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View Poll Results: The ultimate solvent!
Isopropyl alcohol 34 29.82%
Lighter fluid / ronsonol / naptha 58 50.88%
Ethyl alcohol 8 7.02%
other 23 20.18%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 114. You may not vote on this poll

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Naptha vs. isopropyl alcohol vs. others
Old 04-22-2009   #1
Sauli Särkkä
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Naptha vs. isopropyl alcohol vs. others

What do you use to clean things up, to get stuck grease/oil to loosen up, to clean up old light-seal materials, etc.? I use isopropanol, but it seems that most people use lighter fluid a.k.a. Ronsonol a.k.a. naphta.

I've been looking at the insides of these fun little rangefinder cameras for something like a month or two and I'm having lots of fun learning the basics of fine mechanics and figuring out the mechanisms and simple electronics that make these babies click. Now, I'd love to hear from you what you feel is the best solvent for the job in general and if there are special cases where one or the other is "the best".

As for lubrication, I just received a bottle of Fulcrum Oil (watch oil, vintage-looking bottle and package) that should last be years and years to come. In addition to this stuff, I'm going to need some lithium grease at some point, if I'm going to enter the scary world of helical cleanup and such..


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Old 04-22-2009   #2
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There is no "ultimate solvent" - dirt, glues and greases are not all soluble in one single substance (short of those which would dissolve the entire camera). If any, my basic solvent is water with a touch of detergent.

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Old 04-22-2009   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sevo View Post
There is no "ultimate solvent" - dirt, glues and greases are not all soluble in one single substance (short of those which would dissolve the entire camera).
That's why the solutions used for cleaning watches and clocks (not too different from mechanical shutters) are blends of dirt/grease fighters: ammonia, oleic acid and detergent.

If using a cleaner with a significant water content (which describes most alcohol solutions and 'environmentally-friendly' wath/clock solutions)... careful drying is very important.

Ultrasonic cleaning is another method not considered in the survey, but should be in the repairman's repertoire.
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Old 04-22-2009   #4
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Naphtha - it smells like a victory! I like this smell
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Old 04-22-2009   #5
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Isopropyl alcohol for most jobs, naphtha for extra greasy situations or where you want to leave a light film of lubrication without resorting to dirt/dust attracting oil.
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Old 04-22-2009   #6
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Isopropyl for most stuff (or Vodka).

Don't forget vinegar to remove oxides.

Then there is aceton (nail polish remover) for tougher dirt as well. Don't clean plastic with it though.

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Old 04-22-2009   #7
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What I use will vary with what I'm trying to clean...I try to use the least harsh solvent /cleanser as the job requires...I've learned this the hard way...
Being in the Printing Industry I've been around some tough solvents so naptha/Ronsonol don't really scare me...I do wear gloves...I'm not that crazy...yet...
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Old 04-22-2009   #8
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Trike (trichloroethylene) is the most aggressive. Ether is good too. After that: naptha. After that (least unpleasant, and best to use unless you NEED the others) 190 proof potable ethanol. I've never found much use for propanol aka rubbing alcohol.

Tashi delek,

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Old 04-22-2009   #9
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"Detergents are by far the safest. Any camera which needs a major degreaser, after one of those "buttery smooth wind" grease jobs available from CLA-ers is probably toast. Sell it on eBay and say how smooth it is to wind."

yes, no brand new camera ever came out of the box 'just 'a drippin' with oil.
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Old 04-22-2009   #10
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uh, whatwhat? Naptha is a brain killer? I use that Ronson stuff... it smells bad...

no mention here...
http://www.cooperbooth.com/datasheets/160606.pdf

and about WD-40, if you let it separate (put it in a jar, let it sit), it's supposedly a good light oil. there's parrafin or something in there that's the camera killer. makes self timers and slow speed escapememts run...

