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Tips Parts Washing-Maintenance Cruz

Updated on May 23, 2015

Sure seems like there should be a better parts washing system out there. Most part washers consist of a drum, basin, pump, and brush. These units do work and have done so for a long time but they could be better.

I worked at a facility that had the standard parts washer with a particularly effective cleaning solution. The problem was the the fluid contained Naphtha and took an act of congress to dispose of the stuff. I was told that I had to contact a person in the government in the state next to mine in order to dispose of this chemical.I tried to get a hold of this person for a month straight with no answer and no reply to my voice messages. This made me so mad I was planning a trip to that office and wait for this person to show up but it crossed my mind that this person did not even go into her office. I would warn that you need to research the chemicals in a parts washer before you put it in your shop as we had barrels sitting around full of the stuff that we could not get rid of.

Funny thing about this whole thing is that there are really effective alternatives all around you that are fairly easy to dispose of. For example, ATF (automatic transmission fluid) is absolutely awesome for cleaning parts and the flammability is pretty low. ATF also holds up for a really long time before it needs to be changed, just keeps cleaning.

Another really great cleaner is diesel fuel and kerosene, basically the same thing. Many years ago as a teen working on my first cars an old hand told me to clean parts with diesel, worked like a charm. I would have to say that ATF works the best of the two, just washes the grease right off.

I am sure you have seen news footage of oil spills in an ocean somewhere. Always after the footage showing the oil slick and the damaged tanker they cut away to volunteers cleaning seabirds with Dawn dish detergent and it is always Dawn soap. Dawn dish soap it one of the best degreasers anywhere and I use it regularly, great stuff. One great trick with dawn is to put some on your hands before you start your work when you're done wash up with dawn and you won't even know you handled greasy parts.

So, I already know there are a lot of alternative cleaning solutions but, the basic cleaning tank seems to remain the same. I have heard of sonic cleaning stations and how they work really well except they are slow. I wouldn't know having never used or even seen one in a maintenance department. It just seems to me that there should be a basic washing machine for machine parts that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and works. This probably exists but I also have not seen one in any maintenance department that I have ever seen.

The other problem that I see a lot is that some cleaners work harder on removing the paint from a part then they do the grease. Had a tank full of DBE (dibasic ester) that really did a good job of removing paint but no so good on grease. The fluid was chosen due to possible reaction with process chemicals. The real issue was that everything was washed in this same tank and the shop really needed two different washing stations. This is something to ponder as your shop may need more than one unit. Maybe a unit for removing the heavy muck and another for final cleaning that leaves low or no residue. It always comes down to money and it is a hard sell to convince the powers that be that you not only want one cleaning station but two.

Cleaning fluids in aerosol cans are great and have there place but, first it is a very expensive way to clean parts and generally very flammable. They do have non-flammable spray cleaners out there and they work well but, again it is a pretty expensive way to clean parts. I will pour a small amount of ATF in a cup and use paintbrush for the first pass cleaning, then follow up with a final rinse with spray cleaner, works pretty well.

With most the alternatives out there you will want plenty of ventilation and eye and skin protection. Some people have pretty bad reactions to contact with some of these fluids and you never want to absorb chemicals through your skin anyway. I think the eye protection is self explanatory as cleaning fluid always finds its way into your eye. I don't think I want something meant to dissolve grease getting in my eyes.


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