Dear Nancy, several small cleaners are available such as one made by
NEY suitable for small quantities of small items. Generally, the
small ultrasonic cleaners do not supply heat. Such a cleaner is
available for under $100 US.
The trick in getting a small clener is finding one which is true
ultrasonics, producing the cavitation needed for effective cleaning.
Some cleaners called "sonic" and offered to the public for home
cleaning of jewelry are not ultrasonic and cleaning efficiency
suffers greatly. As for size, that depends on the sizes and number
of items to be cleaned at a session. In my experience, size is not
so important as the "cleaning power" of the machine. This is often
listed as "watts" and comparisons may be made between different
cleaners in a similar price range.
Heat is a help is gaining speed in cleaning. A small heatless
cleaner will do the job given enough time using a good cleaning
solution made for ultrasonics. In my experience, the cleaning
times can be much longer with the unheated solution.
In my business, heat is sometimes a detriment. For safety with
certain gems and items, heat is not desired. In such a case I use a
seperate beaker of solution, room temperature. The beaker is placed
in the heated cleaner tank and will slowly heat up but adequate
cleaning is done with the item protected from sudden temperature
change. This obvioulsy requires a tank large enough for a beaker to
be inserted and there you get into the machines in the several
hundred dollar range.
There is an easy way to handl individual items requiring a different
cleaner, such as removing a "fingernail polish" mask from a plated
item or removing dop wax from a stone or item. Place the item in a
leak-proof plastic baggie with the solution(alcohol for dop wax, for
example). Place this in the cleaner tank and the cavitation action
is transmitted through the bag and cleaning is done effectively.
Most supply houses offer the smaller cleaners. You might want to
contact them to be sure the cleaner is true ultrasonics if not
clearly stated in the literature. I hope this helps a tiny bit!
T. Haynes. professional jeweler.