Camera repair is very fun! Last week I got two 'dead' Leicaflex SLs- fungus, shutter jams, rust, drop damage- it's all there! very exciting anyways... until I figured out what I have to pull just to get the shutter out. I hate you, Leica.
(by the by, the cheats are here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=imq...num=8#PPA48,M1 )

cheers!
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Old 04-23-2009   #11
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Most of the shutters I have cleaned run best dry! That is after several changes of camp stove fuel (naptha) and lots of swirling and waiting. Acetone takes everything off including paint and plastic. Don't use around electronics or sync contacts! Nail polish remover has oils to keep their cuticles soft. Everclear (100% grain) is useful for many things! After soaking don't throw it out just add Coke and drink. No environmental disposal problems! Any oil just picks little bits of west Texas as they come blowing by!
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Old 04-24-2009   #12
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Isopropyl alcohol for removing tar (pine pollen, cigarette residue, deteriorated light seals, and etcetera).
Naptha for removing grease and oil (CLAing shutters and fingerprints on lenses, and etcetera).
50/50 mix of drugstore hydrogen peroxide and grocery store ammonia for removing lens fungus.
Acetone for removing paint, some glues and really heavy dried grease (not on plastic).
Distilled white vinegar for removing mold.
Distilled water for pretty much everything else.
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Old 04-24-2009   #13
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The ultimate solvent, technically, is water since it will dissolve anything to some extent.

On a more practical basis I've used xylene for stubborn greases and oils, lighter fluid (naptha etc) is actually a light fraction petroleum and can be useful but often leaves a residue. Isopropanol is good for optics, nicotine and "lightweight" duties but it really isn't a solvent for greases or oils.

Trichlorethylene ("trike") is banned here in the uk (AFAIK) but it's a suspected carcinogen and a pretty powerful narcotic so I'd only use it outdoors and not on plastics or alloys (it attacks brass and aluminium). As for ether - it has an autoignition temperature so low that a naked light-bulb can set if off so no thanks. It's also so volatile it evaporates before you can usefully remove what it's dissolved and it forms explosive peroxides if not stored in darkness!

Acetone is also highly flammable and highly volatile so rather limited - good for "welding" plastics though (if you can get it in pure form, not nail-varnish remover)!

Ammonia and peroxides are a bit nasty stuff, never felt the need. Vinegar I've used on glass and I don't see why it should remove lens coatings (and my experience says it doesn't). Vinegar will attack some metals though, aluminium (as will ammonia) especially.

And yes, I do have high qualifications in chemistry and many years industrial experience, before someone says I don't know what I'm on about...
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Old 04-24-2009   #14
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Quote:
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I didn't say they were safe. I said they were what works best. Here in France you have to give your address if you buy trike, but at least you can buy it. I use trike and ether only out of doors, with gloves on, normally only for swilling out shutters. But by God they work!

Tashi delek,

R.
Out of interest Roger, did you know that trichlorethylene actually penetrates rubber and many plastics fairly easily? You're actually better off without gloves, at least it can evaporate off your skin. Best keep your fingers out though, if possible!
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Old 04-24-2009   #15
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As for ether - it has an autoignition temperature so low that a naked light-bulb can set if off so no thanks.
I believe the autoignition flashpoint for ether is 170 C. But that still is very low and ether is a real problem source of fires.

Earlier in life, I flew control line model airplanes competitively in the speed events. I blended some exotic fuels. Propylene oxide adds a extra punch to standard nitrometnane. Other engines used fuel containing ether and amyl nitrate. I always had some exotic stuff around the shop but always considered ether to be the most hazardous.
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Old 04-25-2009   #16
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I believe the autoignition flashpoint for ether is 170 C. But that still is very low and ether is a real problem source of fires.

