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Ultrasonic Cleaning Terms

Selecting an ultrasonic cleaner may, at first, seem a simple task. Until, that is, it comes to selecting features offered by various manufacturers and deciding which of these apply to your cleaning task.

Or for selecting features important for sample prep in your laboratory.This brief description of ultrasonic cleaning terms may help you in the decision process.


What could be simpler? The ultrasound is either on or off. Sonication occurs in the on position and stops in the off position. Low-priced benchtop ultrasonic cleaners with only an on-off switch may be just the ticket for your routine cleaning jobs. And they can help you develop a cleaning routine that can be applied to selecting larger units with additional features that contribute to cleaning efficiency.


If you’ve established an optimum cleaning time, or follow time recommendations provided on containers of cleaning solution formulas, a timer is a handy feature. This allows you to set the length of the cleaning cycle, start the ultrasound then move on to other tasks while the ultrasonic cleaner does its job. It will shut itself off at the end of the cycle. Certain equipment can be set for continuous operation but may have a safety auto-off after a certain time. This is to avoid parts and equipment damage.


Product literature supplied with ultrasonic cleaning solutions often suggests an optimum cleaning temperature. While sonic action in itself warms cleaning solutions a heater may be useful to reach the recommended temperature more expeditiously. Some models have an auto start function that initiates cavitation and the timer when the selected temperature is reached.

Sweep Mode

An ultrasonic cleaner operated at a fixed frequency creates what are called standing waves which result in areas of high cavitation adjacent to areas with low or no cavitation. High cavitation can damage highly polished finishes and delicate parts such as PCBs. Areas with low cavitation means parts are not being thoroughly cleaned. A sweep mode continuously modulates the frequency to provide a more homogenous distribution of cavitation throughout the cleaning bath.


Freshly prepared cleaning baths contained trapped air. This can be seen when bubbles appear on the inside walls of a standing glass of water. Air bubbles interfere with cavitation action thereby lengthening the cleaning process. Air can be removed by operating the cleaner without a load for a period of time (depending on the volume of the bath) or activating the degas mode on cleaners so equipped. The degas mode speeds the process and lets you start cleaning sooner.

Pulse Mode

Removing stubborn deposits from parts being cleaned can be hastened when the ultrasonic cleaner is equipped with a pulse mode. Pulse creates intermittent high intensity spikes of ultrasonic power to blast away these deposits. Pulse can also be employed to degas fresh cleaning solutions and to speed sample prep in the lab.

Normal Mode

This means that the equipment operates at a fixed ultrasonic frequency such as 37 kHz. Fixed frequency operation induces circulation of the fluid in the tank. In addition to cleaning it aids in mixing, dissolving and dispersing samples.

Dual Frequency

Dual frequency ultrasonic cleaners can operate at two different frequencies such as 25 and 45 kHz. Some equipment allows automatic shifting between frequencies at regular intervals. This feature broadens the utility of an ultrasonic cleaner.

Adjustable Power

Certain models of equipment allow users to set the power, such as from 30% to 100%, to tailor the ultrasonic intensity from gentle to strong to match the requirements of objects being cleaned.

Digital Displays

Cleaners equipped with digital displays allow operators to see at a glance settings and the status of the cleaning process.

For help in selecting the correct ultrasonic cleaner for your applications call the cleaning experts at 973-440-2191.

The Elmasonic PH-EL series of ultrasonic cleaners provides a wide variety of operating features


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