Digital ultrasonic cleaner....read on if you're a mad keen home mechanic

Big John

Guru
I work as a volunteer bike mechanic at a local bike charity. One of the mechanics came in the other day with a marvellous piece of kit, probably within all of our budgets, called a digital ultrasonic cleaner. They're used by laboratories and dentists, I'm told, but they can also be used to deep clean rusted/oiled/greased up bike components such as rear mechs, front mechs, shifters, etc. I'll not try and explain how they work - I'll let you Google it for a proper explanation but in appearance they're like a small deep fat fryer. A 3 litre machine costs about £70.

We had an old right hand STI shifter that wasn't working at all. It had been hanging round for a while and we thought we'd use it as a guinea pig to see if the machine was as good as we'd been told it was. The shifter was toast, destined for the bin but we kept saying one day we'd get it working. After 30 minutes in the machine we pulled it out and dried it off. It's a 3 litre machine but you can get bigger but as the capacity goes up then so does the cost. The shifter was spotless and you could only tell it from new because there was a scuff on it, presumably from a minor fall perhaps. It was spotless inside and out. And it worked, an audible click for every change. We looked inside it - pristine. How many of us have STI levers that have stopped working at some time? Obviously if something has physically broken inside a component it's not a miracle worker but this piece of kit cleans like nothing I've seen in our workshop. Worth putting on your Xmas list? If you're a bike restorer it might be the most useful tool you've ever bought 👍
 

ianrauk

Tattooed Beat Messiah
IIRC I think @slowmotion has one
 

slowmotion

Quite dreadful
Location
lost somewhere
Yes, @ianrauk's right. It's a two and a half litre tank that I originally bought for cleaning solder flux residues off electronic circuit boards. It cost about £65 at the time, about 2011.
556779


It's now mainly used to clean my bike chains and cassettes. I use Jizer degreaser in it and it's quite amazing although I do wonder if it might spontaneously combust! Here's a photo (with a CD cover to add scale).
 
Last edited:

winjim

✊🏻✊🏾 🌈 ♀️ 😷
I use one at work for cleaning parts of mass spectrometers. Smaller ones are used by jewellers. Not sure what makes it digital though.
 

weareHKR

Senior Member
I use one & they really do a great job on shifters, derailleur etc, it basically like an underwater microwave, great for getting into all the nucks & crannies, never have to strip down shifters, just blow them out with WD40 & spray them up GT85 or similar.
I find they work best with a mild washing up liquid solution. Not so good at getting rid of grease, its not a degreasing tank & it will turn aluminium black!
 

JhnBssll

Veteran
Location
Suffolk
We've got an 800 litre heated ultrasonic cleaning tank in the lab at work. I think they'd be a bit miffed if I put bicycles in it though, so I've been considering getting one for the garage, although on a slightly smaller scale :laugh:
 
We have one (about 20 litre size) at work to clean engine parts.
I haven't taken any bike bits in for deep cleaning (yet).
The workshop manager "caught" a particularly expensive rod and reel which had been in the silt for a while. The reel was disassembled and then cleaned in the ultrasonic tank. So we know it works on Shimano stuff!

Smaller versions are used by optometrists, locksmiths and jewellers. Your spectacles are really clean after about a minute.
 
Location
London
Lidl have them in sometimes, mine was £7.50 and works great, my wife also has one for pre cleaning surgical instruments prior to autoclaving.
What's the lidl one big enough for? What do you use it for?
Not sure in truth i'd bother though for my normal bits, just use gt85 etc, though may be handy for some old bits i inherit on the odd second hand frame buy.
 

screenman

Legendary Member
What's the lidl one big enough for? What do you use it for?
Not sure in truth i'd bother though for my normal bits, just use gt85 etc, though may be handy for some old bits i inherit on the odd second hand frame buy.
I will have a look later, from memory about a litre so not huge but it works and at that price was a good investment.
 
Location
London
I cannot remember putting any bike parts in it, I will have a look today.
no probs.
May let the idea go anyway - i imagine with the smaller ones it's just chains and cassettes.
Chains I use my milk bottle system, cassettes a bit of old shirt or something more intimate back and forth between the sprockets. Works just fine.
 

Lovacott

Über Member
I work as a volunteer bike mechanic at a local bike charity. One of the mechanics came in the other day with a marvellous piece of kit, probably within all of our budgets, called a digital ultrasonic cleaner.
We have one at work. The principle is pretty straightforward.

When you place an oily component into a container of solvent, the solvent will loosen the oil but it will not take it away. So you move the component around to create a washing machine effect.

An ultrasonic cleaner alters the structure of the solvent many times per second creating pressure waves and movement which take the oil away from the component surface. As the majority of dirt on a component sits on a thin layer of oil, the dirt is also removed.

They are really good at cleaning old jewellery like chains and metal watch bands which tend to trap skin grease and dirt over time (yeewwwww).

I can't think of anything on my bike that I would use one of these on though?

Maybe it would be useful as a cassette cleaner but it would be no good on a freewheel.

If you wanted to use it on your chain, you'd have to take your chain off first and then refit it.

A useful thing to have though and if we didn't have one at work, I'd buy one for the house.
 

Lovacott

Über Member
Chains I use my milk bottle system, cassettes a bit of old shirt or something more intimate back and forth between the sprockets. Works just fine.
I use a dustpan brush, hot water and fairy liquid. I hold a hot and soapy dustpan brush against the freewheel and then I back pedal with my free hand. It cleans the chain and the freewheel. I also do the front chain rings and front and rear mech. It takes me about five minutes per week.

To do the same thing with an ultrasonic would take me hours. I'd have to dismantle the drivetrain and then put it back together again, re-index etc.

Well worth having one though and if you did happen to strip your bike for any reason, you'd be amazed at how new looking an ultrasonic will make something.
 
Top Bottom