Can I Use Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) in an Ultrasonic Cleaner? The answer is NO, unless you want to invest in a blast proof ultrasonic tank. Using this highly flammable chemical in an ultrasonic tank of any size is dangerous.
Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is used for cleaning electrical components such as PCB’s (printed circuit boards) because it evaporates quickly without leaving a residue. It expels water from mobile phones that have been exposed to moisture. Also it removes specific greasy deposits.
Why not use IPA?
The main reason to not use IPA in an ultrasonic cleaner is because it can become unstable and has a low flash point. A “flash point” is the temperature at which a fluid gives off sufficient vapour to ignite in open air when given an ignition source, very similar to petrol. A single spark will ignite petrol without actually touching it because the vapours rising from the petrol fumes are flammable.
The process of ultrasonic cleaning naturally increases the temperature of fluid in the tank. It will increase by simply by turning the machine on. Even with the heater turned off, the fluid temperature will increase. IPA will start to evaporate and the remaining concentrated fumes will build up over the tank. A spark of static electricity will ignite the fumes to create a fire ball in a split second.
Some companies who use Isopropyl alcohol in ultrasonic cleaners have fume extraction systems fitted. These prevent the build up of flammable vapours in the area above and near the machine.