Ultrasonic Solution

Thanks Carol for the post -

If you are still using ammonia in your ultrasonic, you might
want to switch to something less toxic (and smelly).

I tried a non toxic powdered formula - from a jewelers supplier
locally. It left a slimy feeling - even when rinsing well.
And during a winter outdoors event I did with rain and high winds
(am now in the safe confines of the coop gallery) - all the
sterling pieces developed splotchy orange spots that wouldn’t
budge with a polish cloth. So, I was concerned about the people
who were wearing these pieces and what kind of tarnish problems
they might encounter. We have a very humid environment here. So,
I went back to the ammonia /soapy solution and gave the big
container of non toxic cleaner to the high school where I gave a
workshop. I will look up the one you mentioned - it sounds
great. Sometimes there is a problem of shipping liquid chemical
solutions to HI.

What brand is your ultrasonic? It may just be well used. (I am
certainly no expert on the subject!) I had a Branson ultrasonic
cleaner before - and it was relatively noisy. The Branson died
and then I bought an L&R. . Don’t think Branson even makes the
machine anymore. The L&R works great. My mentor had an L&R for
as long as I remember. I got one with the heater feature - but
wish I had gotten the timer too. Cynthia

Try “simple Green” diluted to about 25 to 1. It cleans very
well until contaminated and does not discolor silver. Safe for
organics if not left in very long. I hand scrub these first and
then basically swish them in the ultra to remove loose rouge.


I tried a non toxic powdered formula - from a jewelers supplier
locally. It left a slimy feeling - even when rinsing well.

I recently addressed a similar question directly to John
Burgess, thinking that the list had already talked this out and I
had just missed it… . John, if you read this before having
replied to me, feel free to reply to the list.

I’m currently trying to understand a similar problem in my new
tumbler. I tried using Calgonite and water as the lubricant with
stainless steel shot and found the same slick/slimy feeling. I
see that the Calgonite contains phosphates (wish I’d seen that
before I purchased) and suppose that that’s the source of the
problem. Perhaps the ultrasonic solution you have has phosphates
in it.

I have always used just Ivory&water as lubricant when brass
brushing. Assuming that the reason for using dishwasher detergent
was that it is non-sudsing, I tried regular Ivory dishsoap with
the shot, keeping the amount low enough that the machine didn’t
foam and froth all over the counter. If it did, I would also.
The work coming out of the tumbler now seems to be fine.

This is just my experience. I look forward to knowledgable
posts addressing this problem. If there is a compelling reason
to use dishwasher detergent, what is an appropriate de-slimer?


Regarding the use of ammonia -or- bleach in an ultrasonic

(Before I start, I think everyone knows you NEVER mix ammonia
and bleach. It creates poisonous fumes.)

At the recent Platinum Day Symposium at MJSA New York, I met a
very interesting and very nice woman who has graduate degrees in
both metallurgy and chemistry (most impressive!). Over lunch,
Kathy explained to me that one of the worst things people can do
is wear their jewelry all the time - never taking it off when
they clean around the house for example. Why? Because they are
sticking their hands, and hence their rings, into caustic
solutions such as ammonia based cleaners.

I asked her why this is so bad. She explained that ammonia (and
bleach too by the way) actually attack the metal. The chemical
penetrates between the grain boundaries weakening the metal and
in time causing “stress fractures”, i.e. broken prongs, cracks,

I asked her if a one time exposure could be a problem. And she
said “Absolutely.” I told her that many jewelers routinely
clean their jewelry in ammonia and soap solutions in an
ultrasonic cleaner. I asked her if the action of the ultrasonic
could accelerate the damage caused by the ammonia and again she
said yes.

Lastly I told her that our ultrasonic cleaner manufacturers
specifically name certain chemicals that should NOT be used in
their ultrasonic cleaners. Ammonia and bleach are on that list
of no-nos. Kathy agreed that made sense because ammonia and
bleach will also attack steel, of which the ultrasonic tank is

Interesting huh? If you are currently using ammonia or bleach
to clean your jewelry - you are actually hurting it! Most
suppliers offer ultrasonic cleaning solutions that are
non-ammoniated and do a great job. Some of them may seem
expensive but they are concentrated so you don’t need much.

Best Regards,

Elaine Corwin
Phone: 1-800-544-2043 ext. 287
Fax: 203-335-0300

Hi Folks,

I’ve been using plain old Dawn dishwashing detergent in my
ultrasonic for years now and it works just fine!



Hi Elaine- Thanks for responding. Sorry to reactivate an old
string. (I’ll go check the archives). I am very aware to never
mix ammonia and bleach - it makes a deadly gas. However, hadn’t
considered the posibility of bleach based cleaners lodging in
little nooks and crannies of customers jewelry and then mixing in
the ultrasonic cleaner solution. Good consideration. Perhaps it
is the old school way - but I was taught to use ammonia and
dishsoap. And there is a formula in the Jewelers Bench Reference
book that I refer to for tidbits. The one I tried - with very
questionable results - was a powdered formula called Magic Green.
Your comments have caused me to be less complacent and continue
to find a non-ammoniated formula. Although shipping of liquids
is pretty costly, cost is not the issue so much as results.
Does Gesswein have a powdered formula? (I didn’t see any in my
catalog dated '94) The simple green sounds interesting. Mahalo,

I have used Mr. Clean for some time and it does work well - no
ammonia, no bleach. However, I finally tried some of Gesswein’s
BCR and was amazed at the difference, both in speed and removal
of compound. A satisfied customer who will only keep Mr. Clean
around for emergencies.


Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Art Jewelry

Just for alittle more info, I also Make my own ultrasonic
cleaner, but I also use a good shot of windex , the combination
of the two w/hot water makes a kick butt cleaning solution. You
should also degas your solution after you fill it up with new
fluid, just turn your unit on and set the timfor as long as it
goes min. half hour, it will make a big differance how it
cleans. Good luck Matt the Catt

Hello All:

I am a full time bench jeweler. I have been using a product from
Stuller called “Ultra-CR”. It works great. One quart solution
with three quarts water lasts me a week. If you have more than a
one jeweler shop, you would change it more often. I was using a
product called “ZOOM” made by Amway. It also works great but
gives off bad fumes when heated.

Michael R. Mathews Sr.

Hi Cynthia,

We don’t have a powder cleaner for ultrasonics right now.
However I have asked our buyer to see if any of our
manufacturers can make a powder for us. It’s a good suggestion -

By the way, I was talking to a couple of refiners that were here
this morning to show me some products. I mentioned to them
about the ammonia (and bleach) penetrating gold, silver,
platinum, etc. and making it brittle. They said “Well, duh!” I
said, “Hey, we don’t ALL have chemistry degrees!” :slight_smile:

He then kindly and slowly :slight_smile: explained that ammonia is a
"chelating" agent meaning it binds with metal really well, in
fact he said it’s one of the best chelating agents around. My
technical dictionary defines “chelating agent” as a compound in
which atoms form more than one coordinate bonds with metals in
solution. So there ya go - more and more evidence that ammonia
and bleach are just plain harmful for cleaning jewelry.

I should have an answer on the availability of a powder cleaner
by the beginning of next week. I will email you then. Thanks

Best Regards,

Elaine (Corwin)
Tel: 1-800-544-2043, ext 287
Fax: 203-335-0300

To everybody, Well after reading Elaine’s comment about the
amonia eating metals away and the other affects it has, should
that send a red flag up to everyone currently using it?? This
stuff cannot be good for your health!!! I sat in a shop for the
first year that i was a jeweler and all they used was Sea Mist…
Yes it does have amonia in it and yess it will make you sick!! I
was more than happy to never have to smell that stuff again, let
me tell you… What alot of people dont uderstand is that when
you work in a shop, if the ultra sonic is in the same room, you
are breathing the fumes in wether you know it or not… After a a
few years this is bound to do some kind of nasty things to your
health… Poison is poison no matter what way you look at it…I
know this much, I will never use amonia or anything like ever
again, in fact I will never use anything but BCR in my ultra
sonic… BCR has no odor, it cleans ANYTHING and a little bit goes
a very long way, I put about an inch of BCR in the bottom of my
cleaner and fill the rest with water… I use my cleaner
constantly and I would suggest this stuff if it didn’t work. I
have tried the dish washing liquid as a last resort (I ran out of
BCR) the only thing the dishwashing liquid did was leave a haze
over everything… Not a good idea…So all in all for the couple
extra dollars you will spend now on the BCR from Gesswein Co. you
will save later on in life when you aren’t sick from some kind of
strange unknown illness due to the prolonged exposure to amonia
fumes…People, the only the bench jewelers like us should worry
about is cutting our fingers with those damn saw blades!!! LOL
Think about it… don’t use the amonia… Marc Williams MarcCo.
Jewelry Mfg.

Elaine –

I have always been taught (especially in enamelling) that
ammonia is the best degreasant to use that does not also leave
anything on the metal and/or glass to contaminate the next
process. So if ammonia is bad as a cleaning agent, what is a good
alternative? (I should also say that I’m not using an ultrasonic
– this is straight cleaning along with a detergent (Joy ) and a
glass or brass brush – does this make a difference??)


Hi Steve – In school we were taught to stay away from simple
green – at least while fabricating. We were told that it’s use
as a cleaner between facbrication steps could interfere with some
operations, such as granulation, enamelling, and patinas. Whether
or not there is a factual basis for this, I don’t know, but I do
remember thinking about the large bottle I had just bought from
Price Club that was going to go back upstairs to the kitchen
pantry… Laura.


Interesting! I don’t do enameling or patinas but I have been
using “Simple Green” in my ultrasonic for some time now. Assuming
you don’t mix it in too high a concentrated form (makes a rather
intense smell when it gets hot) it seems to work rather well.
Thanks for the warning though as I plan on learning some more
exotic forms of fabrication and will use my former favorite, Top
Job for this.


I want to thank everyone for taking the time to post information
on using/not using ammonia in the ultrasonic.

I’ve been using my own mix of ammonia, pine sol and isopropyl
alchohol mixed with hot water (no heater on my ultrasonic unit).
The formula was guess-timated from the lable of a purchased
formula years ago. I’ve always wondered why my flat, highly
polished surfaces sometimes come out with little “waves” all
over it. I had no idea that I was eating away the surface of the
metal with the ammonia!

So, why are ammonia-based cleaners still sold? Is it safe for
other metals such as gold? Or is it just not a good idea to use
it at all?

Marlo M.
…waiting to receive Gesswein’s catalog so I can order the much recommended
BCR! :slight_smile:

   So, why are ammonia-based cleaners still sold? Is it safe
for other metals such as gold? Or is it just not a good idea to
use it at all?  

Ammonia bonds with just about all metals used by jewelers -
including gold yes. It even bonds with the stainless steel that
ultrasonic cleaner tanks are made of! It will wear away the
tank in time. Ultrasonic manufacturers always specify in their
instructions a list of chemicals NOT to use in their cleaners
and ammonia is always on that list - along with a lot of other

Perhaps it would help if I post the list of chemicals our
manufacturers frown on. I’ll do that next week when I get into
the office.

Best Regards,

Elaine Corwin
Phone: 1-800-544-2043 ext. 287
Fax: 203-335-0300

Hello Elaine!

Noticed you were going to look for a good powdered ultrasonic
cleaner a few weeks ago. I used to use a product called
’ALCONOX". The supplier was American Scientific Supply in
Seattle. It was formulated for ultrasonic use in the medical and
dental fields, don’t know why our trade has never offered it. It
comes in a milk carton container and is very concentrated. Less
than a quarter cup to a gallon! The cost was $9 per box, then
about 1987 went up to $10 per. I quit buying it when they
required purchase of a full case (9 boxes). I bought 3 and
divided 6 among other jewelers (to much hassle). It was far and
away the best and least expensive cleaner. Others may match
performance but being powdered it was very economical. Please
reply to the forum (Orchid) if you find results on an available

Thank you,