Sonicating hardened tool steel

Q. We need to find an alternative cleaning solution we can use to sonicate metal (hardened steel) tools that won’t rust them.

A. Hardened tool steel is prone to flash rusting on exposure to water and humidity with dissolved oxygen if there are no corrosion inhibitors present.  You can clean tool steel in a warm Alconox® Powdered Precision Cleaner solution (less than 120F/45C).  This should be followed by an ambient temperature rinse (circa 70F/20C) and a rapid water removing drying technique such as dipping in isopropyl alcohol (azeotrope formation), blowing off with dry air, wiping down, centrifuge drying or another water removing drying technique that does not involve evaporation.

The Alconox solutions contain phosphates that will protect the tool steel from rust during cleaning, but as soon as they are rinsed away, it is important to dry the steel quickly to avoid flash rusting.  Using ambient temperature water slows down the onset of flash rusting.  Removing water rapidly stops flash rusting.

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This post is from TechNotes, our technical blog for application specific case studies, critical cleaning reference articles and Frequently Asked Questions in a variety of markets, including medical device, lab, biotech and pharmaceuticals, and much more.