Spray wash vs. Ultrasonic cleaning

In any machining process, a variety of contaminants will eventually build up such as grease, solder flux, and other debris. For your operation to run efficiently, proper cleaning, maintenance, and inspection must be consistent priorities. Ideal cleaning methods optimise efficiency, cost, and time while considering the unique equipment of your operation.

Comparing spray wash vs ultrasonic cleaning

This guide will give you a high-level overview of mechanical cleaning as a key part of any industrial process and provide a detailed summary of the benefits of ultrasonic cleaning and spray washing, as well as the differences between them.

After reading this, you’ll have the knowledge necessary to determine which cleaner is best for your purposes while considering the advantages of each.

To find out how Turbex can help you, contact the team today.

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    The difference between spray wash and ultrasonic

    In any machining process, a variety of contaminants will eventually build up such as grease, solder flux, and other debris. For your operation to run efficiently, proper cleaning, maintenance, and inspection must be consistent priorities. Ideal cleaning methods optimise efficiency, cost, and time while considering the unique equipment of your operation.

    What is mechanical cleaning?

    Cleaning by mechanical means is defined as eliminating contaminants from equipment through the utilisation of abrasion. Though there are many different industrial cleaning methods available, such as chemical cleaning, mechanical cleaning is often preferred due to its safety, reliability, and affordability. It serves many different purposes, from cleaning large industrial equipment to removing grease and dirt from car parts. In any case, in order to achieve a robust, reliable, and repeatable process we have to introduce mechanical action to the cleaning process. 

    There are two main types of mechanical cleaning methods: spray wash and ultrasonic. The options are:

    • Spray wash (air)
    • Spray under emersion
    • Air bubble agitation
    • Ultrasonics

    All of these use the same basic process of agitation to remove debris from your system, but how do you decide which of these techniques is best for you?

    Spray washing

    What is spray washing?

    Spray washing is defined as the impingement of the detergent solution on the component you want to clean. It works in much the same way as a washing machine for your clothing – a solvent is dispersed and then agitated on the clothing surface through the rotation of the internal drum. 

    Two factors make spray wash effective: the use of high temperature and high flow rate. To understand this fully, consider a garden hose. When you hold your thumb over a garden hose so the stream is blocked, the result is high pressure and low flow. If you take your thumb off completely, you have low pressure and much higher flow. For spray washing, these variables of pressure and flow rate must be optimised properly in conjunction. In our analogy, this would be like having your thumb partially over the hose so there is medium pressure and flow rate. With these components acting together, contaminants are very efficiently removed. 

    Benefits of spray washing

    Due to the simplicity of this mechanical washing process, spray washing is the most cost-effective method of cleaning. Additionally, it’s also one of the safest cleaning methods as no hazardous chemicals are used and it requires no direct exposure to the process by the operator. Furthermore, spray washing is a sustainable option due to its nature as a closed-loop process that minimises the use of water and toxins. 

    Applications for spray washing 

    Spray washing is the best option in situations where there is a large area that has been contaminated or the level of contamination is very high. Additionally, spray wash can also be used as part of a pre-wash process. It is known for being very effective in the following industries:

    • Aerospace
    • Manufacturing of components
    • Automotive
    • Hydraulics
    • Defence sector

    As stated, choosing between solvent cleaning vs aqueous cleaning solution is dependent on your particular cleaning requirements. The right fit must address your environmental, utilisation and financial requirements. The make-up or structure of your cleaning apparatus, the equipment to be cleaned, and the industrial layout are also considerations that must be taken into account when choosing the best cleaning solution for your industrial facility. Reach out to a Turbex representative for your cleaning solution needs.

    Ultrasonic cleaning

    What is ultrasonic cleaning?

    Ultrasonic cleaning uses soundwaves to agitate the cleaning solution, which produces a cavitational effect that works like a polishing action on the surface. This happens in a tank in which the vibrations make bubbles on the surface of the contaminated object. When these bubbles burst, the solution is propelled towards the object (cavitation). Just as with spray washing, the high pressure, flow rate, and heat of this cavitation process make it an effective mechanical cleaning method. 

    Benefits of ultrasonic cleaning

    In combination with the application of a solvent, one of the benefits of ultrasonic cleaning is that it can decontaminate the surface of the component very effectively, making it one of the best mechanical cleaning methods. This is because it achieves a high level of cleanliness and is good at penetrating hard-to-reach areas. It also can reduce the time spent cleaning by 90%. 

    Applications for ultrasonic cleaning 

    Ultrasonic cleaning is best when extremely high levels of cleanliness are required, such as applications within the medical industry. Other industries that frequently utilise ultrasonic cleaning include:

    • Precision optics  
    • Aerospace  
    • Electronics and semiconductor production 
    • Watch and jewellery 
    • Manufacturing of precision components 
    • Automotive 

    Spray wash vs. ultrasonic cleaning

    Now that we have explored the definitions of ultrasonic cleaning and spray wash, let’s compare and contrast the two methods. 

    It is important to note that spray wash and ultrasonic cleaning have orientation requirements. For spray wash, free draining is desired to assist the rinse process and further aid the drying process. Similarly, for ultrasonic cleaning, airlocks are not created but they still should be as free draining as possible for the best result. In both instances, the orientation of the component is important to allow for liquid access and free draining.

    For both spray wash and ultrasonic cleaning, rotation is a critical aspect of efficacy. Consider that some components will have blind holes or ports on all sides. As a result, accessibility for the cleaning solution needs to be ensured to reach all areas in the system. Rotation can be beneficial in both spray washing and ultrasonic cleaning of components with complex geometry where air pockets or liquid retention are an issue. 

    To best select a mechanical cleaning method, you must note the level of cleanliness required in your components. For most general purposes, spray wash is the appropriate choice because it is cheaper than ultrasonic cleaning and the precision level achieved by ultrasonic cleaning is not necessary. If you can’t determine the difference between spray wash and ultrasonic results, you don’t need ultrasonics and should not spend the extra money. 

    In addition to deciding between ultrasonic and spray washing, it is equally important to make sure you select a mechanical cleaner with a high calibre of technical features and exceptional build quality. 

    Conclusion: ultrasonic cleaning provides a deeper clean but is more expensive than spray washing

    Both ultrasonic cleaning and spray washing provide a wide variety of applications and specifications depending on your equipment’s needs. With our effective comparison of these mechanical cleaning techniques, you’ll now be able to properly select the Turbex cleaner that works best for you. Contact a Turbex representative today to learn more about the benefits of ultrasonic cleaning and spray washing.

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