DIY home parts cleaning ideas?

Started by TJ Hopland, June 28, 2022, 10:49:15 AM

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TJ Hopland

What does everyone do for small parts cleaning at home?  I have always used some sort of a solvent in some sort of container.  In the early days that was easy because all solvents were cheap and no one cared what happened to said solvent after one use. 

Nowdays that everything is expensive and difficult to properly dispose of I was noticing how nicely crud seems to settle out of the solvent if you let it sit.  Question is is there any easy way to then seperate the crud from the still usable solvent?   Pouring it out seems to disturb it enough that some of the crud floats.  I tried sucking the cleanish stuff off the top but even that seems to kick things up a bit. 

Anyone come up with anything else?  I was wondering about maybe something like a used Scotchbrite pad at the bottom?  Maybe that would kinda catch a lot of the crud making it easier to pour or suck the cleaner stuff out?

Or some other method completely?  I have used water based stuff on some parts with reasonable success but for something like wheel bearings that were covered in grease it seems like you really need something strong to get in there.   
StPaul/Mpls, MN USA

73 Eldo convert w/FiTech EFI
80 Eldo Diesel
90 CDV
And other assorted stuff I keep buying for some reason

"Cadillac Kid" Greg Surfas 15364

I don't know what solvent you are using but I've got a simple 2-1/2 gallon parts washer and the solvent I use comes from Northern Tool. I don't remember what they call it but I'm sure its Mineral spirits, previously called Stoddard solvent.
Greg Surfas
Cadillac Kid-Greg Surfas
Director Modified Chapter CLC
CLC #15364
66 Coupe deVille (now gone to the UK)
72 Eldo Cpe  (now cruising the sands in Quatar)
73 Coupe deVille
75 Coupe deElegance
76 Coupe deVille
79 Coupe de ville with "Paris" (pick up) option and 472 motor
514 inch motor now in '73-


Many years ago I purchased a Vibratory Tumbler, the largest available, to clean our nuts, bolts, washers, clips, small hardware and other pieces up to several inches in size.  I've seen other persons build their own larger size tumbler but I've never done that (yet).  ;D

The first tumbler I bought from Eastwood but now I purchase from Harbor Freight with their warranty. Over the past dozen years I've gone through several tumblers.

For initial cleaning the 'green pyramids' along with Eastwood's Chemical Wash which degreases, removes rust & provides flash rust protection.  Once clean and allowed to dry, then I use crushed walnut shells to 'polish' them. I clean out the tumbler to change between the pyramids and the walnut shells but would be nice to have two tumblers available.

I've also experimented with a molasses wash and it works pretty good but takes a while; don't be in a hurry or expect miracles.


A lot depends on your volume.  A heavy user may benefit renting a parts washer from safety kleen or equal and they service the unit and solvent.  I looked at it but don't have the volume and it's less every year.
For oily bits, I keep a 5 gal bucket of parts washing solvent from NAPA and a couple gallons of NAPA carb cleaner on the shelf.   The carb cleaner buckets comes with a strainer to hold the parts and drain, sludge stays in the gal.  Keep lid on.  I just pour if off and reuse it.  Wipe out the bottoms, wash the parts. 
Most "dry" items, fasteners, etc. go in the bead blast cabinet and they clean up nice.  I keep a magnet in there so they don't drop in the reservoir. 
I have several large wide "pans" I use for disassemble and cleaning different things and containing parts.
I have some large cooking grease filter cones I bought from kitchen supply and can use them for cleaning up solvent with "lumps" with a big funnel.   I use the paint cones for reusing small solvent amounts and keep in dirty solvent containers, and use that first or for disposal.  Just keep an empty can and mark well.   If it's flammable, I'll light it up in an old steel oil drain pan, but not everywhere can burn.  I keep lacquer thinner, acetone, VM&P naphtha, and mineral spirits by the gallon and any extra thinners from paint.  Mix VM&P and mineral spirits 5050 for prep sol.
Some things just get blasted with spray can nonchlorinated brake cleaner.   It evaporates quickly.  If I'm tearing down a hub changing a wheel bearing or seal, I put that steel pan under and spray the brake cleaner, anything left will burn.  Buy it on sale every time you go to parts store.  Lots of paper towels too.  Let 'em evaporate before you trash 'em.

TJ Hopland

Yes low volume is my issue so I don't really want to dedicate the space and cost to an actual parts washer. Its keeping the solvent clean is what I was wondering what others were doing.  The cooking grease filters is an interesting idea, there may be some of those available at one of my side jobs.  Just looking at how it all seems to settle out makes me think someone must have come up with something. 
StPaul/Mpls, MN USA

73 Eldo convert w/FiTech EFI
80 Eldo Diesel
90 CDV
And other assorted stuff I keep buying for some reason

Jeff Rose CLC #28373

Best I had is when we got the 55. It had a couple of gallons of old varnishy fuel in the tank that I drained. It smelled awful but cleaned a lot of parts on that car. I let stuff soak in a well ventilated area outside for obvious reasons. Now that that's all gone I have a gallon jug of mineral spirits from Wal-Mart and put it in a spray bottle.
Jeff R
Jeff Rose
CLC #28373
1970 Coupe DeVille (Big Red)
1955 Series 62 (Baby Blue)
Dad's new 1979 Coupe DeVille

TJ Hopland

That happens to be what I'm working with at the moment.  I have small amounts (like quarts) of contaminated diesel and gas and was thinking if I could figure out a way to filer it it could last a long time. 
StPaul/Mpls, MN USA

73 Eldo convert w/FiTech EFI
80 Eldo Diesel
90 CDV
And other assorted stuff I keep buying for some reason

Art Gardner CLC 23021

I use a 40 gallon parts washer with water-based solvent (basically, a heavy duty degreaser type of soap).  That works well for greasy, grubby items. 

I will sometime soak stuff in a small amount of gasoline (but rarely). 

I have a relatively large ultrasonic parts cleaner that will hold stuff that fits in a shoe box or smaller.  It is great for detailed items and stuff that is delicate. I use a bit of dish soap in it to help remove oils from parts.

I have a one-gallon can of carb cleaner (the so-called "carb dip" -- a type of acid).

I have a vibratory tumbler for cleaning a bunch of hardware items at once in a batch process.  The little pyramids work well, but require liquid to make them effective. Noisy.

I often will resort to using sprays of engine degreaser or brake cleaner for some items.

Of course, I use wire wheels on my bench grinder for lots of clean up jobs -- just be sure to ALWAYS wear eye protection.

And my crown jewel device for cleaning, especially alloy parts, is a so-called vapor honing machine or vapor blaster.  It is like a sand blast cabinet, but uses a slurry of water, super fine glass beads, and compressed air.  Incredible results without abrading the part.  It is the most expensive piece of machinery in my "Garage Mahal" (more costly than my two lifts or distributor machine or engine analyzer). This is the machine I use when I want the part to look like it was just made this morning, not simply a cleaned up old item.
Art Gardner

1955 S60 Fleetwood sedan (now under resto)
1955 S62 Coupe (future show car? 2/3 done)
1949 S60 Fleetwood sedan (restored 30+ yrs ago)
1958 Eldo Seville (2/3 done)