Specifying an Ultrasonic Cleaner Machine

Specifying an Ultrasonic Cleaner Machine

An ultrasonic cleaner machine is often first choice for cleaning or processing operations across a broad spectrum of industry. This is borne out by a Polaris Market Research report noting that the market “is anticipated to grow from USD 1.37 billion in 2024 to USD 2.23 billion by 2032, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.2% during the forecast period.”

Why is this?

Ultrasonic cleaner machines are unsurpassed when it comes to removing contaminants from virtually any hard surface that can be safely immersed in a cleaning solution. 

They are also widely used in the pharmaceutical and other processing industries as sonicator baths because of their ability to disperse, mix and dissolve samples. 

The challenge is specifying your ultrasonic cleaner, its accessories, cleaning solution formulations, and cleaning procedures to accomplish tasks in the most efficient manner.

This post provides specification tips for an ultrasonic cleaning machine. It concludes with examples of where these units are put to use.

If you are not that familiar ultrasonic cleaners, a good tutorial is our post how ultrasonic cleaners work.

The post will conclude with a look at some common ultrasonic cleaning machine applications.

Key Considerations to Specify an Ultrasonic Cleaner


Parts Cleaning Considerations:

  • Type of contamination to be removed 
  • The composition of products being cleaned
  • How parts will be used after cleaning 
  • How you define ‘clean’
  • Will you be cleaning batches or individual parts?
  •  Component size and weight

For more on this check our post on ultrasonic parts cleaners.

R&D and other Lab Applications:

Ultrasonic units find wide application in research and development labs and in healthcare. 

A good tutorial is our post lab applications for ultrasonic cleaners.  More detail will be found in the role of sonicators in sample preparation.

Another resource is our post on cleaning medical and surgical instruments.

Once you define exactly what you’re trying to accomplish the following points will help narrow down your equipment selection.

Equipment Size

  • Consider part dimensions or number of samples to be processed
  • Select a tank that will accommodate these needs (see baskets below)
  • Include “working depth” in your calculations 

Working depth is the distance from the inside bottom surface of the basket to the surface of the liquid in a filled tank. It is important because parts being cleaned must be fully immersed in the liquid. Ask the manufacturer if working depth info is not provided in product literature.

In sample prep applications, different considerations apply as noted in the above linked post on sample preparation.

Cleaning  Baskets

Baskets support parts in an ultrasonic cleaner and hold sample containers when used as sonicator baths. They are designed specifically for the ultrasonic cleaner in which they are employed and support contents at the correct position in tanks.

Basket dimensions are smaller than tank dimensions – keep that in mind when specifying your equipment.

Ultrasonic  Frequency

Most ultrasonic cleaners operate between 35 and 45 kHz. This frequency range is well suited to the vast majority of cleaning tasks. 

A low frequency such as 25 kHz produces larger cavitation bubbles ideal for coarse cleaning such as removal of lapping abrasives or polishing paste. 

Frequencies such as 37 and 80 kHz are commonly used for routine cleaning, for lab applications and cleaning fine-featured complex surfaces. 

Elmasonic Benchtop Cleaners - Elma Select
Elmasonic Select Ultrasonic Cleaner Series

Examples of benchtop cleaners operating at the popular 37 kHz frequency include the Elmasonic E Plus and Elmasonic Select series.

If you are cleaning a variety of materials consider a dual-frequency ultrasonic cleaner.  An benchtop example is the Elmasonic P unit operating at 37 and 80 kHz.   For industrial applications the floor-mounted Elma  X-tra ST units can be set to 25 kHz for basic cleaning and to 45 kHz for fine cleaning.   

Our post ultrasonic frequency and power goes into more detail on this subject.

Additional Ultrasonic Cleaner Features to Consider


Elmasonic P180H
P180H Unit

Most cleaning operations are much more effective with heating. Heated cleaning solutions work best for removing oils, machining coolants and a whole host of other contaminants. 

In this case use an ultrasonic cleaner with thermostat-controlled heaters. Examples linked above as well as others can be adjusted in increments to 80⁰C, above which cavitation is inhibited and cleaning efficiency levels off.

On the other hand if you are removing blood, don’t use heat at all.                                                                   

Ultrasonic Cleaner Operating Features

The most basic ultrasonic cleaners are equipped with an on-off switch. Professional units offer a variety of features. In addition to heaters and timers, the following features, some described as operating modes, may be of value to your particular operations:

  • Normal or fixed-frequency mode
  • Pulse mode delivers high-intensity bursts to remove stubborn deposits or dissolve difficult samples
  • Sweep mode provides uniform distribution of cavitation action throughout the tank
  • Dynamic mode combines sweep and pulse to optimize cleaning performance
  • Degas mode removes air from new solutions, HPLC samples and solvents
  • Energy-saving eco mode delivers nearly silent gentle cleaning
  • Adjustable ultrasonic power matches to sensitive surfaces
  • A pause function allows operators to examine or remove items from the bath
  • Storing frequently used procedures for call-up and consistent results
  • Auto-start initiates sonication when the set bath temperature is reached
  • Automatic switch-off after a pre-programmed time of continuous use or if the bath reaches 90⁰C (194⁰F)

Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine Accessories 

A variety of accessories are available to support the use of ultrasonic cleaners.

Mentioned earlier are baskets that may be offered as standard or ordered separately. Other useful accessories include

  • Fine mesh baskets are placed in regular baskets to hold small parts
  • Hooks support rings and other jewelry items
  • Acid-resistant tubs for cleaning solutions that damage cleaning tanks
  • Cooling coils are called for if bath temperature increases beyond acceptable limits   
  • Flask clamps in several sizes and configurations attach to basket for sample prep
  • Mute boxes can reduce noise levels 3 to 4 times in decibels 

Check our accessories blog post for more info.

Ultrasonic Cleaner Solutions

The correct ultrasonic cleaner solution chemistry is as important as ultrasonic frequency, power and other points covered in this post.

Most commonly used chemistries fall into three categories: alkaline, acidic and neutral. They are usually supplied as concentrates so a little goes a long way. Their non-toxic biodegradable chemistry eases disposal concerns. Here are brief examples of the three categories:

Ultrasonic Cleaning Solutions

Alkaline elma tec clean A series is produced in several formulations to handle specialized or general purpose cleaning.  

Elma tec clean A4 is a universal cleaner/degreaser for all types of metals and most plastics. It is a great choice for cleaning automotive parts such as carburetors. 

Elma tec clean A1 is a free-rinsing formulation preferred for applications where the parts must be rinsed free of any chemical residue after cleaning.  Applications include cleaning optics and electronics, and printed circuit boards.

Acidic ultrasonic cleaning concentrates such as elma tec clean S1 are used for removing corrosion, oxidation, minerals and rust.

Neutral elma tec clean N1 is a phosphate-free emulsifying cleaning concentrate for gentle cleaning action. It is used for the treatment of highly sensitive pieces.

More information is found in our post about how to select an ultrasonic cleaner solution.

Ultrasonic Cleaner Machine Application Examples

We’ve covered many specification considerations in this post.  We conclude with links to several ultrasonic cleaner applications found on our website.  Contact us if you don’t find one that meshes with your needs.

Need More Info on Specifying your Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine?

Call or chat with us for advice on equipment and cleaning solution selection based on your operations and requirements.   

About Bob Sandor

Bob began working as a chemist in 1987 and remains a science geek to this day. After his PhD he worked on the bench in materials and inorganic chemistry for 10 years. He then took on a love for marketing and sales. He combined his passion for science and business and took entrepreneur general management positions in large corporations like Hoecsht Celanese now Sanofi Aventis, Bel-Art and Smiths Detection. There he learned what it would take to run a business and finally Tovatech was co-founded in 2006. Bob’s hobbies include playing, listening and composing music, skiing, working out, the internet and all things science. Read More