View Full Version : Parts washer solvent recommendation

Sandy H
03-27-2005, 02:05 PM
When I was growing up, our home shop consisted of a few specialty machines (valve grinder, seat machine etc) as we only did auto-machine type work.

Today, I have a more standard hobby machine shop, with the basic 3 machines (mill, lathe and tool grinder) and for Christmas (yes, 3 months ago. . . ) got a 20 gal parts washer. The one we had when I was younger was filled with mineral spirits and some blue/purple additive. It worked great, especially on nasty engine parts, but it smelled harsh and was doubly bad on skin. We always had to wear gloves or suffer split knuckles the next day.

What I'm interested in today, is a chemical which does well with all normal materials (aluminum, steel, brass etc) and is good for cleaning just the machine type oils (cutting oil, way lube etc) and not years of grime away. I’d prefer the smell to be minimal, as my 2-car garage/shop is connected to the house.

I've tried the Task brand water based cleaner and it is 100% ok, but mineral spirits is miles better, from my experience.

What suggestions do board members have? Also include responsible disposal/clean-up if possible.

Thanks! I'm hoping to get it set-up in a few days. It took 3 months just to clear out the right spot for it!


03-27-2005, 02:27 PM
My personal favorite is:


Has such an O-so sweet smell and is refreshing to the skin http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//eek.gif

I use it in my ultrasonic cleaner in sealed glass containers.

For parts washers where you will be bathing in the liquid I still recommend an H2O based cleaner. Believe it or not I use an industrial version of "409" kitchen cleaner. Very tough on grease and oil but even it will start attacking my skin without rubber gloves.

What ever you use, proper breathing and skin protection is a must. Unfortunately most open cleaning tanks being used are not being used with any protection. Time will tell. The liver is usually the first to go bye-bye. Absorbtion through the skin and inhalation.

Anyway, I like Tric http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif


03-27-2005, 02:28 PM
I looked into the water-based cleaning agents and they were either pretty expensive or didn't solve grease & oil very well, or both.

I ended up with straight mineral spirits. I'll admit that my sniffer isn't the most sensitive, but the odor doesn't bother me at all. It does the job well and it doesn't freeze in my unheated garage. It's handy out there just to wash grunge off my hands instead of going into the house and using up hand cleaner. I keep a bottle of lotion next to it to help keep my skin from drying up.

I've had mine out there for about three years and I haven't needed to worry about disposal yet. I've added more mineral spirits a time or two. I figure if I only have to change it out every few years I will just cart it off to a disposal center. Even if it costs $50 to dispose (and it won't even come close) it averages out to be dirt cheap.

Works out pretty well for me. I love having a parts washer and use it all the time. This is just my home shop and not a commercial venture.

03-27-2005, 04:47 PM
There are some good ideas in this thread in The Third Hand:

Author Topic: Non-Flammable Solvent For Parts Washer
Member posted 03-01-2005 09:56 PM

Barry Milton

[This message has been edited by precisionworks (edited 03-27-2005).]

03-27-2005, 05:02 PM
I have one word ARMAKLEEN, best stuff ive found as far as water based cleaners.

I use to hate working for someone else, now I work for everyone else!

03-27-2005, 05:09 PM
I used a water based degreaser at about 10 to 1. I got the stuff from the local oil supply house and can't tell you much except it's monster blood green(flourescent)The trick is to use one of those electric engine block heaters that have a magnetic base. Attach it to the bottom of the tank. Hot water makes the stuff clean a whole lot better.

03-27-2005, 05:43 PM
This may sound different, but an old dishwasher works great too. just use good dishwasher soap. the hot water and the soap do wonders!!

03-27-2005, 06:40 PM
Tric destroys lung tissue.

Mark McGrath
03-27-2005, 06:50 PM
We use a Castrol product which I can`t remember the name of.It dilutes about 35-1 and we use it at 40 deg C in a dunk wash.Leaves the parts spotless.

03-27-2005, 08:37 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by madman:
Tric destroys lung tissue.</font>

Tric will destroy yer life. I was being facetious with my earlier statements. But I assumed anyone able to still get Tri-111 would know the risks.

Unfortunately it wasn't always so...My dad used to work for the phone company years ago. He would take a can of 111 and dump it onto a rag (bare hands and lungs) and clean a "jute covering" from a wire bundle. I guess it was coated with a sort of resin or tar substance. Did this for years before they stopped using the stuff. That was 35 years ago and he is still living, but the stuff will kill you.


[This message has been edited by JRouche (edited 03-27-2005).]

03-28-2005, 01:18 AM
Back in the 80's I used 1,1,1 by the 55 gallon drum full. Pour it in to a smaller can and then pour it all over the roll I was finishing. Wipe it off with a rag and bare hands. It evaporates very quickly, gets cold fast. Also used to grind, polish, sand blast and hard chrome without so much as a dust mask. This was before the hazzard communication act. I was young and dumb back then. Now I'm old and dumb. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif
This how the laws of part cleaning works...The stronger the chemical the better it works. If it's safe, nice smelling and makes your skin soft then it wouldn't clean catsup off your fork. :MAD:

03-28-2005, 07:53 AM
This guy might have the answer..........


.....but maybe he's been around it too long.

03-28-2005, 08:04 AM
On dirty nasty parts I have a tub with plain old diesil in it with an air bubbler.Works good on the dirt incrusted oil soaked stuff.

I have a parts washer with straight mineral spirits in it,but I want to get away from that.Invariably there are never any glooves around and the crap rings all the oil out of my hands and starts them cracking.

I'm thinking in terms of a hot water spray cabinet.Maybe a pressure washer pump and a few dishwasher elements in a sealed cabinet.

Paul Gauthier
03-28-2005, 10:50 AM
I use a product from Gunk called "SC" comes in a yellow bottle, get it at the auto parts store. Mix 1 quart with five gallons of kerosene. Cleans very well and odor is minimal.

Paul G.

03-28-2005, 01:32 PM
I have been using Tide detergent and warm(hot) water for years. It does almost as well as solvent. It doesn't destroy your skin, is a lot less hazardous to the enviroment and much cheaper than anything else. When parts are clean I just wipe the iron/steel parts with a film of oil to prevent corrosion.
Mechanics is one of the courses I teach at high school and Tide is what I have the students use. It works fine.

03-28-2005, 05:02 PM
NAPA auto parts sells a good solvent for this purpose at a decent price. Being exceptionally cheap, I cut it 50/50 with kerosene. It works great.

Sandy H
03-28-2005, 05:15 PM
Thanks for all of the great responses and links. I'll have to look into a heating element set-up, because I recall that everything I've used cleans better when warm. The old (and nasty) engine degreasing vat at the local auto machine shop when I was young has some crazy chemical and a heated spray arrangement. A block covered in grease came out and started to rust immediately. Again, I bet the chemicals were bad, though.

I think I'll start with the mildest suggestions (tide or a mild water based cleaner) possibly with heat, so if it doesn't work out that well, I can easily and safely dispose of it and try the next step.

Thanks again. Looks like this weekend's project will be hooking up some sort of heater element system. Why do I think that I'm going to have a leaky parts washer now. . . !


03-28-2005, 05:16 PM
We have an aqueous Saf-T-Kleen parts sink here at work. It does not work as well as the Stoddard solvent sink it replaced, despite being heated. I also find the aqueous kills paint much worse than Stoddard. The paint softens and never really recovers.

03-28-2005, 07:21 PM
Kerosene. It's cheap, and available anywhere.

The water soluble stuff doesn't work nearly as well, and you have evaporation to deal with.


This Old Shed (http://http:thisoldshed.tripod.com)

03-28-2005, 07:53 PM
For heavy jobs I still like good ole fashion caustic with heat.It will remove anything but modern epoxy and old lead base paint.

There was flak for awhile about disposal,but since it's only the sludge in the bottom of the tank that's hazardous it's really not a big deal.

Most common disposal method here is actually sanctioned by the state.Just turn up the heat and evap the water off till you get thick gunk.Scrape the gunk up and drop it in the trash or oil pickup.As long as you don't dump it in the ditch or stom drain all is well.

03-28-2005, 09:42 PM
I used to work in a school shop where they had one of those heated solvent tanks with the ultra safe solvent. As others have mentioned, it doesn't work as good as regular solvent -- but one thing I really liked using it for was removing that double sided carpet tape after using it to hold small pieces of aluminum in place during some milling and engraving of coasters. The heat really softened it up, and the solvent helped remove the adhesive. It worked OK on removing grease and grime, but not great.

Funny story -- the salesman who got my boss to buy into it was preaching about how it was so safe that you could drink the solvent -- and he did just to prove it! Gotta have at least a little respect for someone who believes in their product that much, though I think he was at least a little bit crazy.


03-29-2005, 01:07 AM
We have two soak tanks at work (adhesives company) one is for getting adhesives and other coatings off our stuff, in it we use 50/50 blend of MEK and Toulene. It's an SS tank with a lid. In the workshop the real parts cleaner I use straight Naptha or mineral spirits. Both of these are slow to evaporate and take more time than MEK or toluene but at least I don't have to deal with the vapors.

-Christian D. Sokolowski

03-29-2005, 11:45 PM
im also prefer the non water based solvents, particularly if you are working with lots of metal parts. sometime stuff sits in my tank for days and the water is just not an option.

and although kerosene and similar work well, im reluctant to use them in a home/gararge setting. too many vapor risks i feel. take a look at a product callled zep dyna 143. it should do everything you need and be safe in a home shop.

it can be filtered and reclaimed so disposal is not an issue. but if you feel you want to get rid of it and start from scratch, the saftey kleen guys, or whoever services solvents in your area, can usually be persuaded to do a non commercial account. just tip the driver. =)

03-31-2005, 09:18 PM
I like kerosene it works great on grease and oil. Best of all its cheap and easy to get.

Jim Koper
J&R Machining

03-31-2005, 09:34 PM
I use kerosene most of the time, but the new shop I am planning to build with have a dishwasher, because they can be used for so many cleaning situations. My brother uses his for steaming rifle stocks, gets some of the dents out.