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Cleaning Solutions, UltraSonic and not

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I use a £40 ultrasonic tank with built in heater. The cleaner I use is a water-based Greiber solution, and I rinse in pure ethanol. I use jars of solution which sit in a water bath in the ultra sonic tank.

I also use oil-based solutions in older National and Brenray machines. They work well, but you can never get rid of the very slight oil residue from previous cleans, and this can lead to spreading when you oil a newly cleaned movement. 

I always peg out first with peg wood dipped in naphtha. 

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I was recently researching for servicing of some vintage cigarette lighters and there appears to be several quality levels for the liquid lighter fuels. The pureness quality can affect the lighters valves and burning residues.

For hand cleaning my watches, I had used several brands from my local stores which were quite cheap but these seemed to leave a very slight residue, which I removed by final rinse in IPA.  I then sourced some premium branded ones such as 'Ronsonol' and found they left  no residues.  The premium brands can be hard to source as not many people use them nowadays, and they are more expensive (150-200%) than the cheaper fluids.

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I've been using an ultrasonic with Elma 1:9 fluid and here in Singapore benzine/naphtha is used as a rinse (following the advise of the only watchmaker supply shop in the country). The U/S is used only for the first stage, not for rinses. If the final rinse is not super clean, you'll get residue when it dries. Ethanol IPA works for a rinse, but will ruin shellac (you can guess how I know). You'd have to take out the pallets and balance before using it, which is very clumsy.

The biggest change I noticed when switching to ammoniated Elma 1:9 is that everything comes out beautifully shiny. All polished bits, especially brass, look like new.

I've finally bought a proper cleaning machine on ebay (in transit now), so I wonder if I'll still use the ultrasonic in the future.

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6 hours ago, teegee said:

I've finally bought a proper cleaning machine on ebay (in transit now), so I wonder if I'll still use the ultrasonic in the future.

These old style machines (now mainly build in India) do nothing but heat up the fluid, shake and move parts from a jar to another. Seem to me that is something easily done by hand, especially for the hobbyist making occasional use of them.

If you look at the modern, expensive machines of today, all incorporate U/S.

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Thanks for this thread, learnt a lot. The Shellite (Naphtha, I believe, downunder) I have been using leaves a residual whitish stain on brass. I was able to remove it by using distilled water, but looks as though IPA will do the trick. 

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On 9/19/2017 at 5:09 PM, Tmuir said:

I'm in Perth, so the other side of the continent.

I'm yet to get hold of a traditional watch cleaning machine so at the moment just use an ultrasonic cleaner with the fluids, but we use the same fluids in school in a machine like yours.

I can't comment on your specific machine, I will leave that to your own judgement on how safe you feel it is to use it.

The fluid we make for cleaning watches is also identical to the branded cleaning products and is a non water based cleaner.

For clocks I use a water based cleaner, but not for watches.

If you go look up the SDS for L&R cleaning fluids you will see for both their cleaning and rinsing solutions they contain around 20% shellite. (With the rinsing solution basically being 80% turps 20% Shellite)

The only reason I use 100% shellite for my final rinse is it evaporates much faster than the 80% turps 20% shellite mix.

But I am very careful to not to have the heater on and I only use small amounts in a jar in a bath of water that I change for fresh water once it heats up to about 35C with the ultrasonics.

You can probably get away just using the 80% turps, 20% shellite for the first and final rinse as your machine will spin off most of the fluid, something I can't do with an ultrasonic machine, which is a less volatile solution to just straight Shellite.

What do you think about a final ultrasonic rinse in a jar with just Isopropyl alcohol  

1. L & R Cleaning solution.

2. 80% turps 20% shellite mix and

3. Final rinse of Isopropyl (Quicker drying than 100% Shellite (I have found concentrated Shellite can sometimes leave a white residue ). 

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32 minutes ago, Blubarb said:

What do you think about a final ultrasonic rinse in a jar with just Isopropyl alcohol  

1. L & R Cleaning solution.
2. 80% turps 20% shellite mix and
3. Final rinse of Isopropyl (Quicker drying than 100% Shellite (I have found concentrated Shellite can sometimes leave a white residue ). 

IPA is good for rinsing and even regular washing. IMO step 1 is not needed in most cases, but if if you're working on a rusty piece, use a specifi product instead.

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4 minutes ago, jdm said:

IPA is good for rinsing and even regular washing. IMO step 1 is not needed in most cases, but if if you're working on a rusty piece, use a specifi product instead.

That's interesting, jdm. So in most cases I can get away with a Turps and Shellite mix as a clean? 

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For watch bands I use just shellite, or  shellite and turps if my rinse solution for watch parts is getting old, but use a full cleaning solution for watch parts.

Shellite is just Australia's name for Naptha.

Turps and Shellite will clean, but not as good as L &R cleaning solution, or a clone of it as they contain other chemicals which also deal with rust and other highly active solvents that will shift dried up oil and grease better than Shelite and Turps alone.

But if it the watch only needs a light clean Shelite and Turps will do,

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5 hours ago, Tmuir said:

For watch bands I use just shellite, or  shellite and turps if my rinse solution for watch parts is getting old, but use a full cleaning solution for watch parts.

Personally I don't bother with cleaning solutions for case and bracelet and cases. Warm water, dish detergent and brush always worked wonders for me. My (cheap) U/S has broken, but it's not like it made a big difference except I could see the dirt and water turn black in the tank.

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Ok, this topic has probably been covered over and over, but I just got the biggest kick out of reading some of the MSDS (material safety data sheet) on popular watch cleaning solutions. One brand, I'm not going to mention names, has a cleaner advertised as "specially formulated" etc etc etc, then you look up the ingredients on the sheet and it's a fancy chemical name for Naptha, regular old naptha, and perfume (basically)...that's it...that's their "special" formula.

There's another that a lot of people are probably familiar with, which contains mineral spirits, naptha, olive oil, ammonia and a little alcohol......period.....the "formula" leaves a little wiggle room for exact amounts of each ingredient, but basically it's 65% spirits, 20% naptha, 10% olive oil (ok, oleic acid, but essentially the same thing), and <5% ammonia/alcohol......and as we all know, none of these "special formulas" sell on the cheap, they're in the range of $50/gallon!

I'm currently using the above formula (minus the ammonia) in my cleaner and I get excellent results, and it cost me about $15

I guess I'm just kind of venting, and I'm not knocking the companies for making good products. It just seems a "bit" excessive price-wise for basically over the counter ingredients. 

Oh, and hair-spring cleaners? Carbon tet, (carbon tetrochloride) otherwise known as engine degreaser! Even some brake cleaning fluids are carbon tet, so save some bucks and go to NAPA! (just kidding......or am I?) :) 

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A good way to test home brews is with a microscope slide - dip half and let dry and see what sort of residue you get.  That imo is what you're paying for as well as cleaning ability - no residue

I agree that the pricing is nuts, but there's also a little more in it than the ingredients mentioned if you're referring to the L&R (why not name names?).  These can be bought from chemical supply, but its more time and bother that eats into the savings.  Also, they may be getting purer stuff - consumer mineral spirits for example has for example wax that will leave a film if you don't remove it.

Maybe you're a better brewer than I, but after I few attempts I gave up as they did not get things as clean and the proper L&R wash followed by the two rinses. 

If you do nail it  - same cleaning power and no residue - please post the formula!

Edited by measuretwice

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11 hours ago, measuretwice said:

A good way to test home brews is with a microscope slide - dip half and let dry and see what sort of residue you get.  That imo is what you're paying for as well as cleaning ability - no residue

I agree that the pricing is nuts, but there's also a little more in it than the ingredients mentioned if you're referring to the L&R (why not name names?).  These can be bought from chemical supply, but its more time and bother that eats into the savings.  Also, they may be getting purer stuff - consumer mineral spirits for example has for example wax that will leave a film if you don't remove it.

Maybe you're a better brewer than I, but after I few attempts I gave up as they did not get things as clean and the proper L&R wash followed by the two rinses. 

If you do nail it  - same cleaning power and no residue - please post the formula!

I followed other advice on a different forum about the wax issue, basically you freeze the mineral spirits (the one ingredient prone to wax content) and skim off the residue. I froze mine for 2 days, no wax formed. I use straight naptha for the second rinse and straight denatured alcohol for the final rinse, and have had no residue problems. I spin dry after each cycle then follow up with a blower in the crevices. I still have to peg out the jewels now and then but it's minor. I also do not run the balance or pallets through any of these, I do those by hand while the main parts are in the cleaner.

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I did the same, still was not able to get the same results I do from the commercial cleaner/rinse.     I also hate feeling like I'm paying too much, but for me anyway I just didn't work as well.  I thought about going to next level, all the right ingredients from chemical supply, but with 8 lifetimes of projects on the go, well, I never got there :)

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At my watch school we make our own cleaning fluids based on the commercial ones.

To be fair Oleic acid is not the same as olive oil, yes olive oil is around %80 oleic acid but calling it olive oil is like calling crude oil petrol.

Yes the commercial fluids are way over priced, we make it for around $10 to $12 a litre compared to $30 a litre it sells for in Australia, but finding places that will sell you  monoethanolamine and Propoxyethanol isn't easy, we could not find suppliers for both of them in Australia and had to import them.

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1 hour ago, Tmuir said:

At my watch school we make our own cleaning fluids based on the commercial ones.

To be fair Oleic acid is not the same as olive oil, yes olive oil is around %80 oleic acid but calling it olive oil is like calling crude oil petrol.

Yes the commercial fluids are way over priced, we make it for around $10 to $12 a litre compared to $30 a litre it sells for in Australia, but finding places that will sell you  monoethanolamine and Propoxyethanol isn't easy, we could not find suppliers for both of them in Australia and had to import them.

As I said, I'm not necessarily condemning the big name cleaning companies/solutions, they have every right to sell whatever they like. If I were running a commercial business cleaning movements all day long I would use the commercial fluids as well, but as a hobbyist I believe acceptable results can be obtained by trying other methods which are not nearly as expensive.

I'm a tried and true tinkerer, so experimenting with my own solutions, coming up with different ideas on how to achieve a result is just part of my nature. I'm not advocating a boycott of commercial products, just thinking out loud about different options.

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For hobbyists, Shellite (naptha) and pegwood sharpened to a point will do for sure.

As you say it all comes down to time and money.

If you have a lot of time save money, if you don't spend some money to make some time. :biggrin:

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3 minutes ago, jdm said:

Could you tell the exact components and percentage?

I don't make it so I don't have the exact percentages, but a good starting point is reading the MSDS for your favorite cleaner, they give the chemicals but only approximates of the percentages.

Here is a good place to look.

http://lrultrasonics.com/msds/index.html

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