I’m about to start my own jewellery shop soon, and there seem to be
a million things that I need to buy in order to get started if I ever
want to do anything more complicated. One of the many things on my
shopping list is the ultra sonic cleaner. At my school we had a
really posh heated ultra sonic cleaner, but those things cost a small
fortune, and I’ve been wondering about how necessary the heating
I’ve never used an unheated ultra sonic, but you can buy one here
(in Finland) for 20 euros, while the smallest heated ultra sonic
costs about 400 euros. Since I’m not going to do any mass production,
and it’s only going to be a small-scale one-woman shop, I’ve been
thinking if it would be a good idea to buy a cheaper unheated ultra
sonic to get started with, and maybe just use hot water when
necessary - does this sound like a really bad idea? Isn’t it really
mostly the vibration and the detergent that do the cleaning, and not
so much the heat?
I use a small, cheaper unheated ultrasonic, and it is not
satisfactory at all; it loosens the left over polish etc, but doesn’t
really remove it, I tend to have to clean up with a tissue soaked in
methylated spirit, which is relatively easy.
Ultrasonic is not a necessity, but a convenience. Boiling in strong
soap, will clean as well if not better. But if you decided to buy
one, buy professional quality unit. Cheap ultrasonic will be just a
waste of money.
I use a small, cheaper unheated ultrasonic, and it is not
satisfactory at all; it loosens the left over polish etc, but
doesn't really remove it,
Anna, try pouring the cleaning solution into a microwave safe
container and heating it to a nice steaming hot. Or on a hot plate,
etc. Pour back into the ultrasonic. If the ultrasonic part is working
OK, this should now do the trick. If you leave the machine running
most of the time, the ultrasonic energy itself will keep the solution
hot even without a heater.
Also, whether it removes polishing compounds or not depends a lot on
the type of cleaning solution you use, and how concentrated it is.
Some cleaning agents are great with dirty jewelry, but not so good
with the grease or wax based binders in buffing compounds. Be sure to
use a cleaning agent that’s intended for, or at least prooven with,
the type of cleaning you’re doing. In the case of buffing compounds
though, the heat is indeed important. it’s needed to help
melt/liquify the binding agents (wax, grease, etc) in the compounds.
Without that, they often won’t dissolve well A bit of ammonia added
to the solution, if it’s not incompatible with ammonia, will also
often help a lot.
I used to use ammonia, but ran out one busy day and used whatever
was around. Turned out to be ZEP floor stripper.
I use it (and water) exclusively now.
Soaked an opal and a pearl in it (straight) for a week. No damage. It
smells good, is cheaper than ammonia (because the goodness doesn’t
evaporate) and does an exceptional job…in a heated ultrasonic
Heat definitely makes a HUGE difference in efficiency!
Having said that, I often find I don’t want to heat up my whole big
ultrasonic, so I simply heat a small beaker of water in the
microwave with a bit of detergent and suspend it in the
tank–jewelry comes out sparkling in seconds! You could also heat
the small amount of required water in a kettle on the stove very
quickly. I started out with one of those very little ultrasonics 30
years ago, and it worked fine for the odd single piece of jewelry
for many years (don’t remember if it was 10 or twenty years). Also,
if you use a touch of household ammonia (in the suspended
beaker/glass–NOT IN THE ULTRASOUND!!), the better quality little
ones will serve you very well for quite a while. I got one of those
real cheapy ones (China) for my mom for her dentures on the internet
and it stopped working relatively quickly. It was sold as an
ultrasound for jewelry but looked exactly like the ones sold for
dentures. You might want to stick with a company that makes quality
ultrasonics for jewelers…They make them for jewelry stores. I’m
referring to the very small ones which are not much more than a cup
(?) or two. Given your setup, it sounds like you would usually be
doing just one piece at a time (or a bunch of tiny bits).
In short, get one that is big enough for what you will want to put in
it, and make sure to use HOT water/cleaner. Make sure the
beaker/glass is suspended and not sitting on the ultrasonic’s floor
or touching the walls (you can make a holder from heavy copper
Thanks for your help! Since everybody seems to agree the cheap
cleaners are useless, I’ve decided to remove the ultrasonic from my
current shopping list - I think I’ll just buy some ammonia and
experiment with that, at least for now :).
It’s annoying to find out how expensive some tools really are, after
having a chance to use them for free at school. Now, with the ultra
sonic issue out of the way, I only need to figure out which flex
shaft, polishing machine and rolling mill to buy, or which of them I
could do without.
IMHO do not purchase aan unheated ultrasonic. I did because it was
the only style available at the moment & I needed one immeadiately.
