Help Ultrasonic Cleaner and the best cleaning solution to use for cleaning clock parts

captainclock

Registered User
Mar 4, 2013
429
32
28
33
Elkhart, Indiana
Country
Region
Greetings everyone, I'm thinking about buying an ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning some of my old clock movements that need to be overhauled and I was wondering what some of you guys (and gals) here use in your ultrasonic cleaners as cleaner to clean some of your old clock movement parts that are dirty and grungy?

I had read in a couple of threads on here that some people use white vinegar but there was something else they used with the vinegar but I can't remember what it was and I also can't remember which thread or forum I found that information in.

Any help in this matter would be appreciated.
 

c.kugle

Registered User
Jul 15, 2021
188
76
28
53
Country
There are a myriad of different Cleaners and brighteners but they are costly and also there are disposal issues. I use distilled water and 1/4 cup oxy-clean to loosen up the oil and grunge. After rinsing I use a soft brass bristle brush to finely clean the plates and gears. A heads up - before you use your new U/S cleaner put window screen in the bottom of the parts basket so no gear parts can go through and make contact with the machine. I ruined an escapement gear the first time I used mine as I had to remake the gear pinion shaft and cut the pivots.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tolly

Willie X

Registered User
Feb 9, 2008
16,808
2,796
113
Many people have the delusion that clock parts can only be cleaned in an US cleaner, that's just wrong. Clock parts have been cleaned by hand for hundreds of years and hand cleaning doesn't take much more time than US cleaning, when you count all the steps, plus the fact that some hand cleaning is usually needed at the end of the US process.

For hand cleaning, you will need:
• A good stiff brush, a toothbrush will do.
• Scotchbrite pads, along with 4-0 and
2-0 steel wool.
• A big SS dog bowl, or a cut off 5 gal. bucket, etc.
• Bamboo skewers.
• One gallon of mineral spirits, or paint thinner.
• A good hair blower and/or a small air compressor.
• Neoprene or Nitrile gloves.
• A large funnel with cone shaped screen and #6 coffee filters. This is for recycling your cleaning solvent.

This is quite a list but probably less than your US cleaning would require, mainly because you are dealing with only one cleaning agent.

Another strong point, NO water is involved.

Scrub on, Willie X
 

captainclock

Registered User
Mar 4, 2013
429
32
28
33
Elkhart, Indiana
Country
Region
Alright thanks.
I was asking because I have at least 2 really dirty/grungy clock movements that will need a really good bath in order for them to work properly, one movement in particular is an 1890s vintage Waterbury T/S/A/C movement (its one of those double dial Calendar clocks from the 1890s) that the movement appears to be caked in a combination of gummed up oil, and tobacco smoke/tar build-up and the build-up is so extensive that the alarm mechanism's trip lever was "seized" to the clock movement frame and wouldn't allow the alarm to trigger properly unless you loosened the retaining screw a couple of turns, the other movement is a 1920s vintage Seikosha T/S movement that is also pretty gummed up (but not as bad as the Waterbury Double Dial Calendar Clock movement was) and so I wanted to try my hand at disassembling, cleaning and oiling these movements (I've already inspected the movements and they appear to have very minimal bushing and pivot wear, or had such wear already repaired.)

I might try the hand cleaning method for the Seikosha Movement (as its a much simpler movement than the Waterbury is) and then use the ultrasonic cleaning method on the Waterbury movement.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
Greetings everyone, I'm thinking about buying an ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning some of my old clock movements that need to be overhauled and I was wondering what some of you guys (and gals) here use in your ultrasonic cleaners as cleaner to clean some of your old clock movement parts that are dirty and grungy?

I had read in a couple of threads on here that some people use white vinegar but there was something else they used with the vinegar but I can't remember what it was and I also can't remember which thread or forum I found that information in.

Any help in this matter would be appreciated.
First, and most important, if you are considering using an ultrasonic cleaner as an alternative to having to disassemble a movement, forget about it. The movement needs to be disassembled for cleaning whether you clean by hand or in an ultrasonic cleaner. Do NOT use mineral spirits or any other flammable solvent in your ultrasonic cleaner (the instruction manual should have mentioned this). Understand that even with an ultrasonic there will be some hand cleaning required. It is not magic.

For my ultrasonic I use Deox-007 clock cleaning solution. Pretty expensive for a gallon, but you dilute it about 5:1 up to 7:1 and you can clean a lot of parts before having to replace it. It is a water-based cleaner, biodegradable, and rinses with water which is free or almost. There are a lot of hone brew solutions, some may be OK, some not so, but I would go with Deox-007 or one of the other commercial clock cleaning solutions that are made for ultrasonics.

If you want to clean by hand you can follow Willie's directions, or use Deox-007 which also works "by hand" if you do not want the smell or risk of a flammable solution.

The ultra sonic can be beneficial for removing crud from places that a brush can't reach such as around the trundles of a lantern pinion. It is a helpful tool - it can help you do a better job in less time, but is not essential.

RC
 

John P

NAWCC Member
Sep 17, 2010
1,192
153
63
75
North Carolina
Country
Region
We use ASTROCLEAN concentrate from Merritt"s. Highly recommended if you want thorough cleaning and bright brass. Costs about $39.00 per gallon and makes 7 gallons of cleaner.

johnp
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tolly

Schatznut

NAWCC Member
Sep 26, 2020
1,124
525
113
SoCal
Country
Region
This subject comes up regularly and we quickly get off into almost theological ground because there are many strong opinions and perspectives. I'm a marginally competent hobbyist and not a repair professional, so take this for what it's worth.

I agree with Willie. I tried an ultrasonic and whereas it did some things particularly well, I ended up damaging some parts using aqueous cleaners (flash rust) because I was not able to get them dried quickly enough following final rinse. I believe that was due to my poor technique. I was able to salvage them by manual means, and no longer use the ultrasonic. Many others have developed good technique using water-based cleaners, certain ones of which they say do a good job of brightening the brass.

