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Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

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  • Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

    Hi, I recently purchased a small ultrasonic cleaner from Harbor Freight primarily to clean small aluminum/alloy parts such as motorcycle carburetors.

    I have tried a few household cleaners and things like vinegar and lemon juice, as well as SP1 degreaser and Metal Ready, so far without much success. I contacted Caswell Canada and Jim thought maybe ALBR1G-Aluminum Brightener- would work but couldn't speak from personal experience. So, does anyone have experience with this product?

    All I'm after is a method that will get into all the nooks and crannies of the carb body and produce a fairly even all over dull grey finish. I had a set of carbs cleaned in a commercial ultrasonic cleaner several years ago and apparently all they used was a mixture of water and baking soda, but they had a 90 minute duty cycle and more heat than my little unit can produce. I've also used Kleen-Flo carb cleaner but it's nasty stuff and if the carbs are left to soak too long the cleaner will actually start eating the carb bodies - I learned this the hard way!

    Thanks for lookin'

  • #2
    Re: Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

    What are you trying to remove?


    • #3
      Re: Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

      I am successfully removing the varnish deposits with the carb cleaner.

      Remaining is a white "crusty" deposit like a lime or calcium, typically in the very bottom of the float bowl or the underside of the float chamber, I am guessing from sitting with water contamination.

      Secondly, I'd like to remove the darker (more oxidized) finish from the outside of the carb body, typically in the recesses/low spots. I can remove most of this with a brass wire brush, but it's time consuming and inevitably leaves brush marks.

      So if I use something like CLR, it might remove the white crusty stuff but would leave the aluminum discolored, exacerbating my second requirement. I don't mind using 2 different products to do the 2 different jobs, I just don't want to solve one problem only to create another.

      Thanks, Sean


      • #4
        Re: Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

        Cleaners are either acid or base to attack the gunk your trying to clean off. Unfortunately, Aluminum can react with either.
        CLR is an acid based cleaner, ideal for removing calcium compounds. Alkaline cleaners attack organic compounds well, like grease.
        Purple Power is an excellent alkaline cleaner, but it will destroy aluminum.
        Keep this in mind: Pure aluminum is actually very volatile. It oxidizes immediately when exposed to air. The thin layer of aluminum oxide that forms on the surface acts like a shield to prevent further oxidation to penetrate. The Kleen Flo was continually stripping away that layer, hence dissolving your carb bodies like an alka-seltzer.
        So it seems like you are stuck solving one problem to create another, as you so aptly put it.
        Using soft water may help alleviate your white deposit problem, but I suspect the white crust is actually thicker layers of aluminum oxide collecting.
        I suggest experimenting with the lowest concentration and least exposure time to get the job done. Start with mechanical methods to get the worst off (would a Water-Pik work in thiose tight spots?). Rinse immediately. If using an acid cleaner like CLR, try a quick rinse in a baking soda solution to neutralize the acid, then fresh water.
        Good luck Sean.


        • #5
          Re: Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

          I have had this problem before on numerous occasions. the only thing that i found that works 100% is an aqua-blaster. its a machine that pumps water at very high pressure mixed with microscopic glass beads. carbs / engine casings come up looking like new. i know it doesnt answer your questions, but to save you a lot of headaches it would be worth searching for a machine shop that will let you have a go.
          "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.
          Custom Anodising


          • #6
            Re: Ultrasonic cleaning of Aluminum?

            I've used alumibright to clean my quad with and it will remove what you're talking about. But it will also change the color of the carb to like a non polished looking aluminium. Just like a dull finish. And if you don't spray it evenly it will spot up too.
            I'm just getting started, have patience!!!