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Sodium Hydroxide and ultrasonic


#1

Hello Orchidland,

Last night I was cleaning up some really gunky wedding rings. There
was muck deep in every crevice, so I soaked the rings in NaOH, then
ran them in the 'sonic. They cleaned up very well.

Now my question: has anyone combined the two procedures??

Let me say that I use plain water in the 'sonic tank, and put a
glass container of cleaning solution in the basket - much easier to
change out dirty solution. I was thinking about putting a small
beaker of NaOH in the 'sonic basket, and running the 'sonic to
dissolve the gunk and shake it out at the same time.

Input please. If no one else has an opinion, I’ll give it a try on
the next gunky piece.

Judy in Kansas, where yesterday saw another cool, wet day. This
afternoon is supposed to be sunny with a high of 81 & light northerly
breezes - can this truly be Kansas in July??!! It sounds more like
paradise.


#2

don’t know what the container in your ultrasonic is made of, but it
might react with the NaOH. Instead of caustic lye, I use a weak acid
solution.

John
John Atwell Rasmussen, Ph.D., AJP
http://www.rasmussengems.com


#3
Let me say that I use plain water in the 'sonic tank, and put a
glass container of cleaning solution in the basket - much easier
to change out dirty solution. I was thinking about putting a small
beaker of NaOH in the 'sonic basket, and running the 'sonic to
dissolve the gunk and shake it out at the same time. 

Sure. Works well, especially with a heated ultrasonic. One addition,
though. Be sure to have a loose cover on the container of lye, to
stop any spatter or splashes. Nasty stuff, lye. Use with care. I
don’t use this (lye, in or out of the sonic) routinely, as it’s not
safe for all stones (organics, especially, as well as things with
some glues), but for those customer diamond rings that haven’t been
off the finger in 30 years, with “ring jam” needing some serious
cleaning, this is the ticket. Also somewhat effective if you didn’t
get a ring quite clean before heating it, and some of that gunk
carbonized onto the metal. Works like Oven cleaner, which by the way,
can also be used this same way. It’s main ingredient is also lye, so
that’s no big surprise. Only helps with gunk burned onto the metal.
Won’t help if you actually fried the diamonds too…

And while I’m at it, another cleaning tip sometimes of use, mostly
related to those using laser welders or sometimes, PUK style
welders. These machines sometimes vaporize a little of the metal,
which can condense back onto the piece. If you are working right next
to diamonds, such as in retipping, sometimes that black “smoke” gets
behind the stone, and is difficult to remove. It doesn’t always come
off with an ultrasonic. Make sure the piece is otherwise very clean,
then while heating gently, apply a LOT of flux (like batterns or
other), so there’s a thick layer of flux on the metal and behind the
stones. Continue to heat till the flux layer just barely liquifies
to the glassy state. Let cool, and pickle. You’ll find the flux
floated the smoke off the metal, leaving it, and the diamonds, nice
and bright. This same treatment will sometimes rescue a piece where
dirt behind the stones other than welding condensate is also
resisting cleaning Won’t help if you actually burned the diamonds,
but sometimes, you didn’t quite get there, and dirt is only
carbonized without actually damaging the diamond. That
heat-with-lots-of-flux method will sometimes clean it off for you.

Peter


#4

Judy,

Lots of times. An open beaker in the basket or a plastic film
canister (remember 35mm ?) with nasty solvents. Have to vent the
canister every couple of minutes or the top will blow off defeating
the purpose of the exercise. I never bother to change the solution
to plain water, I just use what ever is in the tank

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#5
don't know what the container in your ultrasonic is made of, but
it might react with the NaOH. Instead of caustic lye, I use a weak
acid solution. 

Any solution of concentrated sodium hydroxide needs to be treated
with a great deal of care. It is capable of burning just as badly as
a concentrated acid. A splash in the eyes can cause blindness in 15
seconds. It’s wise to wear gloves and splash goggles while handling
it.

Paul Anderson
http://www.andersonloco.com


#6

Hi Judy, I have been using lye in a heavy duty glass container
resting in the extra basket of my sonic cleaner for years. It is
amazing how well it cleans really dirty jewelry and I don’t have to
worry about mucking up the whole sonic. I have lost a few glass
containers that couldn’t handle the sonic action, they crack but
don’t break apart.

Just my 2 cents,
Janine in HOT Redding California.


#7

Sodium or potassium hydroxide (lye) will work better than any acid!
You need to be equally careful with lye or acid.

jesse


#8

Greetings from San Atnonio: Any acid or caustic solution will kill
your ultrasonic tank faster than any other form of abuse (running
empty for 8 hours or longer) It will void any warranty on Elma
machines, and I imagine any of the other manufacturers units as well.
If you must use lye or an acid please use a glass beaker or jar with
a cover and just enough solution to cover the item to be cleaned and
when finished CAREFULLY dispose of the lye or acid solution. No need
to use contaminated solutions.

Best regards
Mike and Dale,
Your ultrasonic repair guys @ Lone Star Technical Service


#9

Hi Janine,

Thanks for your response. It’s another example of the benefits of our
Orchid community. I currently use a pyrex beaker for my cleaning
solution, and will use another pyrex vessel for the lye. Pyrex or
borosilicate glass is a brand of lab ware is and very durable.

Orchid rules!!
Judy in Kansas


#10

Thanks for your reassuring response, Jeff. I thought it should work,
but wanted to hear from this vast body of experience!

Judy in Kansas


#11

Thanks Peter, Your response and others validated what seemed to me a
very logical thing. The warning about a loose cover is good - I’ve
got some large watch glasses that should meet the need. I also have
Nitrile gloves and goggles for personal protection.

Such a great Orchid crowd, you all are.
Judy in Kansas


#12
Pyrex or borosilicate glass is a brand of lab ware is and very
durable. 

If you are looking for some inexpensive glassware, Indigo
Instruments is good to deal with. They are heRe:

http://www.indigo.com

I usually buy labware by the case, cheaper.

Paul Anderson
http://www.andersonloco.com


#13
If you must use lye or an acid please use a glass beaker or jar
with a cover and just enough solution to cover the item to be
cleaned and when finished CAREFULLY dispose of the lye or acid
solution. No need to use contaminated solutions. 

They can be neutralized before disposal, to make life much easier.
To an acid, you can add sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate until
it stops fizzing. Sodium hydroxide needs something acidic, and I’m
not aware of a substitute that’s quite as easy as for an acid. pH
test papers or phenolphthalein solution can be very useful for this.

Paul Anderson
http://www.andersonloco.com


#14

There’s no need to neutralize sodium hydroxide (lye) before
disposal. Just dump it down the drain.

Sodium hydroxide is the active ingredient in Draino & other drain
openers. Just think of your sodium hydroxide (lye) solution as an
industrial strength drain opener.

Treat it the same way would Draino. Let it stand in the drain about
1/2 hour, then run some water down the drain.

Dave


#15

A thought on process. I occasionally like to use the heat and extra
energy produced be our ultrasonic. I found a plastic container with a
protruding lip, and a piece of flat styrofoam. Cut the foam to fit
the tank and cut a hole in the center to hold the bowel without
falling through. The bowel and foam float nicely suspended in the
ultrasonic. The less mass in the solution equals more energy.

Bill
Bill, Deborah, Michele & Sharon
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc


#16
Any acid or caustic solution will kill your ultrasonic tank faster
than any other form of abuse 

We use the pickle pot - with pickle, that is. It works just fine…
I tried lye (oven cleaner) a long time ago and it didn’t work as
well. I imagine a solution of it would work better, but it’s a matter
of “if it ain’t broke…” Pickle cleans jewelry like gangbusters,
along with ultrasonic and steam… We tried citric acid pickle -
strips flux off like nobody’s business, but it’s completely useless
for cleaning dirty jewelry.

So it was back to Sparex (actually Frei’s version). Try it, it’s
already there…


#17
There's no need to neutralize sodium hydroxide (lye) before
disposal. Just dump it down the drain. 

It’s my preference to neutralize it just for safety. Sodium
hydroxide is very scary stuff. That, and it’s really not good for the
drain pipe:)

Paul Anderson
http://www.andersonloco.com


#18

Hi Judy, I would add a face shield to that list of personal
protection gear for acids or caustics. A splash of caustic on the
face will be downright painful and you will be explaining to everyone
how you got that burn on your face :frowning:

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#19
I would add a face shield to that list of personal protection gear
for acids or caustics. A splash of caustic on the face will be
downright painful and you will be explaining to everyone how you got
that burn on your face :-( 

That’s critical to watch. If you get sodium hydroxide in your eyes,
and do not wash it out within seconds, it will permanently blind
you.

Sodium hydroxide denatures proteins, causing them to lose their
three dimensional structure. When that happens, they don’t function
anymore. A search of pubmed yields case reports of a number of very
serious injuries that have resulted from sodium hydroxide. It should
be treated with respect and care.

Paul Anderson
http://www.andersonloco.com


#20
Sodium hydroxide is very scary stuff. That, and it's really not
good for the drain pipe:)

Sodium hydroxide is lye, same as Draino, dissolves organic matter
like hair ect.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.