At a Glance:
Manufacturer's Suggested Price: USD 69.99
Typical Cost: $40 USD
Power: 100-120 V
Warranty: 1 year
Purchased from: Amazon
I've written elsewhere about my love of cheap jewelry that looks expensive. But after wearing them for a while, some of my pieces have lost their luster. I've tried various methods to shine and polish them, but I haven't been happy with the results. I needed a new approach, and I thought ultrasonic cleaning might be just the thing!
Why Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaning?
Professional jewelers use ultrasonic cleaners to clean most jewelry. They also charge you for it. Lower-cost home units are available, but before purchasing one, it's a good idea to understand how they work because not every piece of jewelry is suitable for ultrasonic cleaning.
Ultrasonics are very high-frequency sound waves. These waves create compression waves in the liquid solvent used to clean the jewelry and rip it apart, leaving millions of microscopic vacuum bubbles. (If you want to know more about this, search for "cavitation.") These bubbles collapse with absolutely incredible energy, creating temperatures on the order of 5,000 K (over 4,000 degrees C) and 135 MPa (1376 kg/sq cm) can be achieved. It is this collapse that does the cleaning. These numbers sound dangerous, but the bubbles are small and only dangerous for surface dirt and contaminants. The higher the frequency, the closer the bubbles are to each other, and the better the machine will clean.
Limitations of Ultrasonic Cleaning
Because of the incredible force generated, if you try to clean objects with cracks or scratches, they can be damaged further or even destroyed. I've seen scratched eyeglasses shatter in an ultrasonic cleaner! Porous jewelry, like genuine pearls, emeralds, amber, and opal, should never be cleaned with ultrasonics. The ultrasonic cleaning process will push solvent inside the pours of the gems, and the resulting cavitation will destroy what are probably some pretty pricey pieces! Fortunately, all my jewelry is fake. Just like me.
Ultrasonic cleaning will also not remove tarnish. Tarnish is not dirt. It's an actual chemical change in the metal. Use other methods to treat tarnished jewelry. When you've removed the tarnish, you can use ultrasonic cleaning to remove the tarnish cleaners.
Ultrasonic cleaners are typically a few hundred dollars and quite large. That makes sense for a jewelry shop, but not so much for a single girl on a budget. Enter the Magnasonic, which is small and lists for $70.00 but usually sells for $40. It is a steal at either price:
The basket is removable, a nice feature since you can take it out and easily rinse off any detergents or other cleaners.
Its operation is straightforward. Place the jewelry to be cleaned in the basket, place the basket in the Magnasonic, set the cleaning cycle, and press start. You can stop the cleaning at any time by hitting the off button.
The "cleaning cycles" advertised by Magnasonic are just time settings. You can choose 90, 180, 280, 380, and 480 seconds. The unit defaults to 180.
One of my all-time favorite pieces is the "Bimbo Choker," which I got from Be a Bimbo. At one time, it was beautiful and sparkly, but I've worn it so much that it has become caked with foundation and makeup powder. It looks so awful I can't wear it anymore! I've tried many times to clean it with a toothbrush and various cleaning liquids, but without success. This would be a tough test of Magnasonic's cleaning ability!
I mixed a little Dawn dishwashing liquid with water and ran the Magnasonic for the maximum time of 480 seconds. I saw immediate improvement, but it wasn't enough. To make a long story short, I cleaned it ten times before being satisfied. It looks as good as new, and I couldn't be happier:
I then cleaned the rest of my jewelry collection. None of these were as dirty as the choker, and I finished the entire process in 30 minutes. Each piece now looks fantastic, with only one pass through the machine required for each (and at a lower time setting).
I have some pretty big necklaces, and I was afraid they might not fit in the basket, but the Magnasonic was big enough for every piece I own.
After using the machine, I ran across more recommendations for using it. Several people recommended spraying hard-to-clean pieces with Windex window cleaner. (This contains ammonia, one of the main ingredients in professional jewelry cleaning compounds). I can easily believe this could have shortened the time I spent on the "Bimbo choker." People disagree about the best cleaner. Some recommend Dawn; others suggest the far more expensive dedicated jewelry cleaners. I was happy with the results I got using Dawn, but I'll probably add the Windex to my protocol.
You are not limited to cleaning jewelry. Anything that is eligible for ultrasonic cleaning and will fit in the machine will work: Electric razor heads, kitchen items, circuit boards from your workshop, keys, glasses (without scratches or breaks), keys. The list is endless.
There were some concerns about the sturdiness of the unit. I've used it a lot over the past 18 months, and it is doing great! I haven't dropped it, but I've worked it hard, and it continues to perform like a champ.
Let me know your thoughts and if you have tried other jewelry cleaning machines.