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A Tutorial on Easy and Cheap Ultrasonic Cleaning

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Originally posted by Francisco on another board.


Servicing a mechanical movement is a complex task that consists of mainly four steps:


1.- Disassembling the movement, checking all the pieces.

2.- Cleaning the dissembled parts.

3.- Assembling and oiling.

4.- Adjusting.


In this tutorial we show how to make step number 2, following an easy and cheap procedure for aficionados, employing an ultrasonic cleaning machine. Ultrasonic machines generate very high frequency waves in the liquid. These vibrations produce cavitation in the liquid, i.e., microscopic bubbles that when they explode clean the surface of the immersed object.


Here I show how to make ultrasonic cleaning in the cheapest way; of course you can do it better with more expensive equipment. However, for an aficionado, I think this is enough. For example, for a professional, a specific ultrasonic machine with three glasses is a must.


To illustrate the procedure I took some pictures during the cleaning of the parts of a Daytona modification, before graphite treatment. Next picture shows the pieces of the modification after disassembling.




Normally, and especially in the A7750 movement, we will have several of these plastic boxes full of pieces. I recommend taking pictures of the boxes before the cleaning. Why? Because you filled the boxes following an order, and this order will help you to assemble the movement, finding easily the pieces you need in each moment. The pictures of the boxes will facilitate to put each piece in its correct location.


Follows the ultrasonic machine that is going to be employed. It is a very cheap model, but makes its task decently. However, ultrasonic machines loose power with the use. Just remind this and renew your machine if it is old. For the same reason, do not buy old ultrasonic machines.






This machine stops automatically after 3 minutes of being connected. Therefore, follow the list of times we are going to employ: Cleaning: 9 minutes (3 cycles). And 3 minutes (1 cycle) for each of the two rinses.


As this machine only has one container, we have to exchange the liquids during the process. Therefore, we need 3 bottles and a big funnel.




Bottle L. This is the bottle that has the cleaning liquid. In English should be bottle C.

E1 and E2 are the bottles for the two rinses (in English better R1 and R2).





About the cleaning fluid. There are specific liquids for cleaning watch movements…and they tend to be very expensive. I have been using the liquid showed in the picture. It is reasonable priced. And it is mixed with water in the proportion 1/50. Warm water is highly recommended. However, if you only want to clean few movements, just a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid are enough.


It is compulsory to use baskets.


Here you can use cheap tea baskets. In the picture you can see smaller baskets…they are expensive but are better for small and delicate pieces.


For the example shown here, cleaning the modification of the Daytona, the plates are alone in one big basket. They are heavy and could damage the small pieces.




Next picture shows how the pieces were grouped.




Next step is cleaning. 9 minutes




Once the cleaning is finished, the baskets are placed on paper to remove the excess of water. Use normal absorbent paper, cheap paper. The special paper will be used later.




The objective is only to remove the excess of water. It is impossible to remove all the water. Removing all the water is the task of the two following rinses. We have to understand the role of the rinses. Now the pieces are clean, but they have water on the surface. The water is going to rust the pieces, and quickly. With rinses we are going to exchange the water by alcohol…and alcohol evaporates very easily. After evaporation the pieces are clean and dry.


Therefore, while the absorbent paper is removing the excess of water we change the liquid in the ultrasonic machine. The cleaning solution can be used 2 or 3 times. Write on paper the number of times you have used the cleaning solution. If it can be used again, save it in Bottle L ©.




The liquid for the first rinse will be contaminated with water. Therefore, we have to change this liquid after 2 times. Again, write in a paper the number of times that each liquid is employed.


After 3 minutes, we follow the same procedure. If the liquid of the first rinse is still useful, we keep it in bottle E1 (R1). The excess of liquid is removed using regular absorbent paper. Then the liquid form E2 (R2) is employed for second rinse.


Which liquid for rinses? Again, you can buy very expensive specific liquids… or you can do it cheaper with home solutions. Some options:


1.- Ethanol. You have ethanol at home, for disinfecting proposes. However, this solution is rather expensive.


2.- Methanol or cleaning alcohol. This alcohol is very cheap. Look the prices on the bottle.




However, this is not pure methanol and I think that some residues may be present after evaporation. Nevertheless, you can use it, I have used some times, at the beginning, with no apparent problems.


3.- IMO the best option is isopropanol. This is the option I am using now. However, it could be difficult to find. It evaporates extremely fast and it can be found 100% pure. I have found a source for them with a reasonable price. However, it can only be sold locally, so I cannot give you more information.


The second rinse takes again 3 minutes. After 2 rinses, the liquid from bottle E2 (R2) is moved to bottle E1 (R1). And after two first rinses, the content of bottle E1 is discarded. In this way, we save a lot of money.


After the cleaning is finished we end with the dry. It is ABSOLUTELY COMPULSORY to employ specific paper for this task. You need lint-free paper or watch tissue paper. Both options are the same. Follow a picture of both options.






Next picture shows the last step to be made. Put the baskets on the regular absorbent paper, again for removing the excess of liquid from rinse 2. The lint-free paper is ready… waiting for the pieces. Then the baskets are open are we put the pieces of the lint-free paper.






The pieces will be dry in seconds… Then the pieces are placed again on the plastic baskets, using the pictures we took before. However, in this case there are few parts, no pictures would be needed.




I hope this tutorial helps you to clean easily and cheaply your movements.




The main objective of cleaning is removing old oil and grease to add later new oil and grease to the movement.


Many times Ultrasonic cleaning is made using only hot water and works very well. If you add an additive that helps the process. And 9 minutes is a lot of time.


Therefore, do not worry, if you cannot find specific products, warm water + dishwashing soap is going to be enough. Normally movements are not so dirty.



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Member X

Great post, thanks :lol:

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Since all is safe in baskets I would be removing the plastic basket from the cleaner. It, along with the parts baskets soaks op the U/S energy by absorbing the sound waves.




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really good post thanks alot cheers

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thankx for reposting.

I use an ultrasonic machine on all my watches and the wife's rings - they work great. Cant imagine I'll be taking apart movements anytime soon however.

I've been using windex since I ran out of the special ultra sonic cleaning soluition.

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A very good tutorial, I've just bought an ultrasonic cleaner from the bay, and this guide was very informative.

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BOOM! and the ancient thread is reborn!


Very good info here, Thanks :)

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Again... Thanks a lot for the time you took to make this :


going to use it this week end.

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