Ultrasonic Cleaning Best Practices

Ultrasonic Cleaning Best Practices

Ultrasonic cleaning is employed across a broad spectrum of applications including heavy industry; university, pharmaceutical and other R&D labs; medical and dental instruments; engine repair services; precision optic manufacturers and DIY mechanics. Protecting your ultrasonic cleaner investment should be a top priority. These ultrasonic cleaning best practices tips will contribute to longer equipment service life, increased throughput, profit and customer satisfaction.

Always Use a Basket

Ultrasonic Cleaner Basket

Parts being cleaned should never be in contact with the ultrasonic cleaner tank. Ultrasonic vibrations caused by transducers mounted to the tank will cause parts to wear against the tank surface.

Eventually this may result in a leak.

Baskets are designed to keep parts being cleaned at the optimum position in the tank to help ensure thorough cleaning. Baskets also facilitate loading and removing parts from the cleaning bath. For more on this see this post on basket design. It notes that cleaning larger parts may call for suspending them in the solution.

Some ultrasonic cleaners are shipped with a basket. Otherwise baskets are ordered as accessories.

Don’t overfill your basket with parts. It will decrease cleaning efficiency and possibly cause part damage due to them vibrating against each other.

Maintain Proper Cleaning Solution Levels

Your ultrasonic cleaning equipment is designed to hold a specific volume of cleaning solution. Some tanks indicate the volume by a fill line; otherwise they should be approximately 2/3 full.

Too much solution will impact cleaning efficiency. Under-filled tanks may damage heaters and transducers. When filling the tank take into account solution displacement caused by parts being cleaned.

Note that repeated cleaning will result in decreased cleaning efficiency due to contaminant load. You can postpone this by skimming off contaminants that float to the surface and filtering the solution in large tanks. But eventually you’ll need to replace the solution. Dispose of it along with skimmed-off contaminants according to local regulations.

Maintain your Cleaning Tank

Elma tec clean S1

When you change your cleaning solution take the time to clean the tank by removing sediments and harder deposits that settle to the bottom during cleaning cycles. Follow recommendations in the instruction manual.

Never use abrasive cleansers on your tank. Lime deposits can be removed by operating the cleaner filled with a solution of elma tec clean S1 diluted according to instructions. Rinse the tank with clean water and let it drain dry.

Select the Correct Cleaning Solution Chemistry

The correct ultrasonic cleaning solution is as important to your cleaning operation as the ultrasonic cleaning equipment you use. It is a key best practice for getting the most out of your equipment.

The choices are based on what you are cleaning and the type of contaminants being removed.

To help you make the right choice iUltrasonic offers a variety of formulations. These are described in our post on cleaning solution selection.

Two Important Cautions on Cleaning Solutions

1. Cleaning solutions with mineral acids or a high acid concentration can cause pinholes in your cleaning tank.

If the need arises for an acidic solution, use an acid-resistant tub sized for your cleaning tank. The tub and parts being cleaned are positioned in the ultrasonic cleaner tank filled with water. Cavitation passes through the tub and acts on the parts.

2. Flammable solvents such as acetone, IPA and hydrocarbons in a standard ultrasonic cleaner tank pose a serious explosion hazard.

If you must use a volatile solvent in your cleaning operation you'll need to employ special precautions to meet national, local and your company's safety requirements.

You'll find more details on this important subject in this post on cleaning with flammable solvents. It includes several options offered by iUltrasonic supporting ultrasonic cleaning best practices.

Turn Off the Unit when Not in Use

Heat created by the ultrasonic cleaning process can cause the cleaning solution to evaporate below recommended levels.

There are options to reduce evaporation, including tank lids (standard on some models) or using cooling coils sized for the tank.

A best practice for ultrasonic cleaning in this regard is to turn off your ultrasonic cleaner when not in use - even though some units such as the Elma Ultrasonic P series automatically turn off after a certain number of hours. Doing so helps reduce your utility bills.

Other Suggestions Supporting Ultrasonic Cleaning Best Practices

Reduce Noise

While ultrasonic frequencies are above the level of hearing, operating an ultrasonic cleaner will created noise due to tank wall vibration.

Lower frequency cleaners are noisier than higher frequencies. Folks working in proximity to an operating cleaner may need to wear ear protection. A tank lid will also reduce the noise level.

Another option is to isolate the unit in a properly sized noise protection box.

Choose Accessories to Facilitate Cleaning Cycles

The old saw "the right tool makes the work go smoother" (or something like that) applies as well to supporting ultrasonic cleaning best practices. A few such accessories are mentioned above.

Others that relate to specific cleaning tasks include

  • Erlenmeyer flask clamps used in mixing, emulsifying other otherwise processing samples
  • Hook racks to correctly support jewelry in the ultrasonic cleaner bath
  • Drying units to blow heated or room temperature air around cleaned parts


As noted above ultrasonic activity causes vaporization of the cleaning solution, especially as it warms. For that reason we suggest placing your equipment in a well ventilated area. Covering the tank will capture this condensation with the added benefit of reducing noise.

Need More Information or Help…

…on how to improve ultrasonic cleaning best practices in your organization? Please pick up the phone and call our experts for unbiased recommendations.

We also invite you to visit our ultrasonic cleaner learning center for additional useful information.


Ultrasonic Cleaning Guide

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More About the Author

Dr. Rachel Kohn has extensive experience in developing technology-based business opportunities. Prior to founding Tovatech, she successfully built international sales of novel analytical instrumentation for Smiths Detection as a Global Account Manager in the Life Sciences division. Dr. Kohn’s prior positions include Director of Business Development at Photon-X, a telecom component start-up, Project Manager at Cardinal Health, and Business Director at the Medical Device Concept Laboratory, a nonprofit research institution focused on development of biomaterials and implantable medical devices. In addition, Dr. Kohn held various positions at Hoechst Celanese Corporation, including Marketing Manager, Project Team Leader, Business Analyst, and Senior Research Scientist. She has authored 37 patents and publications based on laboratory research in diverse fields such as advanced drug delivery systems, polymer films and membranes, optical disks, and polysaccharides. Dr. Kohn has a B.A. in Chemistry from Barnard College and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from M.I.T.