Tips and advice for cleaning base materials before welding

All welders are keenly aware of the fact that errors can arise at virtually any point during the welding process, and this awareness often comes from firsthand experience. Some errors can be difficult to attribute to a single cause, while other mistakes simply require further practice time with the relevant technique. However, welders of all skill levels can reduce the likelihood of a faulty weld by a significant margin through the proper preparation of their base materials. 

The key to preparing a base material for welding is cleanliness: impurities on the surface of the material will significantly impair the weld’s effectiveness. Contamination on a weld’s surface leads to porosity, a term used by welders to describe bubbles of trapped gas within a finished weld. The presence of these bubbles weakens the mechanical properties of the weld and consequently triggers the need for rework. Some welding processes, most notably including metal inert gas (MIG) welding, do not require pristinely clean surfaces, but uncleaned materials will still produce poor welds, even with these more forgiving methods. Other techniques, like tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, will be rendered completely ineffective without a completely contaminant-free base metal. Regardless, there are no situations in which a thoroughly prepared metal won’t improve the quality of the weld, so it’s indisputably worth your time to buckle down and study the appropriate tools and techniques. 

Aquasol Corporation’s EZ Wipes are an essential product in modern weld preparation. In the past, welders generally relied upon the traditional combination of a standard cleaning solution and a regular rag, but this process proved to be time-consuming and inconvenient. The two-sided and pre-saturated cleaning fabric of Aquasol’s EZ Wipes expedite the cleaning process by providing welders with complete cleaning experience in a single wipe. One side of the wipe is abrasive and loosens any dried-on surface contaminants like oil or grease; the other side is smooth and removes any lingering impurities that may be hidden. 

Using EZ Wipes saves substantial time and money on the metal preparation process. The user begins by aggressively rubbing the material’s surface with the abrasive side of a wipe until it appears clean to the eye. After a quick re-wipe with the smooth side to eradicate any remaining contaminants, the preparation is completed! This technique will work on virtually all metals, making it an ideal solution for cleaning sensitive metals like titanium and stainless steel prior to TIG welding. 

While these wipes offer the user greater safety than mechanical cleaning methods, there are still important safety precautions that must be taken while using this product. EZ Wipes are flammable, so it is key that the wipes avoid contact with heat, sparks, electric arcs, open flames, and sources of ignition. For the same reason, the product should never be kept in temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). The flammability of the item is of little concern to other prevalent chemical cleaners. The highly flammable acetone, a common industrial solvent used for weld preparation, can explode at room temperature, and even small amounts of acetone residue or vapor are dangerous if they aren’t properly disposed of. The ignition of acetone also releases poisonous chemicals like carbon monoxide into the air, further amplifying the chance of an entirely avoidable disaster. The time and money spent on implementing the vital safety processes for acetone use dwarf the actual positive qualities of the solvent. EZ Wipes offer the user equivalent cleaning efficiency without costing a fraction of the expenses and risk.

Of course, there are other alternative methods for metal preparation. Many welders opt for mechanical cleaning, which involves tools like power brushes and others. However, the excessive speed of these devices often causes the brush tips to skip over small areas of the surface, which allows hidden contaminants to remain. Ironically, the lack of thoroughness with these high-speed devices often leads to the operator spending a longer time on the cleaning process. Furthermore, mechanical cleaning processes pose a risk of removing too much of the base material or creating deep scratches. These problems will absolutely impair the welding process, which defeats the point of preparing the material in the first place. These pieces of machinery fail to provide enough value to be worth the investment relative to EZ Wipes.

One of the few absolute rules of welding dictates that a base material should be completely cleaned before the beginning of the weld: otherwise, the weld will fail.  Luckily, advances in cleaning technology have all but eliminated issues with metal preparation. In particular, Aquasol Corporation’s EZ Wipes lead the way in the cleaning consumables market by offering the advantages of both abrasive tools and chemical cleaning in a cost-efficient wipe. Due to the importance of perfectly clean metals to processes like TIG welding, there is no reason for any modern welding shop to not stock Aquasol’s EZ Wipes for every job.