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What is an Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner?

An ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.
Ultrasonic cleaners are not recommended for pearls.
An ultrasonic cleaner can be very effective for rings with many small crevices.
Ultrasonic cleaners can be used to clean gold rings.
Article Details
  • Written By: Nicole Feliciano
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2014
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An ultrasonic jewelry cleaner is an electronic device designed to remove dirt from rings, necklaces, and other items of jewelry.  It features two basic parts:  a small motor to produce the ultrasonic energy and a cleaning tank.  Some devices will have a removable basket or cleaning tray as well.

To begin the cleaning process, the user should fill the cleaning tank with warm water or a cleaning solution, such as a non-ionic surfactant, detergent, or ammonia.  Cleaning agents with bleach and acids should be avoided. Jewelry items are then placed in the basket or directly into the cleaning tank.

When the user turns the machine on, the motor produces ultrasonic energy that is transmitted with vibrating sound waves. On average, ultrasonic jewelry cleaners emit at least 40,000 sound waves per second. This vibrating motion creates microscopic bubbles in the water or cleaning solution in a process called cavitation; millions of tiny bubbles knock into one another and into the items resting in the cleaning tank.   The cavitation process gently knocks dirt off the jewelry.  The motion is very effective at penetrating the tiny crevices in jewelry that traditional cleaning cloths and topical cleaners cannot easily reach.  

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After a few moments, the cleaning process is complete.  Once the motor is turned off, the dirt and debris from the jewelry will settle and collect at the bottom of the cleaning tank. The user can then remove the basket or jewelry from the cleaning tank and rinse it with clean fresh water before drying the items with a soft cloth.

While the sound waves generate quite a bit of energy in the form of these microscopic bubbles, the units do not pose much threat to jewels.  The motion is so small and localized that not enough force is generated to damage most settings and stones.  Ultrasonic cleaning works best on hard stones set in gold or platinum and is not suggested for opals, pearls, emeralds, coral, and other very soft stones.

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Discuss this Article

anon283416
Post 11

Does the machine make any noise? How do I know it's working?

SkittisH
Post 10

@hanley79 - Great post, you pretty much explained exactly what I was going to tell seHiro to answer their questions, there. Let me add a comment for seHiro and anybody else who has never used an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner: this seems complicated, but it really isn't.

You might get anxious about what cleansers to use, how to dilute and mix them, how to put the jewelry inside the tank or basket just right and how long to run the machine, but chill out -- it's quick and easy!

Here's a quick summary:

1. Dilute cleanser by following the instructions on the back of the bottle. It should just mix with water. Also, always make sure to buy actual cleanser -- makeshift stuff doesn't work as well.

2. Basket is optional.

3. Each cleaning takes five minutes, tops -- and ultrasonic jewelry cleaners have timers built in.

4. Don't be alarmed if one cleaning doesn't make the jewelry perfectly sparkly. You can run the same piece through the cleaner multiple times to get it extra clean -- I usually go with twice for daily wear, five times if I want the gems flawless for a big party or something.

That's it. Happy cleaning!

hanley79
Post 9

@seHiro - You'll be happy to hear that you can indeed wash multiple pieces of jewelry at the same time -- if your ultrasonic jewelry cleaner is authentic.

If it's one of those knockoffs with regular motors as anon10659 mentioned, it's not safe since the unit's just vibrating the jewelry around instead of creating ultrasonic waves. I own a Branson B200 ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, one of the authentic microscopic-level cleaners, and it does a fantastic job of cleaning my earrings when I put them in in pairs.

Also, no, you don't need the basket to use your secondhand ultrasonic jewelry cleaner -- also provided it's authentic. The basket in mine is removable, and I think it's intended to be used when I want to wash whole jewelry sets. For example, I could put a necklace in the tank and a pair of earrings in the basket.

Though the cleaning process doesn't hit them together hard or anything, it could still be a pain if the earrings got tangled up in the necklace's chain or anything, so I think the basket is just for convenience's sake.

Hope this helps you out -- there's nothing like fresh clean, shiny jewelry!

seHiro
Post 8

If you can just put the jewelry into the tank directly, why do ultrasonic jewelry cleaning machines have baskets at all? It sounds like it's perfectly safe for the jewelry to touch each other in the tank; the cavitation process doesn't really jostle things around or hit them together hard since it's just zillions of teeny tiny gentle bubbles.

Or is it bad to put jewelry in there together? Do you have to wash items one at a time? That would make washing earrings a pain -- one cleaning for each earring!

If anybody who has used one of these machines can tell me more about how much jewelry it's okay to put inside at once and whether the basket is actually that important to have, please let me know. I picked up an Ultrasonic jewelry cleaner cheap used, but the basket part is missing, and I want to know if it's still usable.

malmal
Post 7

@anon10659 - Thanks for this comment. I was curious how a motor could create Ultrasonic waves. I thought they were more than mere vibrations.

The "cavitation" effect explained here sounds like a very creative and effective method for cleaning jewelry -- too bad it doesn't work for softer gemstones like opals, because they tend to be my favorites. I have more jewelry with opals than any other stone.

If you can't use an Ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning opals and other softer stones, what can you use that's more effective than traditional cleaners? I'm sure there must be a technological wonder for us soft gemstone wearers, too, right?

anon23391
Post 4

Ammonia is a very ionic surfactant. Non-ionic surfactants are some laundry detergents. Woolite is safe for wool fabrics precisely because it is non-ionic.

anon10659
Post 2

Ultrasonic cleaners use Ultrasonic transducers to produce the ultrasonic waves. Not "Motors". Some cheap knock off use motors and advertise themselves as ultrasonic cleaners when they are not.

anon4672
Post 1

what is an example of a non-ionic surfactant? What besides ammonia would make a good cleaning solution to add?

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