Earlier in life, I flew control line model airplanes competitively in the speed events. I blended some exotic fuels. Propylene oxide adds a extra punch to standard nitrometnane. Other engines used fuel containing ether and amyl nitrate. I always had some exotic stuff around the shop but always considered ether to be the most hazardous.
Ether has a flashpoint of -45C and an autoignition temperature of 170C. Flashpoint is the lowest temperature it can create a flammable vapour, autoignition temperature is the point at which it ignites without external ignition sources. Compare to 500C for butane (lighter gas - not petrol, gas). Petrol is only around 250C though.
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Old 04-25-2009   #17
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Out of interest Roger, did you know that trichlorethylene actually penetrates rubber and many plastics fairly easily? You're actually better off without gloves, at least it can evaporate off your skin. Best keep your fingers out though, if possible!
Yes. I tested the surgical gloves I use first. No sign of short-term penetration (I put some in a finger of a pair of gloves for a minute or two) or degradation (I let a cut-off piece of glove soak for a while to test the latter). But I also keep my fingers out of the stuff: tweezers or needle-nose pliers, or (more usually) pour the trike on and off in a glass container used for shutter cleaning. The gloves are only in case of splashing.

I bought a litre about 5 years ago and still have more than half of it left. It's not something I use lightly. But blind terror of the stuff -- I'm not accusing you of that, by the way -- is as irrational as sloshing it around as if it were harmless.

Personally I worry more about pyrogallol crystals.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 04-25-2009   #18
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Originally Posted by Sauli Särkkä View Post
As for lubrication, I just received a bottle of Fulcrum Oil (watch oil, vintage-looking bottle and package) that should last be years and years to come. In addition to this stuff, I'm going to need some lithium grease at some point, if I'm going to enter the scary world of helical cleanup and such..


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Old 04-26-2009   #19
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Trike (trichloroethylene) is the most aggressive. Ether is good too. After that: naptha. After that (least unpleasant, and best to use unless you NEED the others) 190 proof potable ethanol. I've never found much use for propanol aka rubbing alcohol.

Tashi delek,

R.
Roger, 111 Trichloroethylene was marketed as a safe replacement for Carbon Tet. Carbon Tetrachloride was sold for fire extinguishers and as a cleaning fluid. Both dry quickly and leave very little residue. The latter was essentially banned from common usage as it really was immediately dangerous, e.g. one exposure could cause liver damage, and put someone I know in the hospital when he sprayed it inside of a garage to put out a fire, and it took a few years to find out that the replacement was not so good as well.

That said, I have walked in to a few shops in which shutters were being repaired, and always noted the smell of the Trichloroethylene. You can do a fast and sloppy fix on many leaf shutters with just slopping a bit on the shutter, which may last for six months. Maybe they were actually tearing the shutters down and cleaning the parts. ;-)

Isopropanol -- if you are using it, you need the lab stuff, anhydrous, 99% or so, not the stuff you might find in the average pharmacy. I have a bottle marked "Lens Cleaner" and we used it for microscope lenses.

Denatured alcohol is normally 95% ethyl alcohol with a small amount of methyl to make it non-potable, we used a lot for spirit master (ditto) machines.

I have heard that ethyl ether is not particularly bad for you, but you could end up taking a quick nap. I think it may be found in the winter car starting sprays from the old days. It is dangerous to store, and once the can is opened, it can over time form explosive compounds which can detonate. Am not sure about petroleum ether.

I also kept a bottle of Xylene, (Toluene) pretty powerful stuff, think it is the solvent in airplane glue. It has a cork and screw top.

You have such nice weather, which is a hint to use most of these sparingly and outdoors?

One you may wish to use extra care with, is the 111 Trichloroethylene, mostly because it vaporizes so easily. I think there is a replacement for it.

I have also used Naptha as a cleaner, took the grease out of fabric very nicely.

Am not too sure about the dangers of each in terms of fire and low flash points. One gallon of gas = energy of one case of dynamite and is arguably more dangerous. Ethyl ether is extremely flammable. I would just keep most far away from sources of ignition. Probably reading the labels, and if you can find a Flynn Scientific Catalog, they have written a huge section on safety when using chemicals.

Lacquer thinner is an alcohol, smells as if it has amyl alcohol.

