Comparing Vapor Degreasing And aqueous Ultrasonic Cleaning

Are you looking to acquire or replace a parts cleaning system? If so, you may find yourself comparing aqueous ultrasonic cleaning versus vapor degreasing equipment — and wondering which type of cleaning system is best suited for your needs.

Let’s take a look at these two systems and examine the differences as well as the pros and cons of each, so you can make an informed decision.

What Is Vapor Degreasing?

Vapor degreasing is a parts cleaning method in which solvent is boiled to create vapor. Parts are lowered first into this vapor, which condenses and dissolves any surface dirt, grease or other contaminants. As the parts are lifted out of the vapor, the excess solvent drips back into the vapor sump (or boiling chamber), carrying contaminants with it. The parts are then transferred to a second sump chamber — the rinse sump — where any residual dirt or grease is rinsed off with fresh solvent.

What Is Aqueous Ultrasonic Cleaning?

In contrast, aqueous ultrasonic cleaning cleans parts by emitting high-frequency sound waves in a water based solution. The sound waves agitate the liquid and create cavitation bubbles that knock contaminants off the object at the molecular level.

Deciding Between Ultrasonic Degreasing and Vapor Degreasing

When choosing between aqueous or vapor degreasing equipment, you’ll need to consider a number of factors. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How clean do I need to get the parts? “Good enough”, clean or “perfectly” clean? Most precision parts applications demand the complete removal of all contaminants for optimal safety and performance.
  • What solvents are compatible with the parts I need to clean?Not every material is suitable for use with water based solutions.
  • What is the environmental impact of the system I am considering? It’s easy to make quick decisions based on perceptions of environmental impact. But sustainability is a complex topic; if this is an important consideration for you, you will want to consider it from multiple angles, including energy use, solvent recyclability, waste disposal and chemical impact.
  • What are my budget considerations? When determining which system will be most cost-effective for you, be sure to consider not only the upfront cost, but also the cost of operations and maintenance — including energy use, solvent costs, labor and whether additional equipment purchases are required.

Why Vapor Degreasing Is Often the Best Choice For Precision Cleaning

There are pros and cons to both cleaning methods, but more and more companies these days are choosing vapor degreasing over aqueous cleaning. Here’s why:

  • Two-sump vapor degreasing cleans more effectively. The two-sump method utilized in vapor degreasing typically will get the parts cleaner than aqueous ultrasonic methods using a single sump. Also, vapor degreasing solvents are suitable for cleaning a wider range of materials.
  • Many Vapor Degreasers have Ultrasonic tanks. Ultrasonic tanks are common in vapor degreasers as well. If you feel agitation is necessary when degreasing parts, vapor degreasers with ultrasonics in the second pump are a great option. This way you get the best of both worlds; a powerful degreasing solvent, with far greater degreasing capability than anything aqueous, AND ultrasonic agitation to knock contaminants off the object at the molecular level.
  • Vapor degreasing is fast. In vapor degreasing, the solvent does most of the work. Once that work is done, it evaporates quickly, leaving the part squeaky clean and ready for use. Vapor degreasing usually does not require additional scrubbing or cleaning steps as ultrasonic cleaning often does.
  • Vapor degreasing is cost-effective. While solvent costs more than water, keep in mind the solvents used in vapor degreasing equipment can be recycled almost indefinitely, so the cost to maintain is quite low. Labor costs are often lower as well. With vapor degreasing, there is no need to spend money or floor space on additional equipment. And when you factor in the costs saved as a result of higher-quality cleaning performance, most companies agree that vapor degreasing is a bargain.
  • Vapor degreasing is a responsible option. Besides the fact that vapor degreasing solvent is almost infinitely recyclable, there are other ways in which vapor degreasing can be more sustainable than aqueous ultrasonic cleaning. If you are in an area prone to drought, using a vapor degreaser can help you keep your water use to a minimum. Also, depending on the solvent, vapor degreasing equipment can be far less energy-intensive to operate because it requires the liquid to be kept at a much lower temperature.

Of course, you will always have to weigh the pros and cons in light of your own goals and situation. But once you start breaking it down to details, you just might find that vapor degreasing is the best choice for your facility — especially if you need your parts “perfectly” clean.