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Parts washers are great devices that make the cleaning process much easier, faster, and more effective. Shops or businesses that manufacture or repair grease and oil equipment, hydraulic systems, and motor vehicles heavily rely on these machines to keep their workspaces clean. So the question is, what to use in parts washers?

What to Use in Parts Washers?

Solvents are the number one choice for cleaning parts in a parts washer. Petroleum-based solvents such as mineral spirits and gasoline effectively dissolve grease and oils. Insolvents and water-based solvents are also effective at removing greases and oils. However, they can be less aggressive and require more work time.

The parts washer solvent to use depends on the type of soil or contaminants that need to be removed and the temperature at which the solvent can be used safely. For example, kerosene is a suitable solvent for removing grease and oils but is not effective at removing water-based soils.

Petroleum-based solvents are flammable and can be harmful if inhaled. They should only be used in areas with adequate ventilation. Water-based solvents are less flammable and less harmful than petroleum-based solvents; however, they can still cause skin and eye irritation if not handled properly.

Woman cleaning engine parts on a parts washer

Standard Parts Washers

This type of washer is the most common that uses a petroleum-based solvent. It is a manual system that is filled with solvent, and the parts to be cleaned are placed in the washer. The solvent dissolves the soils and contaminants, and the parts are then rinsed with hot water. The standard parts have the following features that help make it more efficient:

  • Heated tank: The tank is heated to help speed up the cleaning process.
  • Agitation: The parts are agitated to help loosen the soils and contaminants.
  • Filtration: The solvent is filtered to remove any particles or residues.
  • Simple on/of switch: This is to help turn the washer on and off.

The standard parts washer is suitable for cleaning oily engine parts, heavy grease build-up, hydraulic systems, gearboxes, and other parts that are difficult to clean.

Bioremediating Parts Washers

This parts washer works by cleaning parts with a bioremediating solution. The solution contains microorganisms that break down and remove organic soils and contaminants from the part.

Also known as an oil eater, this parts washer safely uses a detergent and industrial cleaning solvent to remove oils and greases from the part. The detergent emulsifies the oils, and the solvent then dissolves them.

Parts washers can be classified by the type of solvent they use. Aqueous-based parts washers use water as the solvent. Non-aqueous parts washers use an organic solvent, such as methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) or toluene.

Solutions Used in Parts Washers

Parts washers need a solvent to clean the parts. The type of solvent used in the washer will depend on the type of soil or contaminant that you need to remove and the temperature at which the solvent can be used safely.

The following are solution options that you can use in parts washers:

Solvents

  • Alcohols: Ethanol, isopropanol, and propanol.
  • Esters: Butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, and methyl acetate.
  • Glycol ethers: Butyl cellosolve, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and propylene glycol monobutyl ether.
  • Kerosene: A petroleum-based solvent that is effective at removing greases and oils.
  • Water: A water-based solvent that is less harmful than petroleum-based solvents.

Non-Solvent

These chemicals are added to the water-based solvent to help break down and remove soils and contaminants.

  • Detergents: Alkaline detergents and acid detergents.
  • Surfactants: Anionic surfactants, cationic surfactants, amphoteric surfactants, and non-ionic surfactants.

Electrolysis Ingredients

Electrolysis ingredients are added to the water to help remove soils and contaminants by ionization. These ingredients are typically used in bioremediating parts washers as they help to break down organic soils and remove rusts.

Cleaning Agents

Detergents are the most common type of cleaning agent used in parts washers. They are classified by their alkalinity or acidity.

  • Alkaline detergents: Alkaline detergents have a high pH and are used to clean acidic soils.
  • Acidic detergents: Acidic detergents have a low pH and are used to clean alkaline soils.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Parts Washer

Getting the best parts washer for your business can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your cleaning process. When looking for a parts washer, consider the following factors:

  • The type of solvent the washer uses: Aqueous-based or non-aqueous.
  • The size of the tank: The tank size will determine how many parts you can clean at a time.
  • The type of agitation: The washer should have a mechanism to agitate the parts and help loosen the soils and contaminants.
  • GPM of the Pump: The parts washer should have a pump that can generate a minimum of 1.5 GPM to ensure the solvent reaches all the parts in the tank.
  • The type of heater: The parts washer should have a heating element to heat the solvent to the desired temperature.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Parts Washer Fluid

Before buying a parts washer, it is essential to know the types of fluids compatible with the machine. The following are some of the most common fluids used in parts washers:

  • High to medium flashpoint solvents: These solvents have a high flashpoint and are less harmful than other solvents. They are typically used in non-aqueous parts washers.
  • Medium to low flashpoint solvents: These solvents have medium to a low flashpoint and are more harmful than other solvents. They are typically used in aqueous parts washers and effectively brake dust,  greases, and oils.

Related Questions

What Is the Best Solvent to Use in a Parts Washer?

You can use any type of solvent compatible with the machines you use.

Can You Use Mineral Spirits in Parts Washer?

Yes, you can use mineral spirits in parts washers; however, they’re less effective than other petroleum-based solvents.

How Do You Clean the Parts Washer?

To clean the parts washer, empty the tank and solvent, and scrub the tank with a brush. Be sure to remove any soils or contaminants that may have built up. 

Conclusion

Parts washers are essential equipment for businesses that need to clean parts and components. Having suitable solvent and cleaning agents in the washer can help improve the cleaning process’s efficiency and effectiveness, hence improving the quality of the final product.

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