Sonic Screwdrivers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the slushes-making drive-in eatery of oh-so-many childhoods – there’s just something inherently awesome about something being labeled as “sonic.”
At least marketers certainly seem to think so.
In fact, one of the few words they seem to love even more than sonic is calling something “ultra.”
So put “ultra” and “sonic” together, and what do you get besides a marketer’s dream?
An ultra-effective cleaning product, of course, or at least that’s the claim put forth by makers of portable ultrasonic washing machine units. But what’s behind these new machine machines, are they as “ultra”-effective as they claim, and which ones can send “sonic” shock waves through your cleaning regime?
Table of Contents
- How Does an Ultrasonic Cleaner Work?
- What To Look For Before Purchase
- The Best on the Market
- In Conclusion
How Does an Ultrasonic Cleaner Work?
First thing’s first – just how do ultrasonic cleaners work, exactly?
Humans have been cleaning the same way around the world for millennia – water, soap, a bit of elbow grease and air to help things dry, and voila. However, just because that’s the way things have always been doesn’t mean that’s the way they have to stay. After all, if that were true, we’d still be washing things by hand and leaving them on clotheslines rather than turning to our trusty washer and dryer combos, right?
So, since the old principles of cleaning can indeed be improved upon, how do ultrasonic cleaners attempt to do that? The key lies in making use of high-frequency soundwaves to do the same job as soap and water have done for centuries – separate and clean away particulates from the fabric being cleaned. Ultrasonic cleaners typically make use of frequencies around 40kHz. This in turn agitates the water or other solvent you are using, which results in what is known as “cavitation,” which refers to the cavity created within a bubble within these solutions.
When these cavity-filled bubbles make contact with contaminants and implode, they release force that dislodges the particulates.
This results in a highly effective method of cleaning that is especially good at getting things out of cracks, recesses, and holes. It can be used on everything from metals and glass to rubber, ceramics, and some plastics. Examples of particulates that ultrasonic cleaning is especially adept at removing include dirt, grease, oil, pigments, fingerprints, and other compounds. As a result, ultrasonic cleaners are increasingly popular in industries as different as automotive, aerospace, medical, electrical, and jewelry-based professions.
Cleaning times will vary depending on the materials being cleaned and what particulates you’re trying to cleanse from them, but the most common estimates range between three and six minutes at heats of between 135 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
A regular or mini ultrasonic washing machine will make use of:
- A tank holding the fluids as well as the things you’re cleaning
- An ultrasonic generator, which converts AC electrical energy into the aforementioned ultrasonic 40 kHz frequency
- An ultrasonic transducer, which converts electrical signals into energy that can be used by the mechanical components
This last component generates sound at a frequency that is above those that can be heard by humans, starting at around 20kHz.
What To Look For Before Purchase
As such, you’ll want to look for ultrasonic washing machines that meet these basic criteria. Given that we’re talking about portable ultrasonic washing machine units in particular, you’ll naturally want to give a thought as to how big the unit is. Bigger isn’t always better, of course, but it often means more cleaning power. On the other hand, if portability matters more to you than raw power, you’ll want to look for washers that are more compact and lightweight.
Connected to the question of size is that of capacity. How much laundry can a unit handle? You want a portable ultrasonic washing machine, sure, but you also don’t want to have to be stuck doing laundry all day because the unit’s so small it can’t handle more than a few pieces at a time.
As mentioned above, ultrasonic washing can tackle different materials, and you’ll definitely want to give that a thought when purchasing a unit as well. Some ultrasonic washers may be better at cleaning fabrics, while others are more geared toward industrial cleaning and are thus better for cleaning glass, metal, or plastics.
Ease of Control
Then there’s the manner of operation. Some units feature more complex controls that allow for much more detailed control over your cleaning, while others are more simplified and streamlined.
As with any major appliance, you’ll also want to look for a warranty included with the product. Including this is a sign of confidence in the product on the part of the company. Conversely, a lack of a warranty may indicate they fear the washer will break down and thus don’t want to be on the hook for warranty obligations. Likewise, you should look for companies that have a good reputation with customers.
Finally, some units are able to run for longer periods of time than others. Ideally, the longer a unit can run, and the more power efficient it is, the better.
The Best on the Market
Now that we know how the machine works and what to look for before purchase, let’s dive into our list.
1) Ukoke UUC06S
This model is fashioned from plastic as well as stainless steel, with the former making it a bit lighter than other models, weighing in at just two pounds.
- Material Type: Plastic Stainless Steel
- Included Components: Basket Watch Hold
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It’s on the smaller side capacity-wise, with a tank capacity of just 0.6 L. Correspondingly, this is one of the weaker units on this list in terms of power, bringing just 35 wattage to bear.
On the other hand, this combined with its lightweight nature and smaller size (5.4 in. x 3.6 in. x 2.1 in.) means that it is one of the more portable models on this list. After all, isn’t that supposed to be one of the primary factors for consideration? If portability is your top concern, therefore, this may well be your top choice for a mini ultrasonic washing machine.
Another reason the relatively smallness of this model doesn’t matter so much is the fact that it’s designed with professional-grade jewelry cleaning in mind. If that’s your intent, once again, this model may be for you. It offers just enough power for a deep clean of your jewelry (42,000 ultrasonic vibrations per second) while still being gentle enough so as not to risk damaging it.
In addition, this model offers a touch panel, which makes it easier to control the cleaning process, especially when paired with a countdown timer that can be set for 90, 180, 280, 380, or 480 seconds.
Warranty-wise, this model comes with a 30-day refund option and a replacement option that extends out to one year.
