Cleaning industrial parts

Two common industrial cleaning type machines: ultrasonic and agitation washers. In one sense, ultrasonic cleaning is agitation cleaning, just at a microscopic scale. Both kinds of cleaning have their benefits and uses and are used for precision and industrial parts cleaning across industries.

What is ultrasonic cleaning?

Ultrasonic cleaning makes use of the physical forces caused by ultrasonic sound waves moving through the liquid and striking against a hard surface. Ultrasonic waves are produced through electrical pulses traveling through a piezoelectric transducer. The transducer vibrates a diaphragm, which transmits the high-frequency sound waves through a liquid bath. These waves produce microscopic cavitation bubbles when they contact the surface of the object to be cleaned. As the bubbles form and collapse, they release high-powered plasma jets that dislodge stubborn grime from the object. Ultrasonic cleaning is used for a wide variety of industrial and precision cleaning applications, including machined parts, disaster restoration, and electronics cleaning.

What is agitation cleaning?

Agitation cleaning is merely another method of cleaning away stubborn grime from the surfaces of machine parts. It utilizes a combination of immersion in a surfactant or perhaps a solvent along with agitation, whether through drum rotation or a platform moving up and down in the liquid bath.
This type of cleaning requires objects that can stand being shaken and moved about without being damaged. Ideal objects that can be cleaned with this method include turbine blades, cylinder heads, pistons, and rods.
Agitation cleaning does a good job of getting the cleaning agent (detergent or solvent) into contact with the bulk of the object’s surface. It relies mostly on the chemical action of the surfactant used and requires the least amount of mechanical energy. It works best for situations where you have a lot of time to clean parts, since it may take hours for stubborn grime to be washed away.

So, which is better: ultrasonic cleaning or agitation cleaning?

The answer to whether ultrasonic cleaning or agitation cleaning is better depends on several factors:

—What are you trying to clean? If it’s a part that can stand up to rough handling, like a cylinder head, then either agitation or ultrasonic cleaning will probably work, though agitation may take longer. However, if it’s a more delicate or intricate part or object, it may be damaged by agitation. Ultrasonic cleaning provides an effective, but gentler method of cleaning every surface of even the most intricate objects.

—How much time do you have? If time is not much of a factor, then agitation may work for you. Admittedly, agitation cleaners can be cheaper and use less power, but the tradeoff is the amount of time it takes for them to clean parts. You have to consider whether it’s worth your time and money investment to have your cleaning operations be slow or inefficient. Calculate your ROI (Return on Investment) for both types of cleaners to see which one comes out ahead for your needs.

—What’s your budget? In general, agitation cleaners can cost less initially than ultrasonic cleaners. If you’re looking at a low spend, then you may want to consider an agitation cleaner. However, when you’re considering cost, you need to take into account the entire cost, including production time lost for cleaning, overall energy used, employee time spent, and so on. Return on Investment (ROI) is another significant cost factor. Depending on your operation, you may find that investing in an ultrasonic cleaner produces more significant savings in the long run by cutting down on production time lost to cleaning, for example.

Overall, whether ultrasonic or agitation cleaning is better depends on your operational needs and other factors. To get some guidance on the best type of cleaner for your situation, you should contact one of our experts at Omegasonics at 888-989-5560 or by emailing us at You can also get in touch with us by filling out our online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!