Am going to guess that many communities have rules and laws about a lot of these. You cannot legally use Lacquer in California, or so Leno passed along, even for his cars.

Am pretty sure most here are a bit cautious, but I have seen guys clean up paint brushes in Gas, pour it down a storm sewer, while smoking.

Just a few things I have accumulated, be careful out there.

Regards, John
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Old 04-26-2009   #20
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Personally I worry more about pyrogallol crystals.

Cheers,

Roger[/quote]

Roger, were the old formulations of B&W print paper high in cadmium? I heard that all were reformulated a while back, was it mainly an environmental concern, or health?

Afraid I had trouble keeping fingers entirely out of the soup. Stained them a few times with pyro doing some odd work with Ethol developers I got for free.

Regards, John
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Old 04-26-2009   #21
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What about methanol?
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Old 04-26-2009   #22
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What about methanol?
It does not jump out at me if you are speaking hazards, do not drink it obviously, for cleaning, I think, with limited experience it is similar to ethanol, I think it is the normal denaturing alcohol added to ethanol to render it non- potable.

Common name is wood alcohol.

I would rank it a stronger solvent than isopropanol.

I do not recall coming across much of the pure stuff outside of a lab, do not recall the exact make up of the old non permanent antifreeze, but recall it was in it.

I get the feeling a lot of us grab what is closest, but I hear some of the alcohols are pretty hard on aluminum, but if a quick wipe?

Perhaps we need a survey to find out how many of us have bottles of solvents older than the cameras we use them on. ;-)

No one has mentioned ROR, expensive, but you really do not use much.

My fall back for really greasy stuff similar to MG parts, was a bucket of mineral spirits, pretty safe, but unless the part is going to be lubed up again, you are going to have to clean the solvent off. Charcoal fluid is similar I believe.

I heard of guys soaking bottoms of thread mount Leicas in benzene as a substitute for the time to tear the works down, not recommended because of the hazards and the fact that it is a temporary fix to a long term problem. Perhaps akin to stuffing heavy grease and sawdust in to a loud set of gears on a car to sell it?


Regards, John
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Old 04-26-2009   #23
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What about methanol?
Strictly speaking, methanol isn't toxic. Unfortunately, the body breaks it down to formaldehyde (yes, that's the stuff you use in biology class to preserve things!) so it's rather bad news. It's also more flammable than ethanol (alcohol) and more volatile. It's a poor solvent for grease and oil, as are most alcohols.
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Old 04-26-2009   #24
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It does not jump out at me if you are speaking hazards, do not drink it obviously, for cleaning, I think, with limited experience it is similar to ethanol, I think it is the normal denaturing alcohol added to ethanol to render it non- potable.

Common name is wood alcohol.

I would rank it a stronger solvent than isopropanol.
See post above and yes it is used for denaturing ethanol. Industrial methylated spirit (IMS) is usually about 5% methanol, 94.5% or so ethanol and the rest water. Methanol is added to make it undrinkable because it's one of several things that cannot be removed by distillation (it forms what's called an azeotrope).
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Old 04-26-2009   #25
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I heard of guys soaking bottoms of thread mount Leicas in benzene as a substitute for the time to tear the works down, not recommended because of the hazards
That may be a nuance lost in translation from German - pretty much any unpolar light hydrocarbon, like lighter fluid, gasoline/petrol and light mineral spirits is called "Benzin" in Germany (where petrol is now limited to less than 1% of benzene and its derivatives, and all solvents are benzene-free).

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Old 04-26-2009   #26
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That may be a nuance lost in translation from German - pretty much any unpolar light hydrocarbon, like lighter fluid, gasoline/petrol and light mineral spirits is called "Benzin" in Germany (where petrol is now limited to less than 1% of benzene and its derivatives, and all solvents are benzene-free).

