What is a Parts Washer?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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A parts washer is a device used to clean manufacturing and industrial components. During the course of normal operation, these parts can become coated with grease and oil, which can prevent the parts from functioning as intended. A parts washer removes grease and other contaminants from these parts, which can help to extend the life the part while maximizing performance. Parts washing machine models can range from simple drums or barrels to fully automated cabinets as large as a room. Industrial units may be found in factories or industrial facilities, while smaller portable models are used in small repair shops or home garages.

These machines rely on a variety of media to clean engines and other parts. Some are solvent based, and use petrochemicals to quickly and effectively clean parts. While solvent-based parts washers tend to offer the most effective cleaning, they also pose a threat to the environment in terms of disposal and maintenance. Aqueous, or water-based, washers offer an economical and environmentally friendly solution to solvent systems, but may not be capable of removing all types of grime. Some factories have turned to bio-remediation parts washers, which use bacteria to eat away harmful compounds in solvents prior to disposal.


Parts washer units utilize different types of operating mechanisms to get parts clean. Soaking units are the most basic, and consist of a large barrel filled with water or solvent where parts are allowed to soak until they are clean. These models tend to be the least effective at removing serious grease and dirt. Brush units include a series of brushes to aid in the grease removal process, and may combine soaking and brushing in some cases.

For more effective cleaning, direct sprayer parts washer machines spray water on solvent onto a part in a steady stream. Pressure spray units offer an even more effective version of this technology. The hardest-working parts washers are those with built-in pumps. These pumps agitate the parts and fluid within the washer, similar to the operation of a clothes washing machine. Some may even incorporate ultrasonic waves to clean parts even more effectively.

All parts washer units require some degree of maintenance to remove dirty water or solvents and replace them with fresh cleaning solutions. A filter within the washer tank can reduce the frequency of this maintenance, and help solvent or water last longer and clean better. Advanced units come equipped with built-in filters to capture oil and other contaminants. A simple automotive filer can be placed in units without built-in filtering systems to perform a similar function.


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