Cleaning Ultrasonically

Ultrasonic CleanerIf I hopped out of my Delorean and told you I was from the future, you would be right to doubt me. On the other hand, if I showed you how I cleaned my eyeglasses this morning, you wouldn’t even ask to view my 22nd century library card, because I used ultrasonics.

It’s a known fact that everything from the future has ultra- before it. We’ll be driving to work in our ultracars, sit on our ultrachairs, and check our ultramail on our ultracomputers. It’ll be ultracool.

I’m lying of course. Ultrasonics are really, really boring sound waves that happen to be higher pitched than you can hear – hence ultra. Sound you can’t hear might sound completely pointless (or perhaps not sound completely pointless), but these nonsounds are useful for all sorts of stuff. Ultrasound scans of babies and internal organs, sonar range-finding, and cleaning are just some of the wonderful things you can’t hear.

If you stick a solid object into a liquid that is being vibrated ultrasonically, you get millions of little bubbles formed by cavitation, which collapse rapidly, causing lots of vigorous agitation on the surface of the item. The visible result is fairly disgusting, especially if you haven’t cleaned something for a while: you see smoke-like streamers of gunk dissolving off the item into the water. Personally I find this highly satisfying, but I could imagine it causing a complete breakdown in someone more obsessive. You can put something apparently clean into this ultrasonic cleaner, and it will make a complete fool of you by cleaning it properly.

The cleaner is great for glasses, watches (of the water resistant variety), and other larger items of jewellery. It also does a good job on hobby items like disassembled RC parts, and even some electronic switches and circuitboards, as long as you dry them thoroughly afterwards. It won’t polish items as such, but does wonders on metallic items with crevices.

Like a battery charger, soldering iron, and multimeter, an ultrasonic cleaner is something that every geek should have access to. At NZ$140, there’s very little excuse not to have one. Your mum will love it too.


  1. My glasses are absolutely disgusting. I almost never clean them. I imagine I will feel a mixture of disgust and satisfaction if I ever clean my glasses in one of these!

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