Sevo
I know what you mean, however, I have seen bottles of it sitting around, a lot of people never get rid of anything, and this was years back, the guy was actually bragging about his service skills, and he did not speak German, probably could not find Europe on a map. ;-)

As a kid with summers in the country, lord knows what kind of stuff I was exposed to, I recall spraying lead of arsenic on the potatoes, using lead pigmented oil based paints and roofing tars, etc .

I organized the lab store at several places and it took years to get the boss to have the haz folks to pick anything up. They had standing orders for a number of items no longer used, so we ended with perhaps 20 gallons each of the major acids.

And, of course, stuff was shelved alphabetically, I will not specifically name the oxidizers we had sitting about in 10 kg. bottles for 20 years or more.

Every store room seemed to have a bottle or more of benzene.

Toluene was used to clean slides with cemented cover slips.

Some stuff was stored in cabinets in classrooms for years, the cat I found was identifiable only by its basic size and shape.

Inertia abounds.

Regards, John
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Old 04-26-2009   #27
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Strictly speaking, methanol isn't toxic. Unfortunately, the body breaks it down to formaldehyde (yes, that's the stuff you use in biology class to preserve things!) so it's rather bad news. It's also more flammable than ethanol (alcohol) and more volatile. It's a poor solvent for grease and oil, as are most alcohols.
Which property killed the people in Italy who drank it when used to fortify cheap wine, was it the derivative compounds? I recall blindness was another possible symptom? This is off the top of my head, but it is probably not a major item sitting about.

Anyone would not be very popular if they continued to use Formaldehyde in any class in the past 30 years, though a little remains in present preserved specimens commonly purchased, it is mostly flushed out.

Students hardly put up with the smell of the "odorless" chemicals shipped today. Used to really irritate the eyes as well.

Kept a lot of people out of that wing of the school as well during the lab weeks. ;-)

Again, large bottles in storage for years, though essentially unused, and I believe restricted now by law.

I also cleared out the ten lbs. of mercury and the dozen lab thermometers a couple of years ago.


Regards, John
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Old 04-26-2009   #28
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Which property killed the people in Italy who drank it when used to fortify cheap wine, was it the derivative compounds? I recall blindness was another possible symptom? This is off the top of my head, but it is probably not a major item sitting about.
That was glycol, one of the main constituents of anti freeze. Apparently sweet and tasty, but deadly poisonous if not treated immediately!
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Old 04-27-2009   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HuubL View Post
That was glycol, one of the main constituents of anti freeze. Apparently sweet and tasty, but deadly poisonous if not treated immediately!
I know that double alcohol is a bad one, does a job on the kidneys.

I was unaware that antifreeze since the mid fifties would have methanol in the mix.

Media reported methanol at the time, as I recall, but they get stuff wrong.

j
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Old 04-27-2009   #30
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Quote:
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I know that double alcohol is a bad one, does a job on the kidneys.

I was unaware that antifreeze since the mid fifties would have methanol in the mix.

Media reported methanol at the time, as I recall, but they get stuff wrong.

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Old 04-27-2009   #31
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Dave, now you know someone will post that on You Tube.
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Old 07-06-2009   #32
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The citrus-based solvents available at most auto parts or hardware stores are good, safe cleaners for oil/ grease and dirt on almost anything, including vinyl. However, I wouldn't mix w/ Vodka and drink.

I use J.W.'s Paint Remover (citrus- based) for removing vinyl coverings and adhesive on cameras.
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Old 05-25-2010   #33
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I use an ultrasonic cleaner with dedicated chemicals
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Old 08-07-2010   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
I believe the autoignition flashpoint for ether is 170 C. But that still is very low and ether is a real problem source of fires.

Earlier in life, I flew control line model airplanes competitively in the speed events. I blended some exotic fuels. Propylene oxide adds a extra punch to standard nitrometnane. Other engines used fuel containing ether and amyl nitrate. I always had some exotic stuff around the shop but always considered ether to be the most hazardous.
That's good judgement. Ether also has another problem. As it ages, it can form highly explosive diethylether peroxides. What do I mean by "highly explosive"? I mean that giving the can a hard knock, or even unscrewing the cap, can cause it to detonate.

