LAST UPDATED: October 15, 2019
Best Parts Washers: Keep Dirt and Grime Contained
A clean ride performs better — get the job done with a top-quality parts washer.
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON October 15, 2019
Ever tried to run with mud caked on the bottom of your boots? Well, that’s how your car feels when its parts are covered in grime and grease. An automotive parts washer helps you perform maintenance on the internal and external components of your truck or car. Portable and easy to use, many look like a simple portable bin — but there’s much more to them. Basically, they work like a washing machine for vehicle parts. On a timed cleaning cycle, powered by a strong motor, they use detergent, agitation, and water pressure to get the gunk off your car parts.
Other part washers address the chassis and tires and many models stick to cleaning out attachment hardware. It’s all about cleaning the different parts of the vehicle in the most efficient way. It helps the ride run more smoothly and is a whole lot quicker (and less messy) than cleaning them by hand. To save you even more time, we’ve broken down the best parts washers on the market.
With a fairly large bin, this resilient parts cleaner can hold 3.5 gallons of water. It’s ideal for small parts on your vehicle, with a steady, high-pressure flow of water.
- Ideal for routine maintenance (as opposed to everyday use)
- Browd opening in the basin offers substantial space to clean more sizable vehicle parts
- You cannot use the washer with solvents that have a petrol base
- Some of the supporting hardware is vulnerable to rust and must be lubricated frequently
Compact and easy to move around the workspace, this washer can hold up to 5 gallons of fluid. It offers a steady stream of water to force out debris.
- Includes a brush to make trickier areas on the parts you’re cleaning more accessible
- Useful for heavily caked on dirt or grease that’s clinging to the parts
- Built-in drain lets you clean it easily
- Controls can be challenging to use
- Takes a long time to drain
- If not properly maintained, it will clog and back up
Able to thoroughly clean the essential hardware to your vehicle’s function, this cleaner might be small (at just over 2.5 quarts) but it is powerful and reliable.
- Comes with multiple timing settings
- Includes a stainless steel tank
- Frequency of 110 volts to encourage a deep clean
- Comes with overheating safeguards
- It’s a fairly small washer and can only be used on hardware for the vehicle
- Loses efficiency over time due to wear and tear on electrical component
Benefits of a Parts Washer
- Saves time and money. Whether it’s a bike or a car, you probably use it a lot (and that means it takes on dirt and grime more frequently). Instead of handling downtime during repairs and shelling out cash to replace parts, you can just clean them as you go and vastly extend their lifespan.
- Improves vehicle performance. Eventually, grease, grime, dust in the air, and the accumulated impacts of air pollution stick to the parts in your ride. This particulate literally bogs down your vehicle. Cleaning it off makes things run smoother.
- Stops the buildup of more grime. As they say, misery loves company. In this case, misery is grease and grime. The dirtier your vehicle parts, the faster they will wear down and the more quickly they will take on damage.
- Reduces scrubbing. If you’ve ever tried cleaning auto grease by hand, you know that (sometimes) no amount of coarse orange shop cleaner is going to do the trick. A quality parts washer lets you perform a high-quality clean without moving the mess to your hands.
- Less effort in maintenance. Time is your most valuable resource. By using a parts washer in lieu of manual efforts, you don’t have to waste precious energy on dealing with that pesky mess on your bike gears.
- Best practices for upkeep. Sure, you can get away without doing it, but that’s just asking for issues down the road. Your car might not be Herbie but it probably won’t appreciate the extra grime. Proper maintenance habits keep your rides working for longer.
- Multiple cleaning approaches. Scream at the mess all you want — it’s not going to work like an ultrasonic cleaner. Parts washers incorporate several different ways of cleaning including heat, pressure, agitation, and sound. They offer a level of quality that is virtually impossible to match by hand.
Types of Parts Washers
Ultrasonic Parts Washers
This is a common cleaning approach for industrial parts and bike maintenance alike. You can find this feature in conjunction with other types, but also as a standalone. Basically, you put the parts in the basin. Hot water is channeled through along with a sonic pulse. Essentially, the vibration from the sound loosens the particulate on a very small scale. This works as a form of agitation and facilitates the hot water in washing it away.
Cabinet Parts Washers
Especially if you have to clean large items (or many at the same time) a cabinet parts washer is a good option. Per the namesake, it looks like a cabinet that opens to a large basin. This connects to a water pump that tackles the agitation. Used in conjunction with detergents and heat, when the cleaning is done, the fluid drains out and leaves behind clean parts. Some incorporate ultrasonic features or supplemental agitation, which can add a lot of value in terms of efficient cleaning.
Spray Parts Washers
A classic approach to cleaning, spray washers is a more small-scale approach to cleaning parts. These come with an open basin in which you place your small parts. Ideal for hardware, bike chains and gears, and other less substantial items, if it fits in the container, you can clean it. Connecting to a pressure hose, you can soak the contents in a detergent and spray the contents to remove debris.
Opening its doors in 1990, this brand manufactures a wide range of tools, including everything from gardening supplies to vehicle repair gear. Dedicated to offering high-quality gear for all types of situations, it has operations in every populated continent. Among its leading supplies for those looking to get a deep clean is the Buffalo Tools 20-Gallon Parts Washer Pump.
This massive corporation opened its doors in 1992 as a tech solutions brand. It’s a privately held business that operates internationally. With a hand in several markets, it focuses on hardware and internet technology. Auto enthusiasts have made the ARES Portable Parts Washer one of its leading products.
Parts Washer Pricing
- Under $50: Some of the smaller, more basic parts washers fall in this price category. It won’t be enough to handle industrial needs, but for bike maintenance and small-scale parts upkeep, you can find a suitable model here.
- Between $50 and $100: You can find quality parts washers of all types in this price range. If you’re doing your own vehicle upkeep but not using it for commercial uses, this is where to look.
- $100 and up: If you’re looking for a heavy-duty cleaner that can tackle both industrial and smaller-scale projects, this is your best bet. It might be more of an investment, but the extra cost is worth the added space and performance value.
The first feature to look at is the physical design of the parts washer. Yes, it will vary based on the type of parts washer you choose, but the physical form says a lot about its merit. Look at the basin. You can find the measurement in gallons or liters. It tells you how much you can fit in the container. Investigate the drainage methods and how to fill it up. Check that the connections are user-friendly. The easier it is to fill and drain, the more intuitively it will perform and the lower maintenance it will be overall.
Next, you’ll want to look into the pump (assuming the model incorporates one). If you’re using a pressure hose, check how strong the output is in pounds per square inch. Should the model rely on a standard pump, look to the wattage and voltage it requires. The higher the wattage, the more powerful it will be. Typically, models rely on 110-volt electrical connections. Your pump should have overheating safeguards to prevent it from incurring damage to the circuitry. If you’re replacing the pump on a parts washer, keep an eye out for compatibility. Check the basin size to get an idea of if the power will work for the model you’re working with.
Modern science lends a real edge when it comes to cleaning hardware and industrial parts. Read in hertz, the frequency it emits extremely small bubbles that ‘scrub’ away debris. It’s a good way to clean extremely caked-on messes. If the material causing the grime is hydrophobic (oil-based), the sonic feature can work in conjunction with detergent to remove the mess. Most heavy-duty models use a 40-kilohertz frequency, though smaller, more delicate parts can benefit from lower frequencies. Models that supply between 20 and 25 kilohertz are better for more sensitive gear.
Just like a clothes washing machine, cabinet models with a large basin will often incorporate agitation. You submerge the parts into the solution (a mix of detergent and water) and the machine takes care of the rest. By vibrating the basin, it forces particulates off of the gear and into the solution. This is not ideal for delicate parts that can break, though it is a powerful cleaning method for resilient pieces. In conjunction with hot water, it can quickly return your parts to their former glory.
- Thorough cleaning. Think about the essential tenets of cleaning, relevant everywhere from industrial settings to food labs. There are three features necessary: water, agitation, and detergent. To get a good clean, you need to be able to use a chemical solution to loosen grime on a molecular level. Agitation means physically moving the particulate off its surface and can come in the form of sonic pulses or pressure. You need to be able to use water on it, so the parts washer mustn’t be prone to cracks or leaks.
- Manual effort. Once you’ve assessed the basic necessities, you can think about how much effort you’ll have to put in. Does the cleaner take care of the whole process, or is some scrubbing required? Sure, some parts washing needs elbow grease, but the less energy you have to spend, the better.
- Detergent compatibility. Using the best soap for the job is a matter of more than efficiency, it’s about keeping your parts washer in good condition. Some models don’t work with petroleum-based cleaners, meaning you will have to stick to aqueous solutions. There are lots of detergents on the market, so it won’t be hard to find a quality selection.
- Cleaning your system. Everything from bike chains to batteries requires some form of upkeep. Your parts washer is no different. Though all require cleaning, some are less prone to damage than others. Look at the drain and the pump — the two parts most likely to give you hassle. Make sure the drain is broad enough to avoid clogs and that the pump is a tough model that won’t overheat easily.
Best Parts Washers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
The Torin Big Red Steel Cabinet Parts Washer with 110V Electric Pump is a 3.5-gallon capacity tank. It’s built to handle smaller more compact parts but is also great at cleaning larger ones as well. It includes a powerful electric pump that provides a consistent and strong flow of water to tackle the toughest of jobs. Everything sits inside of a wide and tall bright red container. It allows you to soak and clean multiple small parts at once or one larger piece. The hose and nozzle are made out of a tough and durable alloy steel. But best of all, since everything is packed into one box, it is all simple to carry around.
However, the parts washer isn’t able to be used with petroleum-based solvents. Another issue is that the hinge on the lid may not always latch correctly.
The ARES Portable Parts Washer is a compact tool designed to take with you on-the-go. Best of all, it is lightweight and easy to take from the garage to just about anywhere. It is built to function with any 5-gallon bucket and powerful enough to clean the toughest grime and gunk off anything. One of the best things about the parts washer is it includes a finely detailed bristle brush for removing caked-on debris. It also includes a unique channel drainage system that captures all of the filth. Another great thing about it is its price. It can also be easily stored away due to its size and shape.
However, it could do with a toggle switch or a foot switch for better performance. Also, the container isn’t the largest. Since it is a 5-gallon bucket, you are limited to how much you can clean before you have to drain it.
It can be surprising to see how much small hardware there is holding your vehicle together and ensuring its steady performance. These parts need cleaning too, which is where the iSonic Commercial Ultrasonic Cleaner comes into play. When you look at the nuts and bolts (and the other small hardware on your ride), it’s made out of metal that can rust, corrode, strip, and take on a lot of debris. A worthy part of routine maintenance, especially when you’re fixing the car, is to take these small pieces and clean them. You can place them in this 2.5-liter basket that uses hot water and an ultrasonic frequency to vibrate the debris away. Equipped with a cooling fan and safeguards against overheating, this 110-volt system has a durable stainless steel bin. It’s easy to use and provides a thorough deep clean.
One issue is that it has a plastic basket. Though it isn’t a deal breaker, it means you need to take a bit of extra care not to crack it. That said, the polymer is built to be thick and durable, so it should hold up well under stress.
The main part of any parts washer is its brush and hose, and the Oriflo Parts Washer Brush is a great fit for any washer. The tool is built for the professional and the home garage. It is designed to fit on 50- and 60-inch nozzles and features a bullet-shaped tip for maximum efficiency and speed. Part of what makes the brush such a great tool is its Trialoy polyester filament. The strong material makes it perfect at cleaning both petroleum- and water-based solvents and equipment. It also increases its stability, firing power, and reliability under pressure, as well as making it rust-resistant.
The one major downside of the brush is that the bristles are stiff. The hose is also on the shorter side, so you may have difficulty attaching it to the hose. There have been reports that it can slide or fall off while it is spraying.
When something breaks down, there are two kinds of people: ditch it and fix it. If you fall into the second category, then the Buffalo Tools 20-Gallon Parts Washer Pump is worth looking into. Useful in both commercial and home workshop settings, this pump is meant to replace any 20-gallon model on the market. Its universal design and compact structure prevent it from being too bulky to fit, regardless of your washer model. The casing is made out of an extremely durable polymer that’s well-ventilated to prevent overheating issues. All the electrical components are well insulated and it opens clearly to the pre-stripped wire for easy installation. At 4.25 by 3.5 inches, it’s both compact and powerful. Whether you’re building a parts washer or need a simple fix for your tired-out pump, this is a solid option.
It’s worth a note that, though you could probably fit this with a smaller tank, the power would be proportionately higher and it might not work as well. Stick to a 20-gallon tank if you want to avoid issues.
Getting your car back in fighting form is about cleaning more than just the parts you’re switching out — everything from the tires to the chassis needs attention. That’s what makes the Drillbrush Drill Brush Automotive Cleaner Kit such a good pick for your workshop. You know the difference between an electric toothbrush and a regular one? So does your car. This four-piece kit includes attachment brushes meant to safely scrub all parts of your vehicle. Made out of a scratch-proof material, it connects to any standard drill via a quarter-inch head. This lets you stay in control of the power applied. Excellent for those tricky-to-reach parts on the exterior, this is a quick way to really make your car shine. Ideal for a deep clean, it works on vinyl, paint, glass, upholstery, metal, and basically anywhere else you might need it.
Now, bear in mind that this is an exterior cleaner only. You don’t want to go sticking this under the hood and messing with those components — for that, you need an interior part’s cleaner. Together, they keep your vehicle sparkling.
- Look for a parts washer that can maintain a heat between 170 to 175 degrees. These washers will heat up faster, and that means less downtime spent waiting for your parts washer to become operational.
- Always make sure you read and understand the instruction manual before using a parts washer. Knowing how to safely operate your parts washer will minimize the risk of injury.
- Be sure to wear safety goggles. You don’t want to take the chance of accidentally getting solvent splashed into your eyes. And if you’re concerned about skin reactions, be sure to wear gloves as well.
- Drain the parts cleaner after every job to prevent clogging up the pipes. Even though the water is usually warm, small parts can cling to the drain and cause a backup.
- Only use compatible detergent to avoid safety and performance issues with your parts washer.
- Close the lid whenever the parts washer is not in use to prevent damage to the basin and keep debris out.
- Don’t overfill the parts washer. It’s better to run the cycle two times since overcrowding might prevent your parts from getting cleaned properly.
Q: What liquid goes in a parts washer?
Only two fluids go in your parts washer: water and cleaning solution. There are different types of solvents available — some petrol-based and others aqueous. It’s better to use a non-flammable, industrial-strength solvent in order to see the best results. Always dilute according to the instructions on the label.
Q: Which parts washer is best?
The best part washer depends on what you need to clean. You’ll need a much bigger piece to tackle a commercial workshop than you would to maintain your bike chain. A good place to start is with the Torin Big Red Steel Cabinet Parts Washer with 110V Electric Pump. It’s big enough to handle most jobs and comes at a fair price. Keep in mind, it does take up a fair bit of space.
Q: Is diesel a cleaning agent?
While diesel, technically, can be a cleaning solvent, it is also very flammable. If you are using a parts washer, stick with the proper cleaner for the task at hand. It helps keep you safer and will prevent unnecessary damage to your machine.
Q: I don’t need to use a parts washer all the time. What do I need to know?
Many parts washers can be dismantled, which means you can also easily store it away when it’s not in use. If you think that you’ll only use your washer occasionally, look for this functionality.
Q: I’m concerned about safety. What should I consider?
Parts washers often work by using flammable solvents. So, one of the most important things to look for in a parts washer is one that has a lid that closes automatically. An automatic closing lid is a safety measure that closes the lid on its own in the event that a fire is detected.
Q: Which solution should I use with my parts washer?
There are two main types of solutions that you can use with a parts washer. One of the most common options is a petroleum-based solvent. While this version does provide a thorough cleanse, there’s always the risk of danger because petroleum solvents are flammable and disposal can be hard, depending on local environmental laws.
If this risk concerns you, look for aqueous cleaners that are made from alkaline water-based solutions. Unlike petroleum solvents that instantly dissolve dirt and grime, aqueous cleaners break it down first. But the upside is that aqueous cleaners are non-hazardous, non-flammable, and can be disposed of easily.
Car and bike enthusiasts who find themselves constantly needing to clean various parts should focus on our Best Overall Pick, the Torin Big Red Steel Cabinet Parts Washer with 110V Electric Pump, because of its design, high-rate of flow, and brush. But if your budget or maintenance needs don’t require a standing parts washer or the need to wash larger items, our Best Value Pick, the ARES Portable Parts Washer, is a better option for you.