an ultrasonic cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaners function by bombarding items with sound whose frequency is beyond the range of human hearing. A discussion of the specific mechanism of cleaning is complex and beyond the intent of this post. What follows are some pointers when using a simple ultrasonic cleaner.


Ultrasonic cleaners will impart their cleaning action to the objects submerged (normally in water) inside them. As such you will only be able to effectively clean items which will fit inside the cleaner. Items with unusual aspect ratios (such as rifle barrels) will likely require a more specialized unit as their shape will not be as common.

Some units will also have heaters for heating the cleaning solution. This is an excellent feature and greatly accelerates the cleaning process. The unit pictured at the top of this page will heat the cleaning solution to about 176F (80C). For comparison most residential water heaters will heat your hot water supply to 120-140F. If you use the heating function some of the cleaning solution may evaporate from the unit and condense on the inside of the lid. Thus care should be taken when removing the lid especially if the condensate may contain corrosives (more on this later).

Cleaners will generally come with some type of wire basket for adding and removing items without getting your hands in the cleaning solution. In addition larger units will have a drain valve for emptying the cleaning solution when it becomes fouled or unusable.

cleaner interior


Simply place the items inside the cleaner, then turn it on or set the timer. The unit does not need supervision. Certain types of items are more easily cleaned in these cleaners than by other methods. Objects having intricate shape or edges cleaning brushes could get caught on are good candidates for ultrasonic cleaning.

electric razor blade assemblies are easily cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner

Often cleaning will be more effective if some type of solvent is added to the water to form a more effective cleaning solution. What you can use in your cleaner will depend on what it was designed for. Most cleaners can be used with household detergents.

cleaner drain valve

More corrosive/awesome cleaners like sodium hydroxide should only be used if the unit is intended for use with them. Even if your cleaner is constructed of a metal body resistant to attack by corrosives (like stainless steel) other components, like the drain valve seals, may not be. In addition a single successful use of a cleaner with a powerful solvent does not indicate the unit is not suffering damage. While not immediately destroying the unit some substances may greatly reduce its working lifespan.

Ultrasonic cleaners come in a variety of sizes and prices. The one picture in the article runs about $400. Other smaller units can be less expensive but may not come with a heating function.

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