2) CO-Z Ultrasonic Cleaner with Heater and Timer
This particular model is available in everything from a 1 L+ model to a 30 L option (which is the one linked above), so depending on your needs, you can go big or small or anywhere in between. The unit measures 19.7 in. × 11.8 in. × 7.9 in. and weighs just about 26 lbs. It is fashioned from SUS304 Stainless Steel, which speaks to its overall durability.
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The model makes use of 500W heating power and 500W ultrasonic cavitation, which is on the stronger side. It can be used for any number of cleaning jobs as a result, including rust removal – a big plus if you’re planning to use it for something such as automotive cleaning or restoration. In addition, it is supposed to be good for cleaning tools, drills, pieces of jewelry, silverware, glassware, and more.
The tank and controls are relatively easy to use. Simply pop in the items that need cleaning, set the temperature for between 68 and 176 degrees Fahrenheit, and then set the timer for anywhere between 1 to 30 minutes. This model is also easy to drain, featuring a three-eighth-inch port made from durable corrosion-resistant copper.
As an added nice touch, this model also comes with a free cleaning basket in which to clean your items.
3) Digitblue Touch
Looking for something even more lightweight than the Ukoke? Well, here you are with the Digitblue Touch, which weighs in at an impossibly lithe 1.2 lbs. Add to that a highly compact size of 7.56 in. x 4.17 in. x 3.46 in., and you have another great candidate for best mini ultrasonic washing machine.
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This unit can bring a fair amount of power to bear, with it being capable of generating 50,000 ultrasonic vibrations per second – 8,000 more than the Ukoke, though that model is slightly smaller and more compact. It is also notable for its ability to remain relatively quiet while cleaning, though some have noted durability issues. The unit can take up to 3 L of water.
4) FTVogue Mini
With a price tag well below $50, it’s hard to beat this model price-wise, making it one of the best bargain options on this list. It is yet another model that is incredibly lightweight and portable, weighing 0.8 lbs and measuring 4.72 in. x 2.56 in. x 1.18 in.
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Like the Digitblue Touch, it is made from eco-friendly materials. This combined with its lightweight nature means you can wash veggies and other foodstuffs while on the go, making it great for camping and traveling. Adding to its travel-friendly nature is the fact that it comes with a USB cord, making it easy to plug into your laptop or other USB-friendly device for quick charging. The unit also shuts off automatically after 30 minutes of use so as to prevent accidental overheating.
If there is any criticism of the model, it’s that, as with some of the other extra small ultrasonic washers on this list, it has had some users report durability issues. In particular, some have pointed out that parts of the washing machine are not waterproof, which could cause problems in the event of overflow. However, that’s not unexpected given its small size, and overall it has received warm reviews for its portability and ease of use.
5) Zkg Turbine
Lighter and lighter still! This is yet another lightweight model, weighing just 0.75 lbs, and is likewise compact at 6.69 in. x 5.35 in. x 2.6 in. However, that comes at the cost of a capacity of just 2.2 lbs, meaning it’s only for extremely light loads, so heavy-duty metal work or laundry is out. On the other hand, it may be well-suited for cleaning light items such as glass or jewelry.
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This is also another model that boasts a 30-minute auto shutoff feature.
6) XR Sport Portable Washing Machine
This model measures 11.22 in. x 11.22 in. x 9.44 in. and weighs 4.5 lbs – not as incredibly lightweight and compact as some of the models mentioned above, but still a reasonably portable ultrasonic washing machine. It makes use of ozone sterilization as well as ultrasonic washing, giving you a deeper clean. Once again, the eco-friendliness means that it can be used with food.
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In addition, the slightly larger capacity offered by this model compared to those smaller models mean that they can be more easily used for loads of laundry. If you are looking for a portable model that can also handle more than a few clothes at a time, this may be it.
What’s more, this is another model that is easy to use. It features a one-button control scheme. Simply touch the button for a couple seconds to start the machine, and let it take care of the rest.
This is also another model that features an auto shutoff feature (after 13 minutes) and operates quietly (at around or less than 45 dBs).
7) Sharp Handy Washer
This is about as small as you can get with a portable washer of any kind, measuring just 1.57 in. x 1.57 in. x 6.61 in. and weighing just 0.5 lbs. You might think that such a small model would have a small cleaning capacity, and you would be right – but so far, that hasn’t stopped customers from using it to clean clothes. On the contrary, reviews thus far have been surprisingly positive on this model’s clothes-cleaning capabilities. Add to that the fact that this model is powered by a single battery (which is included) and this model is incredibly easy to travel with.
However, this model does not come with any kind of warranty. This, plus its status as a Japanese import, means that if you order it outside of Japan, it can be practically impossible to exchange it should anything go wrong.
8) Auertech Portable Ultrasonic Washing Machine
This model is on the low side power-wise, bringing just 10 watts to bear, and correspondingly has just 1 lb wash capacity. While it is portable, it is larger than some of the other portable options on this list, measuring 7.5 in. x 7.5 in. x 8.5 in. and weighing 3.3 lbs.
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However, this model has several other factors to recommend it. For one thing, Auertech promises a 24-hour turnaround time on queries made to them regarding any issues, which hints at good customer service. This is also another model that is USB compatible, making it easy to charge. It comes with a control timer that can be set for between 5 to 30 minutes. All of these things taken together make this a very travel-friendly model.
The CO-Z model(s) comes in several different sizes and, as such, is by far your best choice if you’re looking for a portable ultrasonic washer that’s on the larger side – just be prepared to pay a bit more as well.
Many of the mini ultrasonic washing machine options on this list are highly similar, and differ mainly in their size and capacity. Which is right for you will thus depend on which specific size-weight-capacity combination suits your travel needs.
Both the Ukoke and Digitblue boast some of the best all-around reviews, while the FTVogue and Auertech boast USB compatibility.
Ultrasonic washers are the wave of the future, and any one of these portable ultrasonic washers can best help you make a clean start.
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