I use mineral spirits (which leaves a very light film which protects from rust) for the majority of parts, and camp stove fuel (white gas, which flashes off leaving no film) for very small parts. This does not make the brass shiny like some of the aqueous cleaners do, but neither does it allow an opportunity for flash rust on ferrous parts.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tolly

Arthur Cagle

Registered User
May 22, 2003
546
62
28
Greater Baton Rouge Area, Louisiana
Country
Region
I use Deox-007, rinse with hot water and dry with a hair dryer immediately after removing from the US. I picked up an old hot air popcorn popper which I intend to convert to a parts dryer. I agree that there will still be some hand cleaning to be done, but in my opinion the US is a gem for lantern pinions, especially. I like the fact that Deox is biodegradable.

I made a basket from window screening that fits my US. It keep parts from contact with the floor of the US and keeps the small parts together...saves a lot of fishing around in the tank.
 

captainclock

Registered User
Mar 4, 2013
429
32
28
33
Elkhart, Indiana
Country
Region
First, and most important, if you are considering using an ultrasonic cleaner as an alternative to having to disassemble a movement, forget about it. The movement needs to be disassembled for cleaning whether you clean by hand or in an ultrasonic cleaner. Do NOT use mineral spirits or any other flammable solvent in your ultrasonic cleaner (the instruction manual should have mentioned this). Understand that even with an ultrasonic there will be some hand cleaning required. It is not magic.

For my ultrasonic I use Deox-007 clock cleaning solution. Pretty expensive for a gallon, but you dilute it about 5:1 up to 7:1 and you can clean a lot of parts before having to replace it. It is a water-based cleaner, biodegradable, and rinses with water which is free or almost. There are a lot of hone brew solutions, some may be OK, some not so, but I would go with Deox-007 or one of the other commercial clock cleaning solutions that are made for ultrasonics.

If you want to clean by hand you can follow Willie's directions, or use Deox-007 which also works "by hand" if you do not want the smell or risk of a flammable solution.

The ultra sonic can be beneficial for removing crud from places that a brush can't reach such as around the trundles of a lantern pinion. It is a helpful tool - it can help you do a better job in less time, but is not essential.

RC
I was planning on disassembling both movements (the reason why I said that I wanted to try and use the ultrasonic cleaner for the calendar clock was because there are a lot of smaller parts to that movement compared to the Seikosha movement which would be a lot harder to try and clean by hand.)
 

steamer471

NAWCC Member
Nov 2, 2013
766
178
43
57
Charlotte NC
Country
Region
A word of caution concerning baskets for your solutions, stay way from zinc coated screen and aluminum. One of my first blunders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tolly

Tolly

Registered User
Aug 27, 2020
45
3
8
73
Kingsport, Tennessee
Country
Region
Many people have the delusion that clock parts can only be cleaned in an US cleaner, that's just wrong. Clock parts have been cleaned by hand for hundreds of years and hand cleaning doesn't take much more time than US cleaning, when you count all the steps, plus the fact that some hand cleaning is usually needed at the end of the US process.

For hand cleaning, you will need:
• A good stiff brush, a toothbrush will do.
• Scotchbrite pads, along with 4-0 and
2-0 steel wool.
• A big SS dog bowl, or a cut off 5 gal. bucket, etc.
• Bamboo skewers.
• One gallon of mineral spirits, or paint thinner.
• A good hair blower and/or a small air compressor.
• Neoprene or Nitrile gloves.
• A large funnel with cone shaped screen and #6 coffee filters. This is for recycling your cleaning solvent.

This is quite a list but probably less than your US cleaning would require, mainly because you are dealing with only one cleaning agent.

Another strong point, NO water is involved.

Scrub on, Willie X
I’ve listened to You and “Shutterbug“ before and I’ve had great successes!
Thanks,
Tolly
 

Arthur Cagle

Registered User
May 22, 2003
546
62
28
Greater Baton Rouge Area, Louisiana
Country
Region
A word of caution concerning baskets for your solutions, stay way from zinc coated screen and aluminum. One of my first blunders.
Probably depends on what solution you use. I've used aluminum
A word of caution concerning baskets for your solutions, stay way from zinc coated screen and aluminum. One of my first blunders.
Probably depends on what solution you use. I'm not sure what the screen I use is made of, but it looks like aluminum. I've also used zinc hardware mesh in the past with no problem. I use Deox-007, which is water based.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
Probably depends on what solution you use. I've used aluminum

Probably depends on what solution you use. I'm not sure what the screen I use is made of, but it looks like aluminum. I've also used zinc hardware mesh in the past with no problem. I use Deox-007, which is water based.
In some cases, the basket material may react with the cleaning solution, but more importantly, when certain dissimilar metals are in ionic solutions (non-zero pH solutions) electrolysis can occur. Strange colors can happen and even electro plating of some parts. It is not just baskets, avoid putting aluminum and zinc parts in with brass and steel parts.

RC
 

Arthur Cagle

Registered User
May 22, 2003
546
62
28
Greater Baton Rouge Area, Louisiana
Country
Region
In some cases, the basket material may react with the cleaning solution, but more importantly, when certain dissimilar metals are in ionic solutions (non-zero pH solutions) electrolysis can occur. Strange colors can happen and even electro plating of some parts. It is not just baskets, avoid putting aluminum and zinc parts in with brass and steel parts.

RC
Makes sense. Thank you for the explanation. It's always helpful to say why a procedure is or is not recommended, rather than just say you should or shouldn't do something.
 

c.kugle

Registered User
Jul 15, 2021
188
76
28
53
Country
It seems that if someone mentions window screen people assume its metal that may react with solutions and or brass. I use nylon window screen with distilled water and oxy-clean to loosen everything up the soft bristle brass brush for hand cleaning.
 