Bad, bad news. Keep ether the hell out of your residence, and if you use it in a lab environment use it in a chemical fume hood, be sure to monitor its age, and dispose of it properly before it becomes a problem.
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Old 08-07-2010   #35
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Many years ago, an aircraft mechanic neighbor of mine in Houston gave me a 55 gal. barrel of Trichloroethylene (Trike). I used it for a long time for cleaning auto parts during my DIY repair or maintenance. I couldn't believe how good a solvent it was and how quickly things dried. After that ran out, I used Varsol. I think it's kinda like lighter fluid, but not as good as Trichloroethylene.
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Old 08-08-2010   #36
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To clean grease or oil, I use Colorlok printing press wash, 95% naphtha, 5% ether. The ether makes the naphtha dry quicker. For adhesives (old light seals, for instance) I use methanol. For cleaning glass or plastic, I use 80% methanol and 20% water, the water slows the drying of the methanol so it dries streak-free. For cleaning rubber, or very dirty metal, nothing works better than Fedron. Be very careful when using Fedron around painted surfaces or plastic parts, though.

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Old 08-08-2010   #37
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I like Everclear. Pure grain alcohol.

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Old 09-21-2010   #38
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Quote:
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I didn't say they were safe. I said they were what works best. Here in France you have to give your address if you buy trike, but at least you can buy it. I use trike and ether only out of doors, with gloves on, normally only for swilling out shutters. But by God they work!

Tashi delek,

R.
First time I saw trike, it was sold as Carbon Tet replacement, and as people found carbon tet was a bit tough on the liver, etc. somehow in an earlier age, people thought if you could buy it, it was "safe". Out doors, gloves, good ideas, every repair shop I have visited seems to have a bit in the air.

Toluene is a pretty powerful solvent, but it really depends on what you are using it for. Trike dries without much residue, which is good, as did carbon tet when it was being sold OTC as a cleaner.

Isopropanol, if you get it 100% is good, but the drugstore stuff is perhaps 20% or more water.

Some of these are still available at home depot, was surprised by the easy access to toluene, basically the solvent in airplane glue.

Good crack on the Brit cars, keep a bit of kitty litter under the MGB.
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Old 09-22-2010   #39
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To clean grease or oil, I use Colorlok printing press wash, 95% naphtha, 5% ether.
This sounds like what we used to use back when I worked in the print shop, the product we used was called "blanket wash" (after offset "blankets") and I've always wondered what was in it. It did smell kinda nasty. We would also use acetone during wash-down occasionally, and I've used that in the hospital lab, but it does destroy some plastics.

For my limited experience in camera repair, I've used mostly rubbing alcohol and Ronsonol, and for Ronsonol, a very little bit goes a long way!
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Old 09-23-2010   #40
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This sounds like what we used to use back when I worked in the print shop, the product we used was called "blanket wash" (after offset "blankets") and I've always wondered what was in it. It did smell kinda nasty. We would also use acetone during wash-down occasionally, and I've used that in the hospital lab, but it does destroy some plastics.

For my limited experience in camera repair, I've used mostly rubbing alcohol and Ronsonol, and for Ronsonol, a very little bit goes a long way!
I used to work for a printing-ink manufacturer in the 70s and 80s, we made blanket wash and yes, it does (did) contain some aggressive things! Several of the components are banned now. Then again, we used to supply lead-based inks to African countries, for foodstuff packaging - it was cheaper and it was allowed. In reality, the soluble-lead was negligible and people tend not to eat the packaging but H&S paranoia knows no limits nowadays.

As for alcohol/naphtha, aclohol is a reasonable solvent for natural oils and general grime but a very poor one for man-made oils and greases - naphtha (i.e. petroleum-based fractions) are far better and things like toluene/xylene are better still.
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