Removing Electrolysis Smut with a Water Hose
As some of you may be aware, I really don't like to work too hard. So any tool or shortcut I can use to lower my workload is always appreciated. Anyone who has used an ET is familiar with the black smut that covers the tractor pieces after they have been removed from the solution. They are also are aware that the positive sacrificial plates build up an amazing amount of gunk while the tank is working. Because I believe in working smarter rather than harder, I found a new way to clean the smut/gunk/goop/residue off things that come from the electrolysis tank (ET).
Water, yes, plain ordinary water will clean both the donor, or good part, and the receptor or sacrificial plates. Read on and you may find that post-electrolysis cleaning is easier than you think.
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- It Is All About Delivery
Most of us have seen the blasting effect a pressure washer has when used on a driveway, wood siding, or whatever. Humor me for a moment while I review some high school physics. Force is defined as mass times acceleration. Water has a mass as do sand particles and almost everything else I can think of. But water sitting in a cup is not doing any work. To get the water to work for us, we have to accelerate it. The reason a pressure washer works is that water has mass and that mass is accelerated. When the speeding water droplets hit a surface, BOOM! anything that is loose on the surface is blown away.
What we need then is a device to deliver water under some pressure, kinda' like a water jet sprayer. That has already been taken care of. See the Shade Tree article Shade Tree Moderate Pressure Washer.
- "Here Comes The Smut, Martha"
When you remove the, no longer rusty, part from the ET, there is a coating of black powder on the piece. There may also be some residual paint which is loosened but still on the part. You can wait for the piece to dry, then use a wire brush to remove as much of the smut and residue as you can. Or you can use the moderate pressure sprayer to part of the task. The part will still have to wire brushed, but using the water jet first will allow you to see if the part is truly ready to be wire brushed. In addition, the jet removes fine material that would otherwise turn into fine dust with the wire brush. All this is "well and good", but hardly enough improvement in my life to get excited about. For the exciting part of Electrolysis Tanks and Water Jets, read on...
- Gunk, Deposits, Residue, Call It What You Will. It Is Nasty!
The real benefit of the water jet in maintaining an Electrolysis Tank is cleaning the sacrificial plates. As the electrolysis proceeds, the bare metal sacrificial plate is coated with some nasty looking, slimy, gunk. Truly nasty stuff. If it were just nasty, we could leave the plates alone and attend to other, more important matters.
But as this residue builds up on the plates, the effectiveness of the ET starts to decline. If enough gunk is deposited on the plates, the tank will work so slowly that you will think your power supply has died. The tank works because the rust on the surface of the good part is broken down and deposited as a solid on the sacrificial plates. But this process can only work if the plates can receive the deposits. When they are covered in gunk, they no longer conduct as much current flow so the process slows down. If the plates became completely covered, the process would stop. Here are some plates that came out of my tank after removing the rust from a 54 blade. Notice the plate on the right looks different from the others.
The traditional way to clean the plates is to remove them from the tank, wait for them to dry, then wire brush the deposits. If the plates are not completely dry before wire brushing starts, you will be flinging nasty mud everywhere. When the deposits get nice and dry, they also get nice and hard. But what happens if you take the water jet and use the force of the spray to remove the deposits while the plates and the deposits are still wet? Here are the same plates as shown above, but looking distinctly cleaner.
Now you know why one plate in the earlier photo looked different. Using the water jet to blow off the deposits allows you to:
- shorten the maintenance cycle on the ET, no need to wait for the plates to dry
- eliminate the dust caused by wire brushing the dried deposits
- control the disposal of the deposits more closely, you can hose them off in another barrel
- clean the plates more often because plate maintenance is reduced
I started off using the water jet like a garden hose sprayer, leaving a couple of feet between the end of the jet and the plate. The results were marginally acceptable. When I moved closer and rested the tip of the water jet on the plate surface, the results were great. And it allowed me to better control the spray to minimize "self-soaking".
About the only downside I can see is the amount of water used to remove the deposits. Although the small jet size goes a long way to minimizing water consumption. In addition, the amount of time spent with the water jet is small. The plates in the photos are about 6" x 30", and cleaning both front and back of all 4 plates takes about 12 minutes.
The only other drawback is that you can get wet if you stand too close to the plate. The solution to that is to have a longer "wand" on the water jet. that way you can stand back several feet and still get the plates clean.