Joseph Coppersmith

Registered User
Dec 25, 2010
194
2
18
St. Paul, MN
Country
Region
Greetings everyone, I'm thinking about buying an ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning some of my old clock movements that need to be overhauled and I was wondering what some of you guys (and gals) here use in your ultrasonic cleaners as cleaner to clean some of your old clock movement parts that are dirty and grungy?

I had read in a couple of threads on here that some people use white vinegar but there was something else they used with the vinegar but I can't remember what it was and I also can't remember which thread or forum I found that information in.

Any help in this matter would be appreciated.
In my clock repair class(s) I was instructed after the movement was completely disassembled you can use sudsy ammonia to clean the parts using a tooth brush. After the part(s) is scrubbed you rinse the part under very hot running water then followed by by a thorough air dry - ie. a hair dryer.
This process has worked very well. Note: I have not used thus process on a lacquer movement.
 

Willie X

Registered User
Feb 9, 2008
16,808
2,796
113
That sounds good. Be sure to wear good gloves and stand off as much as you can. I would say outdoors only. If you are quick (only taking a few minutes before rinsing) the lacquer will probably be OK. You will have to do some real world sperimenting to get real answers. Good luck, Willie X
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
In my clock repair class(s) I was instructed after the movement was completely disassembled you can use sudsy ammonia to clean the parts using a tooth brush. After the part(s) is scrubbed you rinse the part under very hot running water then followed by by a thorough air dry - ie. a hair dryer.
This process has worked very well. Note: I have not used thus process on a lacquer movement.
You will find that there are as many "right ways" to clean clock parts as there are "experts" who think they know the "right way". With all water based processes, flash rusting is an issue that must be considered. The solution involves removing the rinse water as quickly as possible. All chemical reactions are accelerated by heat, but heat is usually used to remove the remaining hidden moisture. I like cool compressed air, or other high velocity blast to scatter the water first, followed heated air at about 180F. I rinse in cool water. If you rinse under a spigot with an aerator, remove the aerator - no need to add more oxygen to the water. Finally, don't batch blow and dry, blow the water off each individual part as quickly as possible.

RC
 

Tolly

Registered User
Aug 27, 2020
45
3
8
73
Kingsport, Tennessee
Country
Region
I use Deox-007, rinse with hot water and dry with a hair dryer immediately after removing from the US. I picked up an old hot air popcorn popper which I intend to convert to a parts dryer. I agree that there will still be some hand cleaning to be done, but in my opinion the US is a gem for lantern pinions, especially. I like the fact that Deox is biodegradable.

I made a basket from window screening that fits my US. It keep parts from contact with the floor of the US and keeps the small parts together...saves a lot of fishing around in the tank.
Arther , Thanks for all of your suggestions. Tolly
 

Kevin W.

NAWCC Member
Apr 11, 2002
23,457
656
113
64
Nepean, Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Been using Deox 007 for quite a few years ,great results.
 

Swanicyouth

Registered User
Nov 10, 2019
329
85
28
49
Country
Anything really dirty I always will start with 1 can of brake clean, which is the best degreaser I’ve found readily available. Of course, it will destroy lacquer - but is perfectly safe on any metal
 
  • Like
Reactions: c.kugle

shutterbug

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Oct 19, 2005
48,743
2,625
113
North Carolina
Country
Region
Yes, it's a great grease dissolver. It's smart to use it outdoors, though.
 

Marc Hildebrant

Registered User
Sep 2, 2009
80
5
8
West Dennis, Ma.
Country
Region
I have used warm kerosene heated with the heater in a Branson Ultrasonic Cleaner. I do this outside. This works well for clock parts and gun parts. I know that others may not like this, but it is effective and dangerous.

The results also work well when I use some of the commercial clock cleaners.

Marc
 
Last edited:

MARK A. BUTTERWORTH

NAWCC Life Member
NAWCC Member
Jul 4, 2009
2,611
224
63
Muscatine, Iowa 52761
Country
Region
The original post asked about “best”, not cheapest. I see notes about stripping lacquer. That violates the first principle of any doctor- do no harm. The Zenith 1000 [sold by every supply house] is formulated for the specific purpose of cleaning clocks and is waterless. I believe to be superior to any home made concoction. It is made for use with ultrasonics although it works well by hand cleaning as well. It does not degrade with time and can be filtered to extend the life. Why anyone would use a water based solution when it is known that water promotes rust amazes me. Do no harm. And in a heated solution water simply accelerates the process. For rinsing a waterless solution goes without saying. The Zenith 1001 is made for that. These solutions are designed to be used unheated. Heating causes a more rapid evaporation of the chemical doing the cleaning.
With regard to ultrasonics, one can live without them, but the process of cavitation causes the dirt to explode from surfaces. I do not believe with all the crevices one can get to all the places that the ultrasonic process will. If one is doing this professionally, of course time is money and the ultrasonic will pay for itself many times over.
If someone asks about the cheapest way to do something, that is a different question.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
The original post asked about “best”, not cheapest........... If someone asks about the cheapest way to do something, that is a different question.
This is true, but cost, and other factors are a consideration when selecting the "best" overall product. For the sake of argument, let's assume that Zenith 1000 / Zenith1001 rinse, and Poly-Chem Deox-007 / water rinse, both do an acceptable job of cleaning. Let's look at the cost as supplied by Timesavers to fill a 1-gallon ultrasonic, plus a 1-gallon rinse container:

1 gal. Zenith 1000 $56.80 plus 1 gal. Zenith 1001 rinse $56.80 (product must be used undiluted) = $113.60

1 gal Deox-007 @ $38.50 (conc. is diluted 7:1) plus 1 gallon water = $5.50

Checking the material safety data sheet for Zenith 1000: http://blog.esslinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/23.0261-Zenith-Hi-Tech-MSDS.pdf one finds:

