Help me keep it clean!
February 21, 2007 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have first hand experience with ultrasonic cleaners that they purchased for jewelry and eyeglass cleaning?

We will use it for other things, but this would be it's primary use, (watchbands, rope chains, silver, etc.). I've checked reviews, and it seems many machines don't do a thorough job.

I want a heavy-duty one that works. Any recommendations? What makes an ultrasonic cleaner good? Frequency? Energy waves? Size? Stainless steel basket? The word "Professional" in the description?
posted by 6:1 to Shopping (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience the best ultrasonic cleaners have the following things:

1. stainless steel
2. a nice wide basket
3. a drain plug in the back for changing the cleaning fluid
4. heat (pretty important approx. 140 - 180 degrees F)
5. on/off timer

Most tanks run at 45kHz. I have heard that 35kHz is more efficient.

Combined with a good cleaning solution an ultrasonic cleaner does a decent job. I do find that for removing sticky polishing compounds and investments a combination of hand cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning is needed. The tank loosens the gunk up and a toothbrush takes off the rest.

Really it comes down to what you are willing to spend. A cheap unit (under 100 dollars) really wouldn't be worth it to me. Under that and you'd probably end up with a cleaner that has a small tank, plastic basket and no heat. After all the frustration and money you would just end up doing a lot of it by hand.

As for recommendations, Rio Grande has a few nice models starting at 175 dollars and going up from there. You have to be a professional or student to order from them though.

I am a graduating BFA candidate with a focus in metals/jewelry
posted by fair_game at 10:28 AM on February 21, 2007

I have a Koh-I-Noor ultrasonic rapidograph cleaner from my drafting days. I don't really know what constitutes a "thorough job" in this case, but the rings and earrings I put in it were pretty clean when they came out.

I don't think it has any of the features listed above, except a stainless steel bowl. It does get hot as it runs, but I've never measured the temp, and I think that's just a side effect of the motor running. It's about 15 years old.
posted by Caviar at 11:14 AM on February 21, 2007

My wife and I got this model from Brookstone as a gift last year, and it has worked well for us. I wouldn't call it heavy duty, but it's only $50, and it makes my glasses and her jewelry all nice and sparkly. YMMV.
posted by Gamblor at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2007

We use a Branson 1210 in the lab to clean glassware for tissue culture. It does a fantastic job on eyeglasses. $200.
posted by porpoise at 4:07 PM on February 21, 2007

Make sure you get a proper ultrasonic (well over 30kHz) instead of a mere "sonic" cleaner, which is what most of the cheaper ones are. If it's a "sonic" cleaner, it's just sloshing water around. Those are the ones people are probably complaining about.

The ultrasonic works because the wavelength of the sound at 45kHz is around 3cm in water, causing a non-trivial and varying pressure differential across anything on a hard surface. Also, small metal things may well resonate at those frequencies and shake stuff right off.

Make sure is has a stainless basket (though you want to make sure items like watches are not directly touching the steel basket as they may be damaged) and actually specifies that it runs at about 45kHz.
posted by polyglot at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2007

thanks for all the input. Fair_Game, I wish I could order from that site. I think I may have an "in", though.

Again, thanks!
posted by 6:1 at 3:23 PM on February 23, 2007

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