View Full Version : parts washer fluid

11-01-2006, 11:06 AM
I sure this has been beat but I'm at work and don't have a lot of time for a lot of researching. I'm tired of the bucket and cookie sheet approach so I'm going to buy a parts washer. They all say don't use flammable solvents but yet they come with fusible links in the lids. Do you guys use mineral spirits with yours or the water soluble stuff? Any problems w/min spirits killing the pump (parts incompatibility)? I looked at the Zep cleaners in Home Depot the other day and there seems to be an amazingly large selection. Which one's work better with steel and aluminum? I'm a little concerned b/c most looked suspiciously like they'd wipe out aluminum.

Thanks, Cadwiz (Clinton, La)

EDIT: Ok, I did a little search. Skip the water based suggestions. Any problems with min spirits attacking the pumps?

11-01-2006, 11:40 AM
Nope....I used Kerosene mixed with Gunk SC (Super Concentrate) in mine. It did eventually go "bad" after a year or so and produced some nasty varnish that gunked things up at which point I pitched the cheap pump and covered the hole with sheetmetal. I found it more in the way than anything else.

I called the Gunk folks and talked to an engineer about using SC which is designed to be rinsable for degreasing engines etc. He confirmed that it was fine from a safety standpoint, but indicated that they sold a parts washer solvent. I wasn't really interested in that since I would have to buy (2) 5 gallon cans to get enough for the pump to work and that was going to be around $90!.

Still, the 7 gallons of Kerosene and 1 gallon of SC I used wasn't cheap. The guy from Solder Seal (Gunk products) indicated that SC is just a surfactant (sure does make the kerosene penetrate) and that I should probably use at least a 1 to 5 ratio of SC to kerosene.

PS...I still use another container with some kerosene for a first pass on really grungy stuff. I don't want a thick layer of gook in the bottom of the parts washer.


11-01-2006, 12:31 PM
The Purple Industrial Zep stuff at HD has worked well for me, but it is lye based and will hurt aluminum. I've used it on aluminum, but you have to get it rinsed/neutralized somewhat quickly. It also took the paint off the inside of my chicom washer. I'm thinking I may go with "odorless kerosene" next time I fill it, but I've been using it dry lately with full strength Zep just applied as needed (with tooth brush or the like) then rinsed. Seems to work well for what I’ve been doing lately…

11-01-2006, 12:56 PM
Mineral spirits shouldn't be any problem.
I use 5 gallons of NAPA solvent (about $25 IIRC) and 5 more of kerosene in my big parts washer. I have a 5 gallon bucket with a strong concentration of the water based solvent, which I use as a pre-cleaner for really dirty stuff. I also have a smaller parts washer in which I keep the solvent very clean - like for carbs, etc.

Your Old Dog
11-01-2006, 12:59 PM
I wonder if you could filter parts cleaner thru a series of ordinary paper coffee filters? Anyone ever tried it?

11-01-2006, 01:52 PM
I've been using mineral spirits in my parts washer for 10+ years. It was cheap at the time - about a buck a gallon IIRC. It's not that anymore! It does work well and haven't had any problem with varnish or buildup or the pump getting ruined. I really should change out the solvent since it's getting pretty dirty, but it does still clean the parts. It just takes a little longer.

11-01-2006, 02:00 PM
Thanks for the replys. I went out and got one of the 20 gal jobbies at lunch. Plan on picking up 5 gal of min spirits on the way home.


11-01-2006, 03:11 PM
Don't know about coffee filters but I have a remote oil filter on my parts washer and it works great, 30 gal drum, 20 gallons mineral spirits, 5 gal water and one pint of alcohol based additive. The drain goes down into the bottom layer of water and all the crud stays there.

11-01-2006, 03:22 PM
You might want to search on this topic before you buy. It has been covered here before at length with lots of suggestions. I use mineral spirits in a squirt bottle for a lot of things, but opted not to use it in the parts washer because it gives some folks a headache and I didn't want to be one of them. It has also gotten expensive enough that you could buy some of the "real" parts washer solvent which is mineral spirits plus some other surfactants for about the same money.

Kerosene has its own smell, but I found it less offensive when standing over it and it smells a lot different with the Gunk SC added.

Joel-- you mentioned water based stuff as a pre-cleaner....doesn't that then contaminate the petroleum based stuff when you move it to the other tank? Adding water to petroleum based stuff can reduce its effectiveness.

As for filtering with coffee filters, I find that the stuff that needs filtered settles to the bottom of the tank after non-use. In that case, there is no way to get it into the filter. I use a scraper to remove some of the layer of gook at the bottom from time to time, but perhaps I should be using gauze pads and 30 weight ball bearings :D (reference to Chevy Chase in Fletch)

11-01-2006, 04:13 PM
I just air blast or wipe dry, so no problem Paul. A good soak will do a nice job stripping paint, which is one reason I like to keep the WB stuff handy.

11-01-2006, 04:24 PM
I have used straight Diesel fuel in mine for over two years with no problems. I also put a small (3 inch dia) speaker magnet on the bottom of the tank just below the pump intake which grabs a lot of fine metal particles.


11-01-2006, 04:48 PM
EDIT: Ok, I did a little search. Skip the water based suggestions. Any problems with min spirits attacking the pumps?

I've used mineral spirits in one of those cheap Harbor Freight parts washers for over a year with no problems.

It doesn't smell either, if you keep the lid sealed.

11-01-2006, 07:01 PM
how can water contaminate mineral spirits?, last time I looked they won't mix, kinda like oil and water.

Todd Tolhurst
11-01-2006, 07:04 PM
Gasoline and water don't mix either, but water is generally considered a contaminant in gas.

11-01-2006, 07:14 PM
Take my advice and wear gloves,some of the solvents can be absorbed through the skin and affect the liver,not nice.

Other than that,varsol/mineral spirits is what I have used.If it's really nasty,load it up in the truck and go to the car wash.Tire cleaner,let it soak till almost dry,then blast it off with the hot water rinse,the mess stays there.

The thing I found about the water based stuff,is that it worked best hot.An immersion heater worked miracles with it.

Oh,forgot to mention,for aluminum,a whole box of Cascade dishwashing detergent dissolved in 20 gallons of water and heated works great for average varnished coolant/goo.

11-01-2006, 08:11 PM
I've used nothing but mineral spirits in my homemade parts washer for 25+ years, the pump is still OK.

Get yourself one of those parts washing brushes with the hose connection on the end of the handle. Those feed the spirits right into the center of the brush and are great.

11-02-2006, 09:24 PM
I wonder if you could filter parts cleaner thru a series of ordinary paper coffee filters? Anyone ever tried it?

If you are washing dirty items, like engine parts, you might want to try using a fuel filter. Oil filters are might fine and will clog quickly. If your items are only moderately dirty then an oil filter may work.


11-02-2006, 09:50 PM
I reworked my cheap parts washer so it works better for me. Cut a big drain hole in the bottom which empties into an open topped 5 gallon bucket with the pump in it.

I like a lot of square inches of filter so it takes longer to clog. Use a bag made of red shop rags hanging on the drain. I use parts washer solvent from a petroleum distributor. They have it in bulk. Haven't boght any since oil went up.