In the jewelry store shop, the ultrasonic ran almost constantly all
day…and the “friction” I guess, heats it to very hot. At my home
studio it is in the same room and I do not need it except on
occasion and I hate to listen to it run. ( with the lid on it
rattles, with it off, it splatters out some liquid) so it is always
cold and won’t clean anything well. I thought maybe it didn’t work
correctly, and learned of the aluminum foil test. It managed to eat
holes in the foil well but never cleans off the polishing compound, &
I have tried many different solutions. With silver, I have noticed
that if a highly polished disc hangs in the running sonic for a long
time it develops abraided areas, so I am careful not to over do the
Sometimes I scoop out the solution, heat in micro or hot plate and
return it to use, but next time, even half an hour later, it is cold
again. What a pain!. Now I consider it a expensive vessel to hold
cleaning liquid. I have a spritz bottle of some “orange” cleaner
from the dollar store and a good soft natural bristle wash out brush
and hot sink water, that does all the work of removing polishing
compound in about 45 seconds. There are some things that an
ultrasonic works wonders for, like removing gunk caked behind
diamonds in earrings and rings. It is also good at removing any loose
stones (especially if you didn’t want them removed) I still would
want to own one, but I sure wish mine had that heater! Buy the best
tool you can and you will rarely be sorry in future.
under tall Pines in Arizona Mountains
A few years ago a popular manufacturer of ultrasonic cleaners used
in the jewelry industry had too many heaters fail. Instead of fixing
the technical problem, they chose to remove the heater feature from
their ultrasonic cleaners. The Jewelry equipment sellers of these
ultrasonic cleaners don’t sell them anymore. They know the Jewelry
industry needs ultrasonic cleaners with the heater feature.
Call me crazy, but I just started using a Sonicare toothbrush to
clean one-at-a-time projects. It’s ultrasonic and it’s a brush.
Removed all the gunk and rouge from every nook and cranny under a
newly set diamond, between the prongs, everywhere. Came out sparkly
and shiny as anything I have ever seen in seconds, and it was
certainly “cheaper” because I already had one for brushing my teeth!
there are many ultrasonic powered teethbrushers in the usa mainly
that are ideal for the jewelry industry, just dont use them to brush
your teeth after you have been using it to polish jewelry. many
myths about the heads beating down on the piece because of the
toothbrush material, but this is just a myth. the actual tooth brush
bristels on most all teeth brushers are in all actuality safe for
there are many ultrasonic powered teethbrushers in the usa
Sonic, not ultrasonic. The phillips sonicare brushes operate at the
frequencies you actually hear when the thing is running. A nice
buzzing, humming sound. That’s not ultrasonic. There IS one
ultrasonic unit, though. Ultreo made it, then went bankrupt. Company
is being ressurected, and they may be available again by the end of
the year, from what their web site said. Which will be good because
I need a replacement brush head for mine, and the crooks selling the
few remaing ones on Amazon seem to think the things are made from
Hmm… I wonder if it would be possible to heat a small ultrasonic
cleaner with one of those little electric submersible coffee
warmers. Maybe you could heat the cleaning solution with that, right
in the ultrasonic, and then when it is warm, take out the heater and
turn on the ultrasonic.
I wonder if it would be possible to heat a small ultrasonic cleaner
with one of those little electric submersible coffee warmers. Maybe
you could heat the cleaning solution with that, right in the
ultrasonic, and then when it is warm, take out the heater and turn
on the ultrasonic.
I did it that way for years, with a small unheated one quart branson
cleaner. Worked just fine. The coffee immersion heater wouldn’t last
forever of course, but they were a couple bucks at the local dollar
store. You bend the bracket intended for going over the coffee cup
edge, so it holds the heater securely in the ultrasonic tank. If you
like, plug the heater into a light dimmer and you then have
temperature control too. Heats up a small ultrasonic even faster
than the built in heaters in the larger machines do.
The key is to be sure your small unheated ultrasonic has enough
power to actually clean stuff once given suitable cleaning solution
and warmed up as desired. You test an ultrasonic’s cleaning power by
suspending a piece of ordinary aluminum foil in the tank and running
it a minute or two (or three, four, etc, with lower power smaller
machines). It should come out covered with pinholes punched through
it. The more powerful cleaners not only turn it to swiss cheese,
they’ll also pretty much crumple the foil up after turning it into a
sieve. But if your small cleaner can simply punch holes in the foil
over a reasonably large central area of the tank, then it will work
to clean up your jewelry too.
Great minds think alike! I am wondering the same thing about those
little immersion heaters you make tea with in a hotel room. I’ve got
a second ( unheated) ultrasonic cleaner in my mini-studio, and I’m
going to try heating the solution before I clean with it by using
that little immersion heater. You can’t beat the price…they are