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Parts Washer Solvent revisited

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  • Parts Washer Solvent revisited

    I know we have hashed out parts washer solvent quite a bit here int he past, but I have an issue that I am hoping I can solicit some help for here.

    I have been using Kerosene in the parts washer along with a product called Gunk SC (Super Concentrate). The latter is designed to be added to kerosene for use as a hose-off degreaser for things like engines. I have used it for that purpose for years and thought it might work well in the parts washer. I called the Gunk folks several years ago and talked to a scientist there (or maybe it was just a guy who stayed in a Holiday Inn Express ). I was concerned about skin contact and whether it was safe and he said that it was basically a surfactant and that it should be fine, but that they do also make a dedicated solvent tank product..blah blah. He gave me a dose for mixing for my purpose and it works well, making the kerosene very slippery and improving its penetrating ability.

    The problem is that I get about one year out of it before it starts to smell like stale petroleum. Left just a bit longer, it will start to "varnish" the inside of the tank like gasoline that has gone bad. I just get rid of it at that point and scrub the tank with one of the purple caustic degreasers and allow to dry before refilling. At close to $4 per gallon for kerosene plus the cost of the additive (I put about 7-8 gallons in total, this is getting expensive.

    My question is whether its some sort of biologicals getting in that are causing the problem (it does always seem to go bad toward the end of the summer warm season) or if there is something (safe) I can add to the mix to delay this. I am not sure what is in the typical gasoline preservatives (designed to prevent gas from going stale) and since I have my bare hands in this sometimes, I want to play it safe.

    Maybe the answer is that the expensive parts washer solvents have a real advantage that might make them less prone to this and more cost effective in the long run? Since it would take two of the 5 gallon cans, we are talking about a lot of money to find out, however!

    I'd appreciate any advice I can get.

    Paul Carpenter
    Mapleton, IL

  • #2
    Parts Washer Solvent revisited


    I have found that the grease and oil that get washed off parts is the biggest reason that the washer fluid goes bad. It keeps getting more and more concentrated as time goes on and the ratio of crud to fluid keeps getting higher. I would drain off the fluid, all but the bottom inch or so, through a filter and into a 5 gallon pail and get rid of the dregs. This extended the life of the solvent quite a bit.

    There was a company that advertised a detergent based cleaner that they claimed was much better than any solvent. The only trouble was that you had to buy their tank and sign up to get your liquid changed every couple of months. Too dang expensive for my cheap blood. I stayed with kerosene and gunk and have not had much trouble, except when I clean something really grungy.
    Jim (KB4IVH)

    Only fools abuse their tools.


    • #3
      I may be nuts but I use paint thinner. Never gets bad all the gunk drops out to the bottom. You can scoop it out and have at it for another year. I am on my 3rd year with the same stuff and I am not dead, the solvent smells the same (low odor solvent) and all is well in the kingdom. I use it all the time. When we were drag racing I used it all the time for gunked up parts.

      I do not smoke so fire is not an issue.

      I empty the washer every 4 years and use new thinner.

      It does clean very well.
      Life Is Grand


      • #4
        I have used mineral spirits in small pans to clean parts and found that it worked about as well as kerosene itself. The Gunk SC seems to be a worthwhile addition to make either work better through better penetration. Both are petroleum distallates and as such should be potentially prone to going stale (as does gasoline).

        I think the contamination idea is part of the problem. I know there are bacteria that thrive in petroleum and can deteriorate it. As such, I may need to filter it more often although I can't imagine that will remove the bacteria themselves.

        As an aside, I tend to treat the solvent tank as the place stuff goes after the majority of the crud comes off in an old oil drain pan. If the solvent sits and the fine stuff settles out, I can see clear to the bottom where there is clearly a layer of Gook (a word I learned from Fletch), but not a huge bunch of it. None the less, I will try draining from time to time, followed by wiping out the bottom of the tank and see if it lasts any longer.

        I just wondered if I was doing something to make things either having the lid closed too much....or not keeping it closed enough etc????

        Paul Carpenter
        Mapleton, IL


        • #5
          bigger shops run a water based cleaner with lots of heat, tramp oil is pulled off surface by a skimmer (a plastic disk that turns and grab the oil and runs it out of the washer)

          It makes the shipping and receiving area of the shop hot and humid but the parts do come out very clean, they are ready for plating for the most part or ready to box and ship.

          When I was a maintance man at a screw machine shop, the deburing tubs and parts washers were things I also had to repair. the water based washer was much safer to weld on. The one with the white gas stuff was not so fun to weld on.


          • #6
            I am not that old but really liked the steam and trichlorethane misting parts cleaner at work. Put parts in on coat hanger and couple a minutes parts clean, and hot, so they dried quickly! Just don't breathe when using!
            mark costello-Low speed steel


            • #7
              The place my dad worked had a big tri-chloro vapor degreaser in the shop. I used to give him all my swanky Campagnolo bicycle parts in a metal screen bag and he'd toss it in at lunch. They'd come out cleaner than new. I expect prolonged exposure would shrink your nads or give you a brain tumor. I've had one of those, and do pay more attention to what toxins I subject myself to anymore. The brain thing, that is, not the shrunken nads.

              Anyway. Mineral spirits with a surfactant added works well. That said, I scored a fresh barrel of genuine Safety-Kleen solvent from a friend who'd been gifted it by a kart shop which was closing. I use it in the big old gen-u-ine Safety Kleen washer I scored on Craigslist for $35. Came mounted on a nice empty 35 gallon VP Racing Fuels barrel, which really dresses up the garage.
              Last edited by motomoron; 09-20-2007, 01:47 AM. Reason: I can't type at all
              "Lay on ground-light fuse-get away"


              • #8
                When we had the truck garage we used paraffin [ kerosene to the cuz ] like there was no tomorrow.
                The tank held about 10 gallons and within 2 months it was very dirty and gritty.

                The tank was a low floor based one and a pain to work being low so we built a new one with a tray on top of an open topped 25 gallon drum similar to the Safety Clean ones you see on rent but with one difference.

                2/3rds of the way up the drum from the bottom we welded some supports and fitted a mesh tray, the pump sat on this tray.

                The drum was filled with 10 gallons of water and then 10 gallons of paraffin and the tray fitted.

                In use the pump sucked paraffin and cleaned the parts, all the crap fell back and the heavier sediment dropped to the bottom into the water leaving the paraffin clean, in fact when you can first thing in a morning the first was was with clear paraffin and then it got black as the day wore on to clear for the next day.

                About once year as opposed to every two months the paraffin was pumped out into a clean tin and the drum emptied and cleaned out.
                Fresh water was added and the old paraffin went back in with some new added, probably only a couple of gallons, to make the levels.

                I would imagine in a home shop you would be dead before it ever wanted cleaning.


                Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


                • #9
                  John, What about the oils that would float on top of the parafin?