View Full Version : Ultrasonic cleaners and firearms.

June 4, 2008, 10:40 PM
Is it safe for the Ruger 10-22 to be cleaned in a Ultrasonic Cleaner after removing from the stock and rinsing well with solvent?I am talking about leaving the gun assembled.

I know a good Ultrasonic Cleaner will perforate Aluminum foil strips in distilled water.This makes me wonder about damaging the aluminum.I know to avoid certain cleaners.I was wondering if any are familiar with cleaning aluminum in them.

Also.Will Ultrasonic cleaners clean Blued & SS guns without disassembly?I know the metal must be dried and lubed immediately and completely.

Will it remove rust?

All I have ever used one for was cleaning metal HP hydraulic filters many years ago.


June 5, 2008, 08:34 PM
Ultrasonics "can" damage BARE aluminum, and the new Ruger 10/22 has some sort of modern "coating" on the parts, not the older anodized finish.
This coating might be damaged by ultrasonics with SOME solvents.

A lot depends on the solvent.
As example, Simply Green damages aluminum and will do so faster in an ultrasonic tank.

Ultrasonics themselves will not harm bluing or stainless, again, that's mostly a function of the solvent used.
The reason most watchmakers and clockmakers use ultrasonics is because it allows thorough cleaning of some assembled parts.
Ultrasonics will clean fully assembled guns, but depending on the solvent, will also remove painted-on markings and sight highlights, as well as leaving the gun TOTALLY stripped of any and all rust preventing lubricants, even in tiny cracks and holes other methods won't touch.

Again, depending on the solvent, ultrasonics will help loosen and remove rust.
Some solutions in ultrasonics will remove light rust and have at least some softening and loosening effect.
Of course, like any other rust removal method it will NOT do anything for the pitting that rust leaves.

June 6, 2008, 02:37 AM
Aluminum is etched by high alkalinity cleaners, Simple Green, Greased Lightning, Formula 409, Fantastik, etcetera. You need a degreaser that is closer to pH neutral. Dish washing liquid and baby shampoo are possibilities. Make a lot of foam in the ultrasonic though.

Brownells sells some serious ultrasonic cleaners for armorers and the necessary solutions. I saw a $5000 unit demonstrated at a LE equipment show once. The transducers stood the water up over an inch from the surface where it was just above them. Serious power. This unit was for cleaning M16's. Anyway, the solutions sold by Brownells will be gun safe, I expect.

June 6, 2008, 10:20 AM
I am familiar with the cleaners and solvents eating aluminum from maintenance in a chemical plant.I was wondering about distilled water with non to safe cleaners

I am also wondering if the low powered 100 watt SS built Ultrasonic cleaners would be safer on aluminum parts dissembled.Slower but gentler perhaps?Is this enough wattage to clean small batches or parts?

Also.The water soluble cutting oils.In my time on a tender use to scrub the bare diamond plate steel deck daily in the shop space and then mop it with water soluble gutting oil.It did not rust when dry.Even at sea.I wonder about using this to prevent immediate rust after use in a ultrasonic.Has anyone ever used it?alfred

June 9, 2008, 11:09 AM
Anyone tried the ultrasonic cleaner sold by Harbor Freight? Seems too cheap to be any good, but I've got some stuff from them that works.

June 9, 2008, 11:45 AM
I am a watchmaker and use ultrasonics every day. I do not put aluminum into the ultrasonic. I also completely disassemble a watch for service. While the unit will mostly clean in tight areas, you cannot see if parts need work or replacement without taking apart. I would expect the same to be true with firearms.

June 9, 2008, 03:01 PM
Anyone tried the ultrasonic cleaner sold by Harbor Freight? Seems too cheap to be any good, but I've got some stuff from them that works.

I've wondered exactly the same thing. Was looking at their 2.5L model in a catalog last night. 160W, and a heated tank. Considerably less than $100.

(Does the wattage include the heater? Maybe that's the catch)

June 9, 2008, 06:03 PM
Several posters on other forums report that the Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaners work well.