"OSHA HAZARD COMMUNICATION STANDARD: HAZARDOUS

FLASH POINT: 120.0° - 130.0°F TCC

SYMPTOMS OF EXPOSURE
NAUSEA, VOMITING, DIARRHEA
NOSE, THROAT,AIRWAYS IRRITATION
DIZZINESS, DROWSINESS, WEAKNESS, FATIGUE, HEADACHE

VENTILATION: PROVIDE SUFFICIENT MECHANICAL VENTILATION
TO MAINTAIN EXPOSURE BELOW TLV(S

PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN: AVOID HEAT, OPEN FLAME, PROLONGED
STORAGE AT ELEVATED TEMPERATURES"

Zenith 1000 is a hydrocarbon based solvent so one also needs to ask how to disposed of the used product in an environmentally acceptable way. Being a non-water based cleaner is an obvious advantage, but there is a tradeoff. Zenith 1000 is clearly intended to be used in a commercial / industrial environment where proper ventilation and safety and environmental conditions are maintained. Whatever product one chooses to use, one needs to take the necessary steps to use that product safely.

RC
 
  • Like
Reactions: DennyI and Jonas

HotCzech46

NAWCC Member
NAWCC Brass Member
May 6, 2022
43
13
8
76
Texas
Country
Region
RC, as always, I love your responses. I am just an amateur on clock repair, but I work on a lot of other antique devices, such as pinball machines and jukeboxes, that also require cleaning and lubrication. Many of those involve circuit boards, which are even more sensitive to water and various solvents than clock mechanisms. For those, I use an electronic spray cleaner, designed specifically to clean circuit boards from oil, dirt, grime, solder paste, etc., and leave no residue. Usually, it comes in a spray can with the typical short red straw nozzle so it can be directed right where you need it. Simple question: why won't this work on a clock mechanism? Especially if you don't intend to take the clock completely apart, but just try to clean up pivot holes and pinions. It is cheap. Even WD-40 makes a version of it, but I prefer CRC and have used it for circuit boards for years. About $5 a can from Amazon.
Second suggestion - First, reading through the many clock repair books (which you recommended to me, and I thank you for!) it appears that the old-time solution was to use benzene. No one would use that today, but it is a major component of regular old gasoline. There are videos on the internet (no screaming responses required; I know!) of people using gasoline to clean clock parts. What is wrong with using gasoline? Non water based. Use it outside in an open area. When done, put a paper filter in a funnel and pour it into your lawn mower or just let it sit outside and it will evaporate in a short period. I know the purists are shaking their head in disbelief, but for a hobbyist who does not want to spend over $100 for cleaning solutions and $100 for an ultrasonic cleaner and who doesn't keep kerosine or Coleman fuel around, it seems like a decent alternative. Cost for a quart or half-gallon of gas? Now about $3 (used to be $1.00 !!!)
Third suggestion - brake cleaner was mentioned before. I have used this to clean mainsprings by hand before I re-oil them. It appears to do a good job of cleaning them. Any problem with using brake cleaner for this?
Fourth suggestion - much like the electronic spray cleaner, what is wrong with using carb cleaner to clean clock parts? Either the spray can type, or even the liquid form? When you look at ads and reviews for ultrasonic cleaners, you will find that they are used extensively by car mechanics to clean carburetors. They have the same issues with carbs that exist with clocks - small orifices that have to be thoroughly cleaned. I have not used the spray cleaner on clocks because although they are not water based, which is good, I cannot be sure that they don't leave a residue, so I would rather use the electronic spray cleaner which leaves no residue. The liquid form usually comes in a 3/4 gallon can with a basket built into it, so you can put parts in, let them soak, and then just lift them out and close up the can to use again the next time. Cleaner lasts a long time. Again, I have not used this on clock parts, but it would appear to be a decent alternative. Spray can about $4 on Amazon and about $35 for the can of liquid. Liquid is non-flammable but contains Cresylic Acid, petroleum based, and requires careful handling much like gasoline or any other petroleum-based product. It shows to be safe for plastics and metals, including steel, aluminum and alloys but could never find assurance that it was safe on brass, which is another reason I have not tried it.
Last question - What non-water-based solvents can be used in an ultrasonic cleaner? The basic UC's I have seen, such as the Harbor Freight one or the one sold by Walmart, don't have drains so you have issues with emptying the solution. Water based is easy. Not so easy for ones that can't go down the drain.
 

Willie X

Registered User
Feb 9, 2008
16,808
2,796
113
All beginners want to believe what you are saying. Some want to believe it really bad!

But ... what you describe is termed 'surface cleaning' and it works pretty good but only for cosmetics. The areas (pivots and pivot holes) that need cleaning are not visible, therefore not 'cleananle' by external means.

Actually the very word 'cleaning' in clock speak means taking the clock apart and doing all things necessary to get those unseen surfaces back in good shape. So the word cleaning should be used in that context, or use the words 'surface cleaning'. The nomenclature in clockdom might be the toughest thing to learn.

I somewhat apologize for repeating the same thing that has hashed over hundreds of times here.

Keep at it, Willie X
 
  • Like
Reactions: Arthur Cagle

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
7,693
1,475
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
Also, many of the cleaning agents discussed here, need to be rinsed off properly and dried properly. There's a lot more to cleaning clocks and watches than simply washing the old oil and grease off. Mostly, everything has to be very clean before one can properly assess the lengths one must go to in order to repair the wear. Often enough it all has to be cleaned again afterwards.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Willie X

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
...... For those, I use an electronic spray cleaner, designed specifically to clean circuit boards from oil, dirt, grime, solder paste, etc., and leave no residue. Usually, it comes in a spray can with the typical short red straw nozzle so it can be directed right where you need it. Simple question: why won't this work on a clock mechanism? Especially if you don't intend to take the clock completely apart, but just try to clean up pivot holes and pinions.
Consider two key words: safe and effective. If you can answer yes and yes then you are probably good to go.

