Parts Washing Services Information


Cleaned Part image

Parts washing services remove grease, oil, dirt, soot, and other contaminants from surfaces. Some parts washing services process new components or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, while others restore damaged surfaces to a usable condition. Selecting an appropriate parts washing option requires consideration of several components, such as the specifications and levels of cleanliness, the size and shape of the parts, the material of the parts as well as the type of contamination. Parts washing services are located across the United States and around the world. Many meet International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements or automotive, aerospace, military, or OEM specifications.


Systems, Equipment and Techniques


Parts washing services use a variety of systems, equipment, and techniques.


Blasting uses a power sprayer or tumble chamber to remove all of a metal's visible rust, mill scale, paint and contaminants.

Sandblasting image

Sandblasting. Image credit:


Thermal cleaning systems use heat to remove grease, oil, paint, or other organic compounds from the surfaces of parts.


Corona treatment enhances bonding between a surface and polymer coatings or adhesives.


Degreasing uses a solvent or vapor to clean and remove organic compounds, as well as aqueous systems and greases that are insoluble in water. Generally a non-volatile cleaning agent that solubilized oil or grease is also used.

Vapor Degreaser diagram

Vapor degreaser. Image credit: Sonicor


Filter cleaning, also known as deplugging is used to clean, filters, screens, strainers, filtration media, and filter cartridges. The services proved can include inspection for holes, tears or flaws; flaw repair; washing; dust or particulate removal; drying; flow or leak testing; and installation.


Oxygen cleaning removes combustible oils, greases or other materials that could cause an accidental fire or explosion when in contact with oxygen. Oxygen cleaning removes combustible oils, greases or other materials that could cause an accidental fire or explosion when in contact with oxygen. Oxygen cleaning may also involve the removal of excess rust. Oxygen cleaning is performed on factories with furnaces, autoclaves, aerospace facilities, refineries, pressure gauges, pressure transmitters, regulators, fittings, thermowells, gold mines, hospitals, tubing, pipe, hoses, filters, valves, and other assemblies and plants.


Companies that perform pickling processes use etchants, acids, or acid pickles to remove a layer of surface material or sharp edges.


Spray washers use pressure washing or rinsing capabilities to direct a stream of water or a water/detergent mixture at high pressure to clean or remove surface debris such as scale, rust, paint, dirt, grease, or abrasive dust. The parts are hit from various angles while they rotate to ensure complete cleaning. Spraying typically uses heated, aqueous-based chemicals to clean the parts. This system is best used for the parts that have material that is difficult to remove such as material that is baked on, and heavier greases and oils. Spray washers are a customizable system that can include a conveyor belt.


Mass finishing processes are used for bulk processing. A tumbler, disc, drum, or other vibratory finishing equipment is used with abrasive media and compounds. The desired surface finish is achieved as the media and compounds moves against the parts.  

 Vibrating Finishing Machine image

Vibrating finishing machine. Image credit: Dryfinish


In immersion tank cleaning systems or scrub tanks, parts are immersed in a tank where the cleaning bath is agitated with impellers or paddles, or the parts are scrubbed manually. This is best used for low volume cleaning and for smaller parts that do not require a high level of cleanliness. Automated immersion tanks are also available and are intended for a higher volume of parts to clean. They are best used when the parts cannot be easily cleaned manually and require a higher level of cleanliness.


Stripping and coating removal services remove paint, coatings, or plated layers using a solvent, chemical or mechanical process.


Ultrasonic cleaning processes use immersion tanks in which the cleaning solution is vibrated at ultrasonic frequencies. The vibration produces high energy bubbles that vibrate contaminants off the surface for a high level of clean.

Ultrasonic Part Washing diagram

Ultrasonic part washing. Image credit: hicaliber


Plasma etching, plasma cleaning, sputter etching, sputter precleaning or ion milling are processes that use plasma to remove layers of material from a substrate or wafer for cleaning purposes. A clean, contamination-free surface is required for subsequent thin film deposition or wet processing.

Plasma cleaning application. Video credit: fgttw / CC BY-SA 4.0


Sanitizing and sterilization services destroy or kill bacteria, viruses, mold spores or other microorganisms on the surface of a part or medical device and/or within a container, vial or part. UV light, biocides, sanitizers, specialized gases and/or heat & pressure (steam or autoclaves) are used to sanitize or sterilize surfaces. 

Material Processing Capabilities


Parts washing services vary in terms of material processing capabilities and certification or quality requirements. Some companies process parts made from aluminum, copper, nickel, iron, cast iron, steel, stainless steel, and precious metals. Others process ceramics, metalized ceramics, composites, carbides, glass, plastics and polymers.


Another important consideration when selecting a parts washing service is the cleaning chemistry used in the parts washer. The most common cleaning chemistries include petroleum and organic-based solvents, and specialty solvents. Certain solvents are designed to meet certain industry specifications such as military and food service cleaners. When selecting a solvent, it is critical to consider the flashpoint and volatile organic content (VOC). The flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which a solvent gives off enough vapor to ignite when a flame or spark is present. VOC may be regulated in certain areas. The best solvent should meet several criteria including a non-hazardous nature, ability to be recycled or reused, able to maintain its efficiency over time, and lowest risk to workers.


Standards and Certifications


Certification and quality requirements include ISO 9001:2000, ISO TS16949, AS 9100, and QS 9000. AS 9100 is a set of quality guidelines and requirements published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in cooperation with major aerospace manufacturers. QS 9000 is a quality standard for suppliers of DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation. Companies that meet U.S. military specifications (MIL-SPEC) and comply with OEM-specific requirements also provide parts washing services.



How To Select The Appropriate Parts Washer


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