Ultrasonic cleaning is a process that uses ultrasound (usually from 20–40 kHz) to agitate a fluid in an ultrasonic tank. The ultrasound can be used with just water, but use of a solvent appropriate for the object to be cleaned and the type of soiling present enhances the effect. Cleaning normally lasts between three and six minutes, but can also exceed 20 minutes, depending on which object has to be cleaned.
Ultrasonic cleaning is used to clean many different types of objects, including jewelry, scientific samples, lenses and other optical parts, watches, dental and surgical instruments, tools, coins, fountain pens, golf clubs, fishing reels, window blinds, firearm components, car fuel injectors, musical instruments, gramophone records, industrial machine parts and electronic equipment. They are used in many jewelry workshops, watchmakers’ establishments, electronic repair workshops and scientific labs.
Ultrasonic cleaning uses cavitation bubbles induced by high frequency pressure (sound) waves to agitate a liquid. The agitation produces high forces on contaminants adhering to substrates like metals, plastics, glass, rubber, and ceramics. This action in an ultrasonic tank also penetrates blind holes, cracks, and recesses. The intention is to thoroughly remove all traces of contamination tightly adhering or embedded onto solid surfaces. Water or solvents can be used, depending on the type of contamination and the workpiece. Contaminants can include dust, dirt, oil, pigments, rust, grease, algae, fungus, bacteria, lime scale, polishing compounds, flux agents, fingerprints, soot wax and mold release agents, biological soil like blood, and so on. Ultrasonic cleaning can be used for a wide range of workpiece shapes, sizes and materials, and may not require the part to be disassembled prior to cleaning.
Objects must not be allowed to rest on the bottom of the device during the cleaning process, because that will prevent cavitation from taking place on the part of the object not in contact with solvent.