As with everything else, you get what you pay for, and the service life of these cheap cleaners may not be too long.
However, they will allow you to try ultrasonics out, and if you like it, after the cheap unit dies, you can either buy another or step up to a better unit.

June 9, 2008, 11:36 PM
I would not expect pure water to work very well. If you Google-up a copy of Ed Harris' formula for Ed's Red bore cleaner, you'll learn he worked with a chemist and found you need both a polar and a non-polar solvent to cut fouling really well. You could degrease with the dish washing liquid I mentioned, but removing fouling will go better if you get more into it. The dish washing liquid would probably let you get some level of mineral spirits dissolved into the water. Acetone is miscible in water to begin with, so you could use that combination at some level of concentration, but I don't know what it will be and I expect you'll want to run it outdoors with acetone in it.

I would still look to the Brownells ultrasonic solvent (http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=24789&title=CC-235%20ULTRASONIC%20CLEANER) for best effect. It has a water miscible oil and leaves the gun lubricated, just like the cutting fluid mentioned earlier. My experience with small ultrasonics is they lack the power to have much effect until the fouling is really soft from a long pre-soak.

The unit I have now is not the kind of expensive super-powered armorer's cleaner, but is a 2.5 gallon Bransonic with a heater (which helps soften things up considerably). I've used it with aluminum with no ill-effects, so I don't think there is anything inherent in aluminum that has a problem with the ultrasonic waves themselves. You just need to use near pH-neutral cleaners with it. One peculiarity of aluminum, though, is it is often anodized. Anodizing creates a porous transparent crystalline oxide protective surface layer. The pores can absorb and hold dies, which is where the black and other colors come from, and a silicone-based pore sealant is often used after dying it. However, some dye and sealant jobs seem to be better than others, so it is possible an ultrasonic could clean out some of the pores and spoil the anodized finish's appearance. It would depend on the part.

June 9, 2008, 11:45 PM
I'd use a mixture similar to what watchmakers use: water, acetone, ammonia, and oleic acid (stearic acid is a lot easier to find and should work about as well.) At least I've read that they use that :rolleyes: Dissolve the fatty acid in the acetone, react with excess ammonia to make a soap, dilute with water. I don't remember the proportions, but could probably find it again.

June 10, 2008, 06:18 PM
I'd use a mixture similar to what watchmakers use: water, acetone, ammonia, and oleic acid (stearic acid is a lot easier to find and should work about as well.) At least I've read that they use that

We don't:D.

We usually buy L&R Waterless Watch Cleaning Solution and a separate clear watch rinse.
Some may use other brands or types, but I never met another watchmaker that made his own cleaner or rinse.

June 10, 2008, 06:24 PM
We don't.

We usually buy L&R Waterless Watch Cleaning Solution and a separate clear watch rinse. Some may use other brands or types, but I never met another watchmaker that made his own cleaner or rinse.

I was hoping you'd chime in :) Thanks. My information is probably *very* out-of-date, or maybe just plain wrong. I still think a weak solution of acetone and ammonium soap would be a great ultrasonic cleaner (especially for brass) -- if it doesn't suds.

June 10, 2008, 11:04 PM
Acetone or lacquer thinner has a "brightening" effect on brass.
To limit fire hazards, you can put about an inch or so of water in the tank, then stand small glass, metal, or plastic jars in the water and fill them with the solvent.
The ultrasonic waves pass through the containers.

DO NOT, EVER run an ultrasonic cleaner for even a few seconds completely empty. They burn out FAST.

June 14, 2008, 12:23 AM
Acetone or lacquer thinner has a "brightening" effect on brass.

It has an effect on me too.

I would rather pay for new brass, than use those chemicals.

June 25, 2009, 04:47 PM
I know this thread is old,but I have been down and out health wise.I been piddling along at times and hope that I have a little here that may be of help to someone as it has worked for me.

I have been using a "Chicago Electric power Tool" 1-1/2 quart Ultrasonic Cleaner Model 91957,tank size 4"D.x9"L.x5 1/4"W for well over a year now.It was purchased from Harbor Freight.I have been very satisfied.

Things that I have learned that have worked for me.It will EVENTUALLY free up to Great working order WITHOUT disassembly rusted and frozen up things such as a German double set trigger,frozen up since 1986 and a US.Gov.padlock buried in the sand on a Barrier Island since WW2 and dug up in 1990.Each of these now work great,and I do believe that they both would have been totally destroyed had they been forced in any way.The solvent used in the cleaner was Distilled Water!Rusting was not a problem as the ultrasonic cleaning removes the gases out of the water,so no rusting could take place over the days cleaning.The objects were left in dirty water in the containers with a lid tightly screwed on to prevent the water from absorbing oxygen to prevent rust.Clean water was used at the start of each new cleaning cession.

After a final rinse,a run in Distilled Water and cheap water soluble "Cutting & Grinding Oil" bought by the quart as part Item#: SL2512 or by the gallon part Item# SL2513 from your NAPA Auto Parts store.A very little goes a long way when mixed with water and I have seen no sign of rust after 4 months in our humid South Georgia climate.This is a whole lot cheaper and so far has worked every bit as well as the high priced stuff that I was given to try.

I use "Ball" Wide Mouth canning Jars in 1/2 pints,pints,quarts and 1/2 gallon sizes that fit inside my cleaner,with the water kept up to the correct level inside the Ultrasonic Cleaner.I can use whatever level of water that I wish in my jars,with the level being way higher than the level in the cleaner.The high water level in the jars will eat Aluminum Foil,so I am getting ultrasonic cleaning action.

My jars set on the "rack"that came with the cleaner.The cleaner will take two of all sizes of jars at the time.I use strips of inner tube from any tires tied around the Jars to keep them apart and off the sides of the cleaner.I bought my 1/2 pint,pint and my quart jars at the grocery stores in the canning supply section.I got the 1/2 gallons at a yard sale.You could still buy the 1/2 gallon online last summer.

I sometimes use pieces of plastic "drawer liner" cut to fit,to cushion my jars when ever I cannot suspend the parts by wire from the top of the jar.I use the drawer liner that looks like the "Expanded Metal"with the Diamond openings.I do believe that this absorbs some of your sound waves and slows your process.I found that a simple "rack" that you can use to support and suspend small caliber actions still attached to the barrel works well with this cleaner and jars.

I use no flammable fluids as as my instructions say not to.

I free up and clean Aluminum with Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF.I have worked in maintaining,Firearms,Logging,Agriculture equipment,US Submarines,Fresh & saltwater Marine equipment,including engines on commercial & small boats,sport & commercial fishing equipment,pulp and paper mills and 3 chemical plants for 50+ years now and it is the best thing that I have found so far.It even works for bathroom and farm situations where you have urine,manure and fertilizer corrosion.A drop in a joint a day will eventually work if anything will.Wipe it down and rub it in ,it gives the Aluminum a polished look while it protects!As others on here have said about ATF,It is a great penetrating oil.Now,I do not know about other ATF fluids as I have not tried them.

One other old time tip.I use to love to watch and help a old gunsmith in the early to mid 50's on the North Shore of the Santee.He used a old fashioned pressure cooker to boil crudded up and frozen up parts in!He would repeadedly pressure it up and cool it down.Cooling it down completely over night.Sometimes it took days,but it works.Expansion and contraction?ALFRED

June 26, 2009, 04:22 AM
I am sure it works but as an engineer and physicist the idea that water can uptake oxygen hurts my brain and I am not speaking about percolation and bubbles. FWIW I put a decrepit old seized Enfield in our industrial ultrasonic at work. Wood furnishing removered 2KVA of ultrasonic broke that bolt free in about 15 seconds. Like you said it is a matter of expansion and contraction and then cycle.