Iím going to stay in the repair game I need to bite that bullet and buy a set of good ones, I have two second- hand sets that arenít brilliant.

  31. #31
    Master Thewatchbloke's Avatar
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    On the subject of ultrasonic cleaning I use the usual L&R cleaning and rinse solutions, however all ultrasonics machines aren't equal!

    I have three vintage L&R Vari-Matic watch cleaning machines all with the ultrasonic attachment. Two of them have had the old valve ultrasonic generator converted to more modern electronics but the third still has it's valve driven generator. I use two of these machines every day (the third one is a spare in case of breakdowns) alternating between them, one has a converted electronic generator and the other has the original valve driven one. The electronic one gets the parts nice and clean obviously but some stubborn deposits can remain if I haven't pre-cleaned them thoroughly enough, solidified grease in the barrels in particular. On the other hand with the valve generated one the comparison's like chalk and cheese, you "tune" the valve in using a pot on the front of the machine and when it's on full power it will shift anything, it's so much more powerful than the converted one. The valve generated one is on the right in the picture below.



    I had this machine re-commissioned last year after it hadn't been used for decades and the chap that did the work told me the valve driven generators are magnitudes better than the converted electronic ones. I didn't think much about his comment until I got it back in my workshop and fired it up!

  32. #32
    Master Neilw3030's Avatar
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    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by walkerwek1958 View Post
    Correct........it was a trick question.....getting it out is a whole lot easier than getting it back in!

    If itís an automatic youíll really struggle to get the spring back in without, and thereís a risk of damaging the spring, it really isnít advisable.

    If itís hand- wound and reasonably big you can get the spring back in without a spring winder but it requires care, itíll all too easy to distort the spring slightly and thatíll result in lost amplitude.

    If a new spring is being fitted itís easy, the new spring comes coiled up inside a flat washer and it can be pressed into the spring barrel easily.

    For the purpose of this exercise itís probably best to leave the spring barrel alone, a set of second- hand spring winders will cost around £100 and usually the popular sizes are worn. If Iím going to stay in the repair game I need to bite that bullet and buy a set of good ones, I have two second- hand sets that arenít brilliant.
    Paul, thanks for that info.
    Another thought, is it a good idea to take the end cap off so the spring is exposed, then maybe give it a good squirting with say wd40 to get some of the dirt out, then when its dried put the cap back on, asking for a friend

  33. #33
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    Taking the barrel lid off will reveal the state if the barrel, it could be anything ranging from as dry as a bone to having enough oil in to fry chips! Trust me, Iíve seen both extremes. Ideally, there should be traces of grease which will inevitably look black, but provided the oil isnít oozing out I wouldnít worry. If itís oozing oil Iíd soak it up using small pointed cotton wool buds ( available from cousins). If itís dry I would carefully apply a few drops of light watch oil onto the coils. WD 40 isnít a recognised watch lubricant so I wouldnít recommend it, but Iím struggling to see how a few drops would do no harm.

    You havenít stated whether the watch is hand - wound or automatic. If itís automatic the barrel walls should be lubricated with special braking grease. In this case WD 40 will be a bad idea for obvious reasons!

  34. #34
    Master Neilw3030's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by walkerwek1958 View Post
    Taking the barrel lid off will reveal the state if the barrel, it could be anything ranging from as dry as a bone to having enough oil in to fry chips! Trust me, Iíve seen both extremes. Ideally, there should be traces of grease which will inevitably look black, but provided the oil isnít oozing out I wouldnít worry. If itís oozing oil Iíd soak it up using small pointed cotton wool buds ( available from cousins). If itís dry I would carefully apply a few drops of light watch oil onto the coils. WD 40 isnít a recognised watch lubricant so I wouldnít recommend it, but Iím struggling to see how a few drops would do no harm.

    You havenít stated whether the watch is hand - wound or automatic. If itís automatic the barrel walls should be lubricated with special braking grease. In this case WD 40 will be a bad idea for obvious reasons!
    Thanks for the info once again, its an auto, ive got another couple of donor watchs to play with so im going to go ahead and open the barrel, and i will get some braking grease and try it, nothing to lose

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilw3030 View Post
    Thanks for the info once again, its an auto, ive got another couple of donor watchs to play with so im going to go ahead and open the barrel, and i will get some braking grease and try it, nothing to lose
    Braking grease acts solely on the barrel wall, to lubricate the spring/ wall as the spring slides when the watch is fully wound, it must not be applied elsewhere in the barrel. To apply braking grease correctly the spring has to be out, everything gas to be cleaned, the grease is applied sparingly to the walls and the spring is refitted using a spring winder.......which you don’t have!

    There are different braking greases available but the best is Kluber 125, unfortunately its £70 for 5g.

    My advice is as before, don’t take the spring out if you can’t get it back in. If everything looks dry be sure to lubricate the barrel arbour, and apply a couple of drops of oil to the spring itself. I would also apply a drop of oil to the floor of the barrel and similarly to the lid. I use grease very sparingly on these points when assembling a barrel, some will use oil, some leave it dry, there are different schools of thought, but if you’re not taking the spring out your choices are limited.
    Last edited by walkerwek1958; 16th October 2019 at 10:04.

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