How Do Ultrasonic Cleaners Work

Ultrasonic cleaning works through high-frequency sound waves transmitted through liquid to scrub clean the surface of immersed parts. The high-frequency sound waves, typically 40 kHz, agitate the liquid solution of water or solvent, and cause the cavitation of solution molecules.

Ultrasonic cleaning is suitable for cleaning a wide variety of materials, including metals, glass, rubber, ceramics and some hard plastics. Ultrasonic cleaning is especially useful for removing tightly-adhered contaminants from intricate items with blind holes, cracks and recesses. Examples of contaminants removed through ultrasonic cleaning include dust, dirt, oil, grease, pigments, flux agents, fingerprints and polishing compound.

The fluid used in industrial ultrasonic cleaning systems can be either water-based (aqueous) or solvent-based. Both types of cleaning solutions contain wetting agents (surfactants) to reduce surface tension and increase cavitation. Aqueous cleaning solutions are generally more limited in cleaning effectiveness but better for the environment than solvent cleaning solutions.

What is cavitation?

Think bubbles. Cavitation “bubbles” form when sonic energy creates a void (or cavity) which gets trapped as a bubble in a liquid solution of water or solvent. These microscopic bubbles implode with such force that contaminants adhering to surfaces are dislodged. Ultrasonic cleaning machines scrub surfaces clean through implosions of tiny bubbles.

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