Finding the right detergent is vital to your industrial or precision cleaning operation. The right ultrasonic cleaning detergents should clean dirt and grime adequately without damaging the object being cleaned.

Why Use Ultrasonic Cleaning Detergents?

Chemically speaking, a detergent is a surfactant, a chemical compound that lowers the surface tension of a liquid when dissolved within it. This decreases the hold that grime and dirt have on objects, as well as increasing the power of ultrasonic waves. Surfactants also make ultrasonic cavitation more effective, increasing ultrasonic cleaning power even more.

When ultrasonic waves move through liquid and strike against a hard object, they form small vacuum bubbles that expand and violently collapse, over and over again. These vacuum bubbles are known as cavitation bubbles. As cavitation bubbles collapse, they emit tiny streams of plasma at speeds of more than 500 mph. These plasma streams remove and agitate grime from the object being cleaned without damaging it, if set correctly.

Types of Ultrasonic Cleaning Detergents

Depending upon the industry and the types of materials you’re cleaning, there is an ultrasonic cleaning detergent that suits your needs. Detergents range chemically from acidic to basic solutions, to ones formulated precisely to remove calcium buildup or even oil.

Knowing not only the physical properties but also chemical properties of both the material and contaminant you’re cleaning prevents unnecessary removal of important components of the material you’re cleaning, such as waxes, lacquers, coats, and anti-oxidation layers.

If you want to read in more detail about which detergents will work best with your particular needs, check out our comprehensive list on the Omegasonics website.

Alkaline Solutions

Omegasonics’ alkaline detergent solutions generally have a pH of 10 or greater and sometimes contain caustic soda as an ingredient, depending on the needed strength of the solution. While most moderately pH solutions (pH of 11.0 – 12.5) work well for cleaning metals, they also work great for ceramics, glass, and most plastic materials.

High Caustic Solutions

High caustic cleaners contain hydroxides and silicates. While great at removing heavy oils, grease, and waxes, a low-caustic detergent should be used when cleaning parts made of magnesium. Moderate alkaline detergents should always be a first-line defense when cleaning steel, cast iron, and stainless steel. Avoid aluminum when using high caustic solutions.

Acidic Solutions

Lower pH solutions, being the more aggressive versions at pH of 5.0 or less, should be used very specifically. Typically, acidic detergents are used to remove oxides from most metals, as long as the solution contains an inhibitor to protect the metal from damage.

Enzymatic Solutions

Many parts from the food and medical industries contain organic contaminants that are best suited for enzymatic solutions. Most often, these parts being cleaned are titanium, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, but also most plastics found in these industries.

Deionized Water

Some parts being cleaned, such as frictionless bearings, printed circuit boards, and small servo motors, require deionized water. Even fabrics, glass, metals, plastics, epoxies, and hard rubbers are all acceptable in deionized water. The important thing to remember is that many of these parts will quickly oxidize without a wetting bath and quick dry afterward. If the part being cleaned can be safely placed in water, it means deionized water will work as a cleaning medium.

Choosing the Best Ultrasonic Cleaning Detergent

With so many types of detergents and soaps on the market, it can be a daunting task finding the correct one. The fastest way is to first determine the industry you work in, then take a look at our handy chart. Generally, all-purpose detergents such as OmegaSupreme and OmegaClean are safe to use with most materials and supply excellent ultrasonic cleaning in most situations. However, it is important to remember that certain types of detergents matched with the incorrect type of material can potentially cause damage to the part being cleaning (such as in the case of using a high-caustic detergent with aluminum). Be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions on each bottle of detergent!

In the case that you cannot find the correct detergent to use for your industry or application, simply contact one of our ultrasonic cleaning consultants today at Omegasonics or give our experts a call at (888) 420-4445. We’ll find the perfect match for you!