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Greetings everyone, I have a quick question. I'm having problems getting hold of 99.9% IPA - the joys of living where I do. Strangely, I can get 99.9% ethanol. Could I substitute ethanol for IPA in my normal watch cleaning activities? I know its a little more reactive with shellac (or so I read - please feel free to correct me if I am wrong), but I wouldn't intentionally use IPA anywhere around shellac anyway.

Thanks in advance.

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I would have to go and find the can but for the final rinse when I was cleaning watches at home this is what I used. I was using it as the final final rinse I think I usually spent about 30 seconds and they are just can a swirled around and pull it out and put it immediately in the dryer. You'll notice that says for cleaning glass and metal and  is a reference to shellac. In other words it dissolves shellac. Unlike isopropyl alcohol which may or may not dissolves shellac this definitely does but it still made a nice final rinse as I'm not leaving the watch parts in there all day and I wasn't using the ultrasonic at that stage just dipped it in swirled around so washed off the  rinse in the cleaning process and it works great

then when I search for Klean-Strip Gallon SLX Denatured Alcohol I keep coming up with the other product which clearly says fuel. The reason I bring this up is we had a small can of it at work and normally use isopropyl alcohol spray on things cleaned and water speed up the drying process and somebody swapped for the fuel alcohol. So the fuel alcohol is definitely a different product as it left the slimy feeling on my fingers and was actually floating on top of the water. So their new fuel alcohol is definitely different than whatever this is and I don't remember where but I heard this was being discontinued for I don't remember why which is sad I rather liked it. As sometimes there's a need to dissolves shellac.

 

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I just conducted a test a few days ago on the solvents that I regularly use as a final rinse.

I put a drop of 9010 on a large cap jewel and dropped it into my test solvents and swirled it around for 15 seconds.

Benzine did not do a very job. Small droplets were still visible on the jewel.

Trichloroethylene faired better. It removed most of the 9010, leaving only a glistening, rainbow colored film.

Denatured alcohol was the overall winner, leaving not a trace of 9010.

But denatured alcohol dissolves shellac and from my tests, small blobs of shellac, like on pallet stones, can soften in as little as 30 seconds.

So, now I use denatured alcohol as my final rinse for everything except the pallet fork and balance. It is especially good when I mess up lubricating a cap jewel.

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the problem of purchasing alcohol can be a problem for all of us. Or the problem purchasing alcohol is a cleaning product and not for internal use is a problem. For instance here's a link where the talking about alcohol in the USA because of California doesn't everybody will follow. Which is why the alcohol that I was using I don't think is available anymore at least last night when I looked if you look for that exact whatever it just wasn't coming up because of California. Is not the first time a nifty solvent that I used disappeared because of them.

https://www.finewoodworking.com/2022/03/21/where-to-buy-denatured-alcohol

 

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7 hours ago, Waggy said:

Greetings everyone, I have a quick question. I'm having problems getting hold of 99.9% IPA - the joys of living where I do. Strangely, I can get 99.9% ethanol. Could I substitute ethanol for IPA in my normal watch cleaning activities? I know its a little more reactive with shellac (or so I read - please feel free to correct me if I am wrong), but I wouldn't intentionally use IPA anywhere around shellac anyway.

Thanks in advance.

I used meths years ago for dissolving shellac to make french polish. Meths as we called it or methylated spirits comprises of mostly ethanol alcohol plus a small percentage of methanol ( hence the name meths ) plus some rather nasty tasting substances and the distinctive violet colour to warn of its toxicity . Just googlied and chemically methanol, ethanol and isopropylalcohol are different, carbon to hydrogen ratios vary .

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Ethanol will start to remove the zinc(?) plating from brass parts, then attack the brass if you leave them to soak for a day or two. I'll not be doing that again in a hurry.

At a guess, methanol will do the same but faster, and IPA is more idiot proof, which makes it the best choice as a final rinse. 

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1 hour ago, Klassiker said:

Ethanol will start to remove the zinc(?) plating from brass parts, then attack the brass if you leave them to soak for a day or two. I'll not be doing that again in a hurry.

At a guess, methanol will do the same but faster, and IPA is more idiot proof, which makes it the best choice as a final rinse. 

Methanol seems to be more volatile, evaporates fast and more toxic and very corrosive compared to both ethanol and isopropylalcohol. A much simpler structure of only one carbon atom, less bonded to its hydrogen. It is obtainable as almost pure methanol, not that you would want to use it considering how toxic it is. Methylated spirits or just pure ethanol could well be a better option to isopropylalcohol. 

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19 hours ago, Waggy said:

Could I substitute ethanol for IPA in my normal watch cleaning activities?

As a final rinse, yes. Even a quick dip and swirl of a pallet fork will not harm the shellac, but use a puffer or heater to evaporate the ethanol quickly afterwards. Pure ethanol evaporates without a trace. As a final rinse it is great. As a cleaning fluid, probably not the most effective, but better than IPA. Not sure about meths, which is ethanol with additives, so only disadvantages as a cleaner or rinse as far as I can see. If you have been using IPA as a general cleaning fluid and you want to use ethanol instead, then keep the exposure times as short as possible. 

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