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What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autoparts made of metal?

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AnthroProfessor's picture
Glendale, CA
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There has to be a better way to clean parts before reassembly than using brake cleaner, carb cleaner and citrus degreaser. Since I have many cars and many more parts, I am dealing with cleaning on a larger scale. Even the parts I have as spares and replacements should be cleaned so that it is ready to go when I need or even sell it. Hey, its a hobby, this is the way to enjoy it. I just don't want to store a bunch of oily parts and make the garage look like a junk yard. Some neatness is in order.

Any recommendations on products and procedures is greatly appreciated.

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normajean's picture
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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

Most mechanic supply houses offer a "parts cleaner". It is an electric pump driven sort of sink that recirculates a cleaning fluid, usually kerosine. They are fairly inexpensive and in wide use in most garages.

See your NAPA or similar supplier.

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

Ultrasonic cleaners have been one of THE best additions to my shop.

Northern sells a nice stainless/headed unit that hold about 1.5-2Q of fluid. A weak to moderate molar base for detergent and you should be Quite pleased w/ the results. When doing jobs here all the hardware goes Straight into the ultrasonic. 99 X out of 100 it comes out clean as can be. I keep a fresh bath of water handy to rinse and neutralize the cleaning solution next to the cleaner.

From there, onto a towel to dry and apply anti seize or loctite as required:)

Jonathan

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Jonathan Hodgman Blue Ridge MB
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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

I find the grease/corrosion can be handled by varying the concentration of the detergent.

Having a heated Ultrasonic also helps GREATLY!

Just did a bunch of work to a Dirty 2.5/OM602, all the nasty bits came out Beautiful:)

Jonathan

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Jonathan Hodgman Blue Ridge MB
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Offering Enthusiast Service, Restoration and Tuning.
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2005 E55 Estate 2003 CL500, 93 500E Euro, 93 500E Brumos, 91 560SEC ECE, 91 500SL Euro,  87 AMG Hammer Wagon & Sedan 86 560SEL AMG 6.0L 32V,

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

How about those parts tumblers, kind of like rock tumblers that turn the parts in an abrasive media to more or less buff them clean? Do those things work?

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

I think a bad idea for any part with threads or precision mating surfaces.

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

they always seemed a little tougher (@ least in my mind) on hardware then I would like :-/

Jonathan

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Jonathan Hodgman Blue Ridge MB
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Offering Enthusiast Service, Restoration and Tuning.
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2005 E55 Estate 2003 CL500, 93 500E Euro, 93 500E Brumos, 91 560SEC ECE, 91 500SL Euro,  87 AMG Hammer Wagon & Sedan 86 560SEL AMG 6.0L 32V,

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

For caked on grease, scrape first using dull tools, wet with WD-40, to soften, then Gunk concentrate (sheep dip) and paint thinner mixture to get to metal. Old grease takes time to re-soften.

to de-grease I use restaurant supply chemicals, deep-fat fryer cleaner, de-greasers brushes etc. from Smart&Final. They have stuff that is lethal to even aluminum and your lungs. There is a de-carbonizer for the underside of pans which is only for Stainless steel.

Pool acid for cast iron exhaust manifolds, bare steel parts.

Carb cleaner for pistons.

Paint remover for undercoating and paints.

All this is water soluble eventually, always finish with WD-40, sun dry after.

My pepper tree thrives on this run-off.

Ultrasonic tank is great for the details.
Pressure washer is handy.
there is no magic for 30-40 years of old grease.
The volatile HC's evaporate with heat and time,
leaving the paraffin -type solids, and carbon.

Then there are Aluminum oxides and Cadmium degradation.

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

For large quanities (for me) or large size parts, I use the ultimate clean safe method. I drop them off at the machine shop and pick them up a day or 2 later looking pretty much like new. Cost is not outrageous.............................except maybe in the DC area.

For smaller items and quantities I have a parts washer from Harbor Freight, a pint size ultrasonic cleaner and a gallon size. A member of the family works for a dentist and I get his old ones.

For those who want to clean the inside of a diesel intake manifold, or have done it, read the first paragraph above.

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

This is all good feedback. I am doing some of my own research too.

I have located a 9 liter ultrasonic cleaner that also has the heat feature. It costs $450. It is made out of stainless steel, so its good quality. Its roughly 13 inches all around, so I know where I can put it.

What is the difference between the ultrasonic cleaner and the pump driven parts cleaner?

Most of the parts to clean are going to be smaller parts like bolts, screws, nuts, small components, etc. I cannot house something large enough to clean a transmission bell housing, but I would rarely need it for that anyway.

An exhaust manifold can always be taken to a machine shop for cleaning since its a rare thing that I would need done anyway.

From what I am reading, almost any degreaser solution is OK to use. I have all kinds of all purpose degreasers, so I might as well use that supply when cleaning Mercedes hardware in a ultrasonic cleaner.

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

9L you say? That's pretty reasonable! Have a link/reference for procuring said unit?

pump just circulates the fluid, ultrasonic jiggles everything..I'll leave the pump on in my cleaning tank when soaking larger/nastier bits..it Helps, but you still need to go in and mechanically abrade things to get them Clean.

If you are doing manifolds, I'd heartily recommend sending them out to Swain Tech for ceramic coating, nice white finish that works Very well and hold up Better then Jet Hot.

I dilute NaOH and that works well:)

Jonathan

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Jonathan Hodgman Blue Ridge MB
http://www.blueridgemb.com
Offering Enthusiast Service, Restoration and Tuning.
(404)805-1357
2005 E55 Estate 2003 CL500, 93 500E Euro, 93 500E Brumos, 91 560SEC ECE, 91 500SL Euro,  87 AMG Hammer Wagon & Sedan 86 560SEL AMG 6.0L 32V,

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

AnthroProfessor;178539 wrote:
What is the difference between the ultrasonic cleaner and the pump driven parts cleaner?

An ultrasonic cleaner vibrates the liquid that you put inside, together with the parts to be cleaned, at high frequencies, shaking the dirt loose from the parts.

A pump driven parts cleaner recirculates the cleaning fluid around the stationary parts in the pan.

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Re: What is the best way to clean bolts, washers, screws, autopa

A caution for using a heated ultrasonic cleaner: make sure your cleaning solution is meant to be heated (i.e. don't use anything flammable or that gives off gasses harmful to humans etc.)

Here's a link to an electrolysis method meant specifically for removing rust from iron and steel parts:

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/andyspatch/rust.htm

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