: Advice from some repair guys on cleaning processes

10-23-11, 07:07 AM
In my parts washers, I've been using paint thinner. Nothing else, no matter what I try, seems to cut crease and get parts clean. Yet if I spend too much time around this chemical, even if I have the doors open and try my best to ventilate the shop properly, I'm not feeling so good.

I've tried a water based chemical that costed me $165 for one gallon and I may as well just have burned that money. I've tried strong soap and hot water, it works, but not very well. Is high pressure or high frequency hot water/soap parts washers the only other option? I don't have a lot of money to spend right now on anything extravagant but I need a better solution.

Right now my shop in Manitoba is uninsulated, unheated. It's getting cold here (30's and 40's) Haven't had the money to insulate since buying that CNC lathe. So the first little bit of money I earn back is going to heating my shop. I'll tell you nothing quite feels like sticking your hands in a parts washer when the temperature of the liquid is at freeze point (32F or 0C). I found a short term solution to this though, I have two Northstar engine block heaters mounted under my parts washer (I've ensured it's not a fire hazard) so I can bring the temp up a bit.

I've been lucky that my employees haven't been too scared of washing parts but I made sure they took a break from it every now and then. It wasn't that long ago I worked all night to finish a car, and a bit too long at a time washing parts, and; well let's just say my heart beat wasn't normal-

I have deadlines to meet (doing my best) and a very, very demanding job but I just can't risk my health any longer. I can't keep putting my health at risk.

Any advice? I've considered some possible parts washers designs (buy or have one built) that use high pressure, hot water or steam, rotating chamber, etc.... but until I hear from others and get straight answers from people who have used them, I'm not buying anything.

I have, on occasion, blasted a set of heads down with my pressure washer (4,000 PSI, 4 gallons per minute) and that seems to work pretty good. I've only done this when the sludge was built up so bad there was no other choice. Heck, I'd even build a washing booth in the corner of the shop if I had to.

I refuse to assemble engines in the sludged up dirty state and just clean the mating surfaces. Not happy with that.

Has anyone had real world experience with parts washers or cleaning agents and if so, what's the best option? I'll buy a good machine if I have to but I can't financially for some time to come.

10-23-11, 08:28 AM
I use Greased Lightning in my parts washer and for cleaning engines. I don't even have to use the pump in the parts washer and everything comes out nice and clean. The stuff also smells good and is biodegradeable. I don't know if it will freeze though. This is my first year using it. I guess I will find out soon if it freezes. It is pretty cheap at Lowes; like $10 a gal. I bought the 5 gallon jug for not too much money.

10-23-11, 09:41 AM
Here's the MSDS on Greased Lightning:



10-23-11, 09:46 AM
I have, on occasion, blasted a set of heads down with my pressure washer (4,000 PSI, 4 gallons per minute) and that seems to work pretty good. I've only done this when the sludge was built up so bad there was no other choice. Heck, I'd even build a washing booth in the corner of the shop if I had to.

This is what I do. Pressure washer works fine for me.

10-23-11, 12:09 PM
Jake, what kind of paint thinner ?? Hope it's just good ol' mineral spirits or Varsol, not naphtha or lacquer thinner - that stuff will fry your mind...........because I do not have a cylinder boring table I send my blocks and heads out for machine work and hot tanking, so all smaller parts cleaning is done with mineral spirits and compressed air. Yes, when the block comes back I clean every oil passage with long brushes, hot water and soap - then blow dry. Nothing wrong with pressure washing with a water soluble degreaser if you can hot rinse and dry the pieces. (With iron blocks/heads you have to be quick with the primer - they surface rust instantly)

10-23-11, 12:45 PM
Thanks guys, Greased Lightning is next on my "products to try" list now! :)

Yup Sub, just regular old mineral spirits. The fumes are still pretty strong sometimes though. Yeah Lacquer thinner is nasty stuff! I sometimes use carb cleaner to clean the finer parts- it works good and dries fast, again, use only when well ventilated. 4032 sq. ft. and a 15' high ceiling, fumes don't build up too much.

I still remember working with iron blocks (doesn't happen much around here but the cranks, cams, are the same deal) and they rust very quick.

I think a good pressure wash booth in the back of the shop is in order. Good supply of hot water, 4,000 PSI should work good, good soap, and some type of filtering process (I do believe in protecting the environment) such as a steaming system to separate the sludge and chemicals from the water. Nice thing is electricity is cheap in Manitoba. So cheap I've decided to heat that 4032 sq. ft. building using a 25 kilowatt electric forced air furnace. Heating with electricity is about 30% cheaper than propane or #2 diesel fuel (heating oil), and natural gas is not available on my road.

I won't mind throwing on a wet suit every now and then, stepping into the booth, and blasting some parts down. Even better, a fully automatic unit.

All I know is I need to change my methods of doing things a bit to become more productive and not risk my health.

I have a 10' long parts drying table, I would like to make something on rails that slides along this table blowing hot air at the parts. I'm going to do one three things: Either hire someone to build these things for me, buy them, or take a bit of time off once I'm caught up to the work load and get started with these plans. Probably the first.

I want to get the process down to 24 hours per car or engine, 2 or 3 shifts if necessary. More streamlined. More efficient, less wasted time. I've got to set up my two hoists soon too. Those would be a life saver (or should I say back saver).

All has been devoted to the CNC lately but that's up and running. Now the rest.

10-23-11, 01:35 PM
Five days ago you were going to put the engine building business on the shelf, at least until the stud manufacturing end was in reliable production. Why continue to tear your hair out as you try several things at once, doing none too well, instead of grow slowly while on a sound income and reputation foundation (the stud kits) ?

10-23-11, 06:39 PM
I'm not an expert, but I purchased a halfl face respirator years ago that I use
even for dust, and grinding. The one I got was an older model, was under $100
and is surprisingly comfortable:
http://www.thegreatindoors.com/shc/s/search_10153_12605?keyword=3m+full+face+paint+spra y+respirator&seax3m%20=1

Here's one surplus, lol:
I'm not sure if it is the correct thing for your
situation so do your research. It is a low cost solution and I find it good to have

The other thing is that it sounds like your just concerned about the
fumes coming out of the tank, aim a large box fan from behind you to blow
room air at you, and the fumes away from you, this would probably work well
enough but you should obviously try to meet your local safety standards. I would
not want too many fumes in the room anyway, so you'd also want to exchange
the air in the building depending on how much you've got there.

10-23-11, 09:26 PM
I use kerosene in my parts washer for decades. Works very well at cutting grease and the smell is not bad.

10-23-11, 09:36 PM
Greased Lightning contains Sodium Hydroxide which is highly reactive
with aluminum, I don't think I'd use it with an aluminum block:

People in electronics talk about Simple Green as an excellent cleaner
and you can get it at Home Depot but I have no idea how it would
work for your application. Kerosene sounds like a good idea also.