If you are a looking to introduce a valuable piece of equipment to your soldering hobby or profession, then an ultrasonic cleaner might be just the thing. Ultrasonic cleaners have the ability nowadays to clean printed circuit boards (PCBs) without doing the damage they once could. This is because most ultrasonic cleaners now use modulating, variable waves rather than one intense, singular movement wave. The variability provides a safer environment for the boards and does not allow for a focused sonic wave to damage one component. However, you might be asking why would I need an ultrasonic cleaner when there are PCB cleaning solutions on the market? While this is true, they do not always get into those hard to reach tiny places. An ultrasonic cleaner can vibrate throughout the board and remove smaller particles of flux left behind that a cleaner may not be able to get. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering an ultrasonic cleaner.
Choosing the Right Cleaning Solution
Obviously if you are going to spend the time to find the right ultrasonic cleaner, then you want to outfit yourself with the right solution to use in it. The wrong cleaner can do a lot of harm to your PCB when applied at certain frequencies. For electronics, cleaning solutions that work with glass, ceramics, optics, plastic, and PCBs such as the Elma Tec Clean A1 are optimum choices. They can remove flux, dust, and any other small particles that you do not want on your circuit board.
Prep your Solution and Device Properly
Some cleaning solutions require some modification before direct use with the PCB. This is because they can contain air bubbles. To remove the air, you can mix the solution with the proper amount of water and start the ultrasonic cleaner to remove the air. This also has the added bonus of mixing the solution and the water quite thoroughly. Once there are no more air bubbles, then you are ready to use the ultrasonic cleaner on your PCBs.
Best Ultrasonic Cleaner for Electronics
Elmasonic E Plus Series of Ultrasonic Cleaners
Elmasonic makes a large variety of ultrasonic cleaners that come in many sizes. The E Plus Line comes in sizes: one-fourth gallon with or without heater, half gallon, three-fourths gallon, one gallon, one and a half gallons, two and a half gallons, three and a half gallons, five gallons, and seven and a half gallons. A major feature of the E Plus series is that it comes with a sweep mode function that allows for consistent and uniform cleaning. Most units come with a heating power of 60 to 1200 watts and an ultrasonic power of 30 to 300 watts. In addition, each unit is cover by a two-year warranty along with a one-year parts replacement.
The E Plus Series comes with a pulse setting for degassing, mixing, and cleaning. In addition, they are capable of temperature settings up to 80 degrees Celsius. The units have a timer setting that can run from one to thirty minutes or a continuous setting. Due to the sweep mode functionality, the E Plus Series units clean 20% faster and remove even stuck on flux. A major bonus is the comprehensive warranty on parts. The variability in sizes is also nice depending on the amount of PCBs you want to run through your ultrasonic cleaner.
The Elmasonic E Plus Series is a top-notch line and consumers gave it high marks across the board. They noted customer service was great when they had any issues and there are currently no negative reviews on the product that we found.
Elmasonic S Series of Ultrasonic Cleaners
The Elmasonic S Series is the next step up from the E Plus Series. Available sizes include: one-fourth gallon, half gallon, three-fourths gallon, one gallon, one and a half gallons, two gallons, two and a half gallons, three and a half gallons, five gallons, seven and a half gallons, twelve gallons, and twenty-four gallons. The upgraded S Series includes three modes that are designed to clean, degas, and mix solutions. In addition, it also comes with Elmasonic’s comprehensive warranty.
The S Series units are slightly larger than the E Plus models and they all include heaters. As with the E Plus Series, it also has a temperature range of 80 degrees Celsius. In addition, these units come with a LED display that shows set and actual parameters for time and temperature of the unit while in use. As with the E Plus Series, the warranty is a nice added bonus along with the cleaning power these units bring.
This is another highly rated Elmasonic line and most reviews related to the consumer satisfaction with customer service and the warranty plan. Several consumers noted that whenever they had parts issues, they simply called Elmasonic and they received replacements within days of calling.
Elmasonic P Series of Ultrasonic Cleaners
Our final Elmasonic Line is the P Series. These models come in sizes: three-fourths gallon, one and a half gallons, two gallons, three and a half gallons, five gallons, and seven and a half gallons. The P Series units come with variable ultrasonic power unlike the E Plus or S Series models. They are capable of outputting 37 and 80 kHz frequencies. In addition, they also come with four modes for mixing, degassing, and cleaning compared to the other units.
This series is a great option for quick and efficient cleaning of PCBs. The unit allows users to select frequency, power, temperature, cleaning time, and ultrasonic mode. It is an ideal unit for delicate PCB construction. It has the same temperature capability of 80 degrees Celsius as the other series and a digital LED display. The four ultrasonic modes include clean, intense clean, dissolve, and degas, which provides a lot of options for users. In addition, it also comes with the Elmasonic comprehensive warranty.
This is another highly popular line of Elmasonic products and consumers were happy with its overall performance.
Tek Motion Stainless Steel Ultrasonic Cleaner
The Tek Motion unit comes in a four-gallon size that includes a heater. It has a temperature range from 20 to 80 degrees Celsius. It includes six ultrasonic transducers that output 60 watts each to completely clean your PCB. It comes with two digital displays that indicate the temperature and time settings of the unit. In addition, it includes a one-year exchange warranty if the product is determined to be defective.
This unit has a large capacity basin that can hold multiple PCBs at a time. It has a wide temperature range and does not continuously heat while on. It staggers the heating to maintain consistent temperature without hot spots that can damage the circuit board. The timer can be set from one to thirty minutes. The added warranty is a nice feature, but not as complete as the Elmasonic options.
This was also a popular model compared to the Elmasonic lines. There were very few complaints, but several that we did note complained about the cleaning power of the unit being really low for the wattage. In addition, users found it to be loud and that the dimensions were not as advertised.
TruSonik USCTSASD3 Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner
The TruSonik Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner comes in a two and a half liter size and has an included heater. It has a cleaning power of 240 watts and can output 38 to 42 kHz frequencies. It comes with a digital timer than can do five-minute intervals from five minutes to fifty minutes long. The entire body is stainless steel so it is built to be durable. Besides the cleaning power, it also has a heating power of 200 watts.
A nice feature of the TruSonik is that is can perform continuous cleaning up to 55 minutes, which is almost double the other models. The unit can be preheated unlike other models, which avoids unnecessary wear and tear on the TruSonik. This model also includes a Sweep Mode function that allows for variability in the frequency and waves to avoid damage to your PCBs. In addition, it has an adjustable temperature range from 20 to 65 degrees Celsius.
Most of the reviews on this model were positive since it is a popular, user-friendly model. The main negative we noted with this unit was the loudness. Users complained it was quite noisy when running compared to other models they had owned.
Skymen JP-008-U-110V Professional Digital Control Ultrasonic Cleaner
The Skymen comes in an 800-milliliter size, which makes it one of the smallest units we have reviewed. It has a wide variety of uses and not only cleans jewelry, but also can handle small PCBs. If you are looking to purchase a smaller ultrasonic cleaner to test out before investing more money, then this unit is ideal. It has a timer setting that runs up to thirty minutes and an output frequency of 40kHz.
The major pro of this unit is its compact size and cost. It can handle small parts and electronics without breaking the bank. It can output 35 watts of power, which is small compared to other units, but this is meant to be more of a starter option. It has a fast cleaning cycle that takes about three to five minutes. In addition, it includes a user-friendly digital display.
One of the downsides of this unit is that it does not come equipped with a heater. It is only capable of one frequency setting at a lower end as well. Most reviews of this model appeared to be positive; however, we did note that users complained about the noise level while running .
ONEZILI OZL-800 Professional Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner
This unit is a stainless steel model that is extremely thick and built for durability. It comes in an 800-milliliter size just like the Skymen and is also capable of outputting a 40 kHz frequency. This is another unit that would be perfect as a starter option while you explore ultrasonic cleaners. It may be small, but it is ideal for hobbyists and small PCBs.
This is another great unit for users just starting. It is not overly expensive and is small and compact enough to fit in a small workspace. In addition, it is very user-friendly with a push button digital display. It is capable of outputting 35 watts just like the Skyman and has a fairly quick cleaning cycle.
As with the Skyman, this unit does not have a heater option and it only outputs one low frequency. However, this is meant to be a starter unit and not for professional mass production. One downside is that the basket is not removable, which can make it difficult to clean after use. It also can get quite loud just as if the Skyman, but it definitely had better reviews from first time users.
Whether you are in the market to add an ultrasonic cleaner to your soldering and PCB hobby or professional work, there are a variety of options available for consumer use. They range in sizes from as small as 800 milliliters up to about twenty-four gallons. These are mostly consumer options though and professional models can get even larger. Most high quality ultrasonic options have built-in heaters and digital displays to control temperature and time settings. In addition, some units provide several ultrasonic modes that make degassing, mixing, and cleaning a lot easier. Consider investing in one of the Elmasonic models if you are looking for variety as they come in several sizes and some allow for temperature and frequency control. The best thing you can do for your PCB when using an ultrasonic cleaner is to provide variable frequencies and waves because it prevents damage to the board while giving a thorough cleaning. As always, we recommend doing some research on the various products on the market today as some of these units may not fit your needs directly. Read the reviews as they are always helpful coming from actual users.