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Atomizer Cleaned ! Simple Cheap Effective Method.

Discussion in 'Experiments With Equipment' started by exogenesis, Mar 27, 2009.

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  1. exogenesis

    exogenesis Super Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 1, 2009
    Simple Effective Atomizer Cleaning

    The carbon build-up from burnt e-liquid (& flavours & other additives eventually cause a strong bad 'burnt' taste when vaping.

    So I far have tried various treatments:
    hot water, detergent, alcohol, powerful sonicating bath, coca-cola (weak acid),
    concentrated acid, concentrated hot caustic ... and some combinations.

    None will remove all of the built up carbonised e-liquid/flavour/colourings on the coil & wick,
    Some give a short-lived 'freshen' to the taste, but it quickly comes back (e.g. Coke),
    some clean/dissolve the deposit better, but have other problems like leaving residues in the metal mesh (e.g. caustic).

    Here's an easy, cheap, safe & practical cleaning method that actually works:

    Get some 30 vol (9%) hydrogen peroxide (see note 1)
    e.g. from Boots the Chemists (UK) - over the pharmacy counter, 90p for 200 ml.

    1 Blow the excess e-liquid out of the atomizer, rinse in hot water & blow out excess water.
    2 Run the atomizer to dryness & then red heat (see note 2)
    3 Keep it running & drip some hydrogen peroxide as close to the coil/wick as possible, one drop at a time,
    use a plastic pippete of glass dropper maybe, let it fizz between drops (it decomposes to just water).
    4 When you've done this say 10 times, drip quicker to flush it a bit & turn off the power.
    6 Wash in hot water, blow excess out.
    (7 if you've got a hand held steamer with nozzle, it might be worth using it here to give a final clean)
    8 drain and/or dry out a bit (see note 3).

    Use it again.

    Note 1 : used as a skin disinfectant & mouth wash. so no real danger here.
    Still it's best not to get hot peroxide on your skin, you might get a white patch.

    Note 2 : problem here for automatic batteries, how to activate withou t sucking on it yourself (!),
    I guess use some sort of suction device (hoover, or maybe a rubber sqeezie-bulb as sold in aquarium shops).
    With manual batteries or some external power supply (see note 4) this is a lot easier.
    Actually this step may not be necessary at all.

    Note 3 : don't dry the wick out too much, or it won't soak up e-liquid very well for a while.

    Note 4: In the below demonstration I used a switchable voltage supply with 3V, 4.5V (and others),
    1.2 amp current-limited, bought from Argos for £10, the jack plug happens to touch the atomizer battery contact-end quite nicely.

    Visual demonstration of cleaning an extreme case, click on any picture to enlarge it:

    Test liquid was a worst case mixture : 4ml 36 mg liquid + 1ml Loranne Coffee (thick opaque black) + 1 ml Loranne Peppermint oil.

    Brand new dissected atomