Are wondering if an ultrasonic cleaner can help you with your miniature painting hobby? Are they worth the investment, the space, and time to use? Absolutely! Ultrasonic cleaners can save you time and hassle when cleaning your models, tools, and airbrushes.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- What is an ultrasonic cleaner?
- The benefits of using one for your miniature painting hobby.
- How to use an ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning models, tools, and airbrushes.
In a Hurry? Check Out 7 Recommended Ultrasonic Cleaners 🏆
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What is an Ultrasonic Cleaner?
Even the cleanest person can appreciate the value of an ultrasonic cleaner. Let’s face it, we’re all battling dirt and grime on a daily basis. It’s an uphill battle, but ultrasonic cleaners give us the upper hand.
How Sound Waves Clean Stuff: How Does an Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine Work?
These powerful little devices use waves of sound to create bubbles in a bath of water that literally tear dirt and grime apart. Depending on the size and number of bubbles (millions and millions of them), they can even remove things like dried blood stains or other contaminants that build up on equipment.
The other way to think about the tiny bubbles in an ultrasonic cleaner is that they act as air-filled grenades. The bubbles in an ultrasonic cleaner are so powerful that they cause microscopic implosions on the surface of whatever you’re cleaning.
This bubble-making and exploding process is called cavitation and it’s what gives ultrasonic cleaners their cleaning power. Cavitation only occurs in liquids, which is why ultrasonic cleaners need to be filled with water (or another cleaning solution) in order to work.
Inside the ultrasonic tank are transducers, which generate the bubbles. A transducer is an active element in the ultrasonic machine that turns electrical energy from a power source into ultrasonic vibrations. The frequency of these vibrations determines how small or large bubbles form, and how many, etc.
Depending on your ultrasonic machine, you may be able to adjust the frequency to suit your cleaning needs.
The cleaning process starts with cycles of pressure waves from these vibrations forming the microscopic bubbles mentioned earlier, e.g., the cavitation process. As mechanical energy propagates through the water at ultrasonic frequency, it can reach places throughout the entire liquid space.
Hint: High frequency is not necessarily better for cleaning things. Low frequency settings will be more gentle on whatever fragile object you’re trying to clean.
Why You Need an Ultrasonic Cleaner for the Miniature Painting Hobby
If you’re into miniature painting or other hobbies, then you know that getting the perfect paint job or project completed requires a lot of time and effort. And one of the most important steps in finishing anything is “clean up”.
But if you’re still using old-fashioned methods like soap and water, then you’re not getting your hobby stuff, airbrushes, and other tools as clean as they could be–unless you’re spending a lot of time in with disassembly, scrubbing, and reassembly.
That’s why an ultrasonic cleaner is such an important tool for anyone serious about their miniature painting hobby.
But… are you taking a second guess like I have? (I obviously bought one or two, three? See why).
Are they worth it? It depends. Read on below where I share more of my thoughts about the utility of ultrasonic cleaners.
Benefits of an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Remove stubborn paint: An ultrasonic cleaner can remove even the most stubborn paint from your airbrushes, making the cleanup process much faster and easier.
Saves time: If you consider how long it takes to clean up after yourself, then an ultrasonic cleaner can actually save you time in the long run.
Increase tool service life: Keeping your tools, e.g., brushes, palettes, and airbrush, clean is how you avoid frustration later when things break down; use an ultrasonic cleaner to keep your tools in top condition.
Clean brushes: While I don’t recommend you wash all your paintbrushes in an ultrasonic cleaner, there are certain brushes that benefit from the high-frequency sound waves, e.g., those with synthetic bristles, dry brushes. Remember to avoid leaving your brushes submerged in water for too long!
Limitations of an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Expense: The best ultrasonic cleaners are expensive, but for the budget minded there are affordable ones for light duty cleaning.
Another piece of equipment: They can be more trouble than they’re worth
Make things dirtier: If you don’t wash out the water tub of the ultrasonic cleaner, you may find your next cleaning job less effective.
Sound can only go so far: An ultrasonic cleaner can only do so much cleaning. Sometimes a bit of elbow grease, a good kitchen sponge or cleaning brush, and warm, soapy water is what you need.
Need to use it: As above, an ultrasonic cleaner may be overkill for some of you who don’t paint a lot or have simple tools for your hobbies. If you don’t have an airbrush, for example, you’ve just avoided a big reason you would want an ultrasonic cleaner. You have to be really into cleaning to get the most out of them.
Are Ultrasonic Cleaners Really Worth It?
For the hobbyist, an ultrasonic cleaner can be more trouble than it’s worth. Unless you’re really into cleaning things (and I’m talking REALLY into it) chances are good that you’ll never use all the features of an ultrasonic cleaner.
Ultrasonic cleaners are great at making things dirtier, if you don’t maintain them. You need to keep the water bath clean for best results, otherwise you could end up pushing dirt and other debris deeper into whatever you’re washing.
Is an ultrasonic cleaner really worth it? For most people, the answer is no. BUT…
If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to save time and effort when cleaning things related to you hobby or even around the home.
I’m always on the lookout for gadgets that can make my life easier, and ultrasonic cleaners definitely fit into that category. But are they really worth the money? And where can you find the best ones?
To answer the first question, ultrasonic cleaners are incredibly effective, and can save you a lot of time and effort when cleaning things like hobby tools, whatever (see above). You just need to use the machine correctly and keep it in good working order.
They are definitely worth the investment if you value your time, use them on some regular basis, and are okay keeping an eye on making sure it is operating properly. The good news is that they are simple, robust machines, and many industries use them a lot without problems.
I use one on a semi-regular basis when I need to deep clean my airbrush, strip paint from models, or clean off 3D resin prints. In the latter, I’m very careful to avoid using ethanol in the bath, since the heat from the ultrasonic cleaner can produce a fire hazard with flammable liquids. Be careful.
Where Can I Find the Best Ultrasonic Cleaning Machines?
As for where to find the best ultrasonic cleaners, I would recommend checking out Amazon. They have a great selection, and I’ve tested a few out myself over the years. You can see my top ultrasonic picks for those of us in the miniature painting hobby.
For my work, an ultrasonic cleaner falls into the same “need category” as my vortex paint mixer: Not necessarily essential, but a luxury that makes my job more convenient in so many ways. All those small tasks always add up.
How to Use an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Now that you know how ultrasonic cleaners work, you’re probably wondering how to use one. Using an ultrasonic cleaner is actually pretty simple and only requires a few steps:
- Fill the tank with water (recommended) or another cleaning solution.
- Place the items you want to clean into the basket or tank.
- Set the timer and let the cleaner do its job.
- When the cycle is done, remove the items and dry them off.
That’s it! Pretty simple, right? Just remember to always read the instructions that come with your cleaner to make sure you’re using it properly.
Tips for Using an Ultrasonic Cleaner to Achieve the Best Results
Here are a few tips to help you get the best results out of your ultrasonic cleaner:
Read the instructions before using! This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother reading the manual before using a new appliance. Make sure you understand how your specific model works before trying to use it.
Start with clean water. Always use clean water when running your ultrasonic cleaner – that means fresh out of the tap, not water that’s been sitting in the basin for days.
Avoid using soap and detergents unless necessary. Believe it or not, sometimes an ultrasonic cleans better with pure water. Some types of soap or detergents change the way sound travels through water, which can negatively affect the ability of those cavitation bubbles to form and do their job.
Fill the basin to the suggested level. Don’t overdo it – too much liquid will reduce the effectiveness of the ultrasonic waves.
Run the cleaner for the recommended time. Most models have an automatic shut-off feature, but it’s still important to keep an eye on things so you don’t overdo it. For an airbrush, for example, I try not to leave my cleaning cycle last longer than 15 minutes at a time.
You’ll notice that water heats up in an ultrasonic cleaner, which can also influence how well it works (and whether or not your tools, brushes, will be harmed by the process). If you’re unsure, do some tests and read the manual for further guidance.
And there you have it. A bit about how an ultrasonic cleaner could help you in the miniature painting hobby. They are not an essential tool, but an ultrasonic cleaner could be worth it if you have a lot of tools to clean, or want to speed up that process.
There are limitations to an ultrasonic cleaner, of course, but an ultrasonic cleaner is relatively affordable, easy to use, and can be found online or at most hardware stores.
If you’re unsure, try one out and see for yourself!
Happy miniature painting (and cleaning!)
I hope you found this article helpful. Are you using an ultrasonic cleaner? Was it useful? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.