I know this sounds like a broken record, but any attempt to "clean" a clock without taking it apart is NOT 100% effective. You can do a pretty good job of cleaning what you see (the part the clock really doesn't care about), and you may even remove enough sludge from inside the pivot holes to encourage the clock to run but the result is usually short lived, plus you cannot check the condition of pivots that you can't see. In my opinion, any attempt to clean a clock using any method or any solvent is ineffective and a waste of time if it doesn't include taking the movement apart first.

......... There are videos on the internet (no screaming responses required; I know!) of people using gasoline to clean clock parts. What is wrong with using gasoline? Non water based. Use it outside in an open area. When done, put a paper filter in a funnel and pour it into your lawn mower or just let it sit outside and it will evaporate in a short period.
I have a very old book on clocks that says to keep a bucket of gasoline in the back room for cleaning cheap clocks, that are just wound up and put in the bucket. When I was a kid (10 or 12 years old) I used to take small engines and clean the parts in a bucket of gasoline, and wash my hands in the same. Just dumped the ditty stuff in the driveway, or along the ditch to kill weeds. It did a good job of cleaning parts, but not sure how I survived. So to answer your question, problem one is that gasoline (and many other solvents) has a very low flash point. Simply put, that means that at room temperature it gives off explosive vapors. Vapors that will settle around you to the floor or ground. Vapors that can ignite from any ignition source, spart, flame, hot surface, and kaboom. I guess the only thing that saved me was that I didn't smoke. Allowing gasoline to evaporate as a disposal method is of course now recognized as an environmental no no. So that's why no.

Third suggestion - brake cleaner was mentioned before. I have used this to clean mainsprings by hand before I re-oil them. It appears to do a good job of cleaning them. Any problem with using brake cleaner for this? Fourth suggestion - much like the electronic spray cleaner, what is wrong with using carb cleaner to clean clock parts?
Add to the above list, throttle body cleaner, mass air flow sensor cleaner, PCV valve cleaner, and probably a few more automotive spray cleaners (which may be the same thing with a different label). I have no problem with using these from spray cans with the "plastic straw" to clean clock parts if the movement is first disassembled. Many of these may be flammable but the quantity of liquid used is small and the flow stops when the button is released. With reasonable precautions and ventilation I say they can be safe and effective.



Last question - What non-water-based solvents can be used in an ultrasonic cleaner? The basic UC's I have seen, such as the Harbor Freight one or the one sold by Walmart.......
The short answer is any that are non-flammable. Most inexpensive ultrasonics are not approved for use around explosive vapors. There are non-flammable and non-water based solvents but I think you are looking at industrial chemicals that are above your price point. Back in the 1960's when I worked at an electronics manufacturing plant we used sever such solvents but the most effective ones were taken off the market for environmental reasons.

RC
 
Last edited:

HotCzech46

NAWCC Member
NAWCC Brass Member
May 6, 2022
43
13
8
76
Texas
Country
Region
Thanks! Kind of what I expected. I have also used gasoline to clean things all my life. If you know the dangers and are careful on how you use it, it is not much worse than a lot of other things on the shelf.
I follow the discourse about "cleaning" means being dismantled first. No arguments. That makes sense. However, once dismantled, it seems like gas is as good a cleaning agent as anything else I have seen. More dangerous, so the safety issue has to be addressed, but it will definitely clean things up and won't leave flash rust as water would.
Even if gas is used, it won't get it all. Brushing the crevices with a toothbrush helps but as far as I can tell, unless ultrasonic methods are used, nothing more is done. Which is why I brought up the electronic spray cleaner. Once the parts are separate, cleaned in whatever solvent is used, and dried, then the spray cleaner could be aimed at every pivot hole and pinion to clean them out. Sprayed while parts are separated. It serves the dual purpose of supplying compressed air at the same time it cleans. The only alternative I see would be to use alcohol to spot clean something or you have to go through the drying process all over again.
Regarding drying, if you use a water-based solvent, I gather the common approach is to dry it in an oven or use compressed air. I don't think people understand that compressed air always has substantial water content in it, unless they are buying cans of it, like that used to clean computer keyboards. A normal compressor has to be drained often to remove the water that accumulates when the air is compressed. I don't have that big a problem here. I am in Houston, and it is close to 100 degrees outside with no rain for over a week. Wash it, lay it out on a table outside, and it will be scorching hot and dry as a bone in a matter of seconds. I can blow off the parts since I have a 40-gallon compressor in my garage, but for a clock that would definitely fit in the category of "overkill"! I have used it to blow off saws and other equipment and often see water accumulating on the surface when using it.
I have also been debating buying one of the ultrasonic cleaners. However, if it forces using a water-based solvent, then the benefits are questionable in my mind. Which brings us back to the very question "captainclock" raised that started this thread in the first place.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
Thanks! Kind of what I expected. I have also used gasoline to clean things all my life. If you know the dangers and are careful on how you use it, it is not much worse than a lot of other things on the shelf.
I follow the discourse about "cleaning" means being dismantled first. No arguments. That makes sense. However, once dismantled, it seems like gas is as good a cleaning agent as anything else I have seen. More dangerous, so the safety issue has to be addressed, but it will definitely clean things up and won't leave flash rust as water would.
Even if gas is used, it won't get it all. Brushing the crevices with a toothbrush helps but as far as I can tell, unless ultrasonic methods are used, nothing more is done. Which is why I brought up the electronic spray cleaner. Once the parts are separate, cleaned in whatever solvent is used, and dried, then the spray cleaner could be aimed at every pivot hole and pinion to clean them out. Sprayed while parts are separated. It serves the dual purpose of supplying compressed air at the same time it cleans. The only alternative I see would be to use alcohol to spot clean something or you have to go through the drying process all over again.
Regarding drying, if you use a water-based solvent, I gather the common approach is to dry it in an oven or use compressed air. I don't think people understand that compressed air always has substantial water content in it, unless they are buying cans of it, like that used to clean computer keyboards. A normal compressor has to be drained often to remove the water that accumulates when the air is compressed. I don't have that big a problem here. I am in Houston, and it is close to 100 degrees outside with no rain for over a week. Wash it, lay it out on a table outside, and it will be scorching hot and dry as a bone in a matter of seconds. I can blow off the parts since I have a 40-gallon compressor in my garage, but for a clock that would definitely fit in the category of "overkill"! I have used it to blow off saws and other equipment and often see water accumulating on the surface when using it.
I have also been debating buying one of the ultrasonic cleaners. However, if it forces using a water-based solvent, then the benefits are questionable in my mind. Which brings us back to the very question "captainclock" raised that started this thread in the first place.
Some folks use a hair dryer. I have a baby shop vac with a “blow” port that blows a real blast of warm air with no water problems. Water in compress air is easy to eliminate if you throw enough money at it. Begin with a simple water separator, then add a refrigerated dryer, follow with an air heater to deliver warm air. Most people can get by with a simple water separator (drain frequently) followed by a disposable dryer cartridge at the point of use. As far as cleaning goes, even with an ultrasonic, expect to still do some manual cleaning.
 

Mike Mall

Registered User
Oct 27, 2021
291
97
28
Country
I have a very old book on clocks that says to keep a bucket of gasoline in the back room for cleaning cheap clocks, that are just wound up and put in the bucket.
RC
It seems every time I read the history of a clock manufacturer - the factory burned down.
Maybe this explains it. :)
 
  • Like
  • Love
Reactions: Jonas and Schatznut

Betzel

NAWCC Member
Dec 1, 2010
776
168
43
Country
Region
We all have our preferences for what works best in many situations, and they're not all the same (preferences or situations).

I've seen cavitation pitting in ultrasonic baskets, but did not know about "bottom contact" damage. So, thanks! Like many of you, over the years I've intoxicated myself with fumes, burned my hands with chemicals, risked another Chicago fire, and destroyed our planet with bad disposal practices, and I've removed lacquer accidentally, even with hot water, dissolved the paint used for pinning hairspring ends or shellac holding in jewels, greyed aluminum, browned brass and rusted ferrous metal, like hairsprings. To boot, I've corroded stainless steel with brake / carburetor cleaner. I did not believe it either. There are many good lessons to be learned here, or on your own. But wait, there's more!

Many of us know old cast brass clock plates and other parts used alloying and casting technologies available at the time, so they can naturally have visible cracks and crevices or "casting defects." Some of them are not visible to the eye. When we use ultrasonics or ammoniated solutions on these, the stress of US cleaning and penetration of ammonia can get into and and stay in those cracks, even with good rinsing, which corrodes to extend those original fissures to further weaken the metal. Not right away, but usuallly over time --until it finally falls apart. So, it seeps and creeps. The collectors here seem to pass old clocks around between themselves, so what comes around goes around. And, I think we're running out of old, virgin clocks that have not been "futzed" with by people like us.

So, be especially careful with old brass, ultrasonics and ammoniated cleaners?
 

Schatznut

NAWCC Member
Sep 26, 2020
1,124
525
113
SoCal
Country
Region
We all have our preferences for what works best in many situations, and they're not all the same (preferences or situations).

I've seen cavitation pitting in ultrasonic baskets, but did not know about "bottom contact" damage. So, thanks! Like many of you, over the years I've intoxicated myself with fumes, burned my hands with chemicals, risked another Chicago fire, and destroyed our planet with bad disposal practices, and I've removed lacquer accidentally, even with hot water, dissolved the paint used for pinning hairspring ends or shellac holding in jewels, greyed aluminum, browned brass and rusted ferrous metal, like hairsprings. To boot, I've corroded stainless steel with brake / carburetor cleaner. I did not believe it either. There are many good lessons to be learned here, or on your own. But wait, there's more!

Many of us know old cast brass clock plates and other parts used alloying and casting technologies available at the time, so they can naturally have visible cracks and crevices or "casting defects." Some of them are not visible to the eye. When we use ultrasonics or ammoniated solutions on these, the stress of US cleaning and penetration of ammonia can get into and and stay in those cracks, even with good rinsing, which corrodes to extend those original fissures to further weaken the metal. Not right away, but usuallly over time --until it finally falls apart. So, it seeps and creeps. The collectors here seem to pass old clocks around between themselves, so what comes around goes around. And, I think we're running out of old, virgin clocks that have not been "futzed" with by people like us.

So, be especially careful with old brass, ultrasonics and ammoniated cleaners?
Words of wisdom, to be sure. I'm a relative newbie to clock repair as compared to many on this board, but I am continually astonished by how many stupid mistakes I've made in the short time I've been at it.

Cleaning continues to be the brick wall I beat my head against regularly, and I have learned there is no one-size-fits-all process that can be used. Brightening parts of brass and steel, while neither corroding the steel nor removing any of the alloying elements in the brass (particularly zinc and lead) seems to be exceptionally difficult.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
Cleaning continues to be the brick wall I beat my head against regularly, and I have learned there is no one-size-fits-all process that can be used. Brightening parts of brass and steel, while neither corroding the steel nor removing any of the alloying elements in the brass (particularly zinc and lead) seems to be exceptionally difficult.
It may seem that way sometimes, but it shouldn't be a "brick wall". Part of the problem is that many have wrong expectations and fail to understand the difference between "clean", "bright", and "shinny". There is no magic brew and process that will turn old and grungy back into like it left the factory on day one. The more aggressive the chemical agents, the more likely there will be issues. Just follow a few simple rules depending on the type of movement being cleaned. Avoid extremely high pH solutions (caustic) and extremely low pH solutions (acids) and ammonia. Forget all the home brew solutions trying to save a dollar. Use one of the commercially available clock cleaning solutions, (and follow the directions), limit time in an ultrasonic to 10 or 15 minutes, don't mix dissimilar metals in the cleaner, pre-clean by hand, avoid high temperatures, and if using a water-based cleaner, get rid of the rinse water very quickly. Steel parts won't usually rust while in commercial clock cleaning solutions, its when they hit the air after a water rinse.

RC
 

Schatznut

NAWCC Member
Sep 26, 2020
1,124
525
113
SoCal
Country
Region
It may seem that way sometimes, but it shouldn't be a "brick wall". Part of the problem is that many have wrong expectations and fail to understand the difference between "clean", "bright", and "shinny". There is no magic brew and process that will turn old and grungy back into like it left the factory on day one. The more aggressive the chemical agents, the more likely there will be issues. Just follow a few simple rules depending on the type of movement being cleaned. Avoid extremely high pH solutions (caustic) and extremely low pH solutions (acids) and ammonia. Forget all the home brew solutions trying to save a dollar. Use one of the commercially available clock cleaning solutions, (and follow the directions), limit time in an ultrasonic to 10 or 15 minutes, don't mix dissimilar metals in the cleaner, pre-clean by hand, avoid high temperatures, and if using a water-based cleaner, get rid of the rinse water very quickly. Steel parts won't usually rust while in commercial clock cleaning solutions, its when they hit the air after a water rinse.

RC
Clean is the entry criterion for parts I'm returning to service. That's a given, and, absent heavy initial corrosion, using hydrocarbons of one form or another, it's easy to achieve. However, there is the environmental responsibility of such cleaners to be considered, and I don't want my hobby to be successful at the expense of the planet.

I harbor no illusions about making the parts as bright as when they left the factory, but I am trying to brighten them up as much as possible, "possible" being defined as how far I can take them without damaging them in the process. Since the damage occurs at a microscopic level, that's a difficult end point to hit. Brightening requires ablation, and this requires either mechanical abrasion or chemical removal of material. Hydrocarbons don't brighten, which drives us to aqueous solutions. One can't help but to mix dissimilar metals in the cleaner, and that's the crux of the issue. It's when the steel hits the air after the aqueous rinse that the challenge begins. I have not yet developed my technique at this stage to my satisfaction. Physically absorbing as much liquid as quickly as possible, followed by rapid heating seems to be the recipe. I'm still working on getting that part right.

If I want shiny, I'll polish, but I limit that to structural parts that were shiny from the factory. That's relatively easy to achieve, absent extremely heavy corrosion at the outset.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
One can't help but to mix dissimilar metals in the cleaner, and that's the crux of the issue. It's when the steel hits the air after the aqueous rinse that the challenge begins. I have not yet developed my technique at this stage to my satisfaction. Physically absorbing as much liquid as quickly as possible, followed by rapid heating seems to be the recipe. I'm still working on getting that part right.
Dissimilar metals that cause trouble are the chemically more active metals like zinc, magnesium, aluminum, and light metal alloys. I've never seen a problem with steel and iron together with brass, so for most clocks, there isn't a problem.

Being currently somewhat handicapped, I've been in the process of moving my workshop from the second floor in my house to a first-floor location in a building "out back". I don't have plumbing hooked up out back yet, so my cleaning operations are in my kitchen for now (no wife so no problem). I have compressed air out back but not in my kitchen, so out of necessity I discovered a drying method that seems to actually work better. My little shop vac has a blow port that really sends a blast of warm air. It's so powerful that it will almost blow parts out of my hand, but the water is scattered and gone almost instantly. Then into my little 180 degree drying oven with air circulation for final drying. I think a high velocity hair dryer like the lady that cuts my hair uses might accomplish the same thing. Reducing the wet time in air seems to be the secret.

RC
 

HotCzech46

NAWCC Member
NAWCC Brass Member
May 6, 2022
43
13
8
76
Texas
Country
Region
I was reading up on various ultrasonic cleaners, reviewing the comments and articles about how people used them and what solutions they used. Those ultrasonic cleaners are really big now for auto enthusiasts, who found they are a great way to clean carburetors. One comment from one of these guys was really instructive. He likes the cleaning done by Chem-dip, a liquid cleaner you dip the parts in, but has to leave them there for 24 hours or more. He does not like the water-based solutions for using an ultrasonic cleaner. His solution was enlightening. He puts his carbs into a plastic bag, fills it with chem-dip, and puts the plastic bag into the ultrasonic cleaner filled with just plain water. Claims that he gets cleaning done in 15 minutes that would take 24 hours otherwise. I am wondering what solution could be put into the bag for cleaning clock parts. Seems like it would be a way to avoid the flash rust issues that arise from using water.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jonas

Swanicyouth

Registered User
Nov 10, 2019
329
85
28
49
Country
There’s a recipe in Extreme Restoration by Temple for an ultrasonic cleaning solution. It’s Ammonia, Murphy’s, acetone, & water. So, I tried it. The recipe does give you exact quantities, but I just eyeballed it. Filled machine about 40% with household ammonia, about 4 Oz of acetone, 4oz of Murphys, a splash of dish soap & QS to fill line. It’s about a 2L machine.

It was Gilbert movement I’m working on, precleaned with Brake Kleen spray - no brushing. I did the time side, strike side, & plates all separate - 8 min each in the Harbor Freight machine with heat on. I think the less you put in the machine, the better it works.

Surprisingly, I was very pleased with the result. Parts were definitely clean & definitely shiny. I’d say, cleanliness wise - about as clean as it gets. I’ve tried this before, minus the murphys & acetone and was not pleased. Most people have water & dish soap. Murphys, acetone, & ammonia were about $13 & I can probably make 3 or 4 batches until I need to replenish product.

We’ll see how long this batch holds up, or if it does as good as a job on other movements.I didn’t really get any of the pink on the brass either, I think because only did 8 mins. It does stink horribly like Ammonia every time lid is off machine.

I’m going to guess possibly not as good a specific clock cleaner, but I was happy for my investment I was able to get clean & shiny. Movement was not trashed filthy to begin with, but was about average dirty & tarnish level. Rinsed with water after & then right in the oven at 200 degrees.
 

Willie X

Registered User
Feb 9, 2008
16,808
2,796
113
When your done, do your bushing work and then peg all the pivot holes with a bamboo skewer and machine oil. I also round broach all the pivot holes (with oil) and finish with a quick rinse. Yes, bushed holes get the same treatment. You might be surprised, there is nearly always some amount of debris in the final quick rinse.

Willie X
 
  • Like
Reactions: roughbarked

lwalper

Registered User
Mar 15, 2022
106
26
28
Country
Region
Looks like this subject has been pretty well covered, but what are the non-amoniated cleaners / de-tarnishers? Are they urea based?—like Flitz?
 

eemoore

Registered User
Apr 26, 2008
124
15
18
Columbia, S.C.
Country
Region
There’s a recipe in Extreme Restoration by Temple for an ultrasonic cleaning solution. It’s Ammonia, Murphy’s, acetone, & water. So, I tried it. The recipe does give you exact quantities, but I just eyeballed it. Filled machine about 40% with household ammonia, about 4 Oz of acetone, 4oz of Murphys, a splash of dish soap & QS to fill line. It’s about a 2L machine.

It was Gilbert movement I’m working on, precleaned with Brake Kleen spray - no brushing. I did the time side, strike side, & plates all separate - 8 min each in the Harbor Freight machine with heat on. I think the less you put in the machine, the better it works.

Surprisingly, I was very pleased with the result. Parts were definitely clean & definitely shiny. I’d say, cleanliness wise - about as clean as it gets. I’ve tried this before, minus the murphys & acetone and was not pleased. Most people have water & dish soap. Murphys, acetone, & ammonia were about $13 & I can probably make 3 or 4 batches until I need to replenish product.

We’ll see how long this batch holds up, or if it does as good as a job on other movements.I didn’t really get any of the pink on the brass either, I think because only did 8 mins. It does stink horribly like Ammonia every time lid is off machine.

I’m going to guess possibly not as good a specific clock cleaner, but I was happy for my investment I was able to get clean & shiny. Movement was not trashed filthy to begin with, but was about average dirty & tarnish level. Rinsed with water after & then right in the oven at 200 degrees.
I am wondering what QS is? you said to fill up with Qs...do you mean water? Please explain QS. Thanks for you recipe.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
There’s a recipe in Extreme Restoration by Temple for an ultrasonic cleaning solution. It’s Ammonia, Murphy’s, acetone, & water. So, I tried it. The recipe does give you exact quantities, but I just eyeballed it. Filled machine about 40% with household ammonia, about 4 Oz of acetone, 4oz of Murphys, a splash of dish soap & QS to fill line. It’s about a 2L machine.
The actual recipe from Temple's Extreme Restoration, 2004 did not include dish soap & QS (whatever that it) and is as follows:

4 oz. of Murphy's Oil Soap
(contains Oleic acid which brightens
brass)
8 oz. of Acetone
12 oz. of 26% ammonia
(household ammonia is 13%)
1 cup of cool water.


The original formula I believe called for Oleic acid which is difficult to find, so Murphy's Oil Soap, which contains Oleic acid (and other stuff) is often substituted. 26% ammonia can be hard to get and is dangerous to handle, so 13% household ammonia is sometimes substituted. The formula above calls for 12 oz. of 26% so would one use 24 oz. of 13% and less water?

Temple also goes on to say; "It must be noted that there is an ongoing debate regarding the use of anmoniated cleaning solutions. Some feel that ammonia can have a negative affect on the strength of brass. In response to this, a number of nonarmnoniated clock-specific cleaning solutions have been developed and can be readily purchased from most clock parts & equipment suppliers".

I believe the Deox-007 is one such nonammoniated cleaning solution. There may be other alternatives available since Temple wrote some 18 years ago. While the debate over ammonia continues, it has been demonstrated that other less offensive options are quite effective.

RC
 

Swanicyouth

Registered User
Nov 10, 2019
329
85
28
49
Country
I am wondering what QS is? you said to fill up with Qs...do you mean water? Please explain QS. Thanks for you recipe.
Sorry. I’m a pharmacist - QS is “quantity sufficient” of what ever your diluting the stuff in; in this case water. And yes I added a few drops of dish soap because why not.
 

R. Croswell

Registered User
Apr 4, 2006
11,760
1,737
113
Trappe, Md.
www.greenfieldclockshop.com
Country
Region
Sorry. I’m a pharmacist - QS is “quantity sufficient” of what ever your diluting the stuff in; in this case water. And yes I added a few drops of dish soap because why not.
One might also ask why? Or why only a few drops in a 2L tank of solution? I do not know the answer, but I read someplace a few years ago that there was a specific order to add the ingredients, and then a waiting period for a reaction to take place between the Oleic acid and I don't recall if the acetone or the ammonia, but that had to happen before it was ready to use. Not sure how additional ingredients may or may not react with other stuff in the pot. Many years ago, someone on-line had a "brew" that was just household ammonia, water, and a few drops of dish soap. I think the ammonia did the heavy lifting and the dish soap just made some suds and looked important. Of course one can already buy soapy ammonia cleaner already to go, but not for me.

RC
 

Forum statistics

Threads
175,100
Messages
1,531,426
Members
52,572
Latest member
Meum
Encyclopedia Pages
1,063
Total wiki contributions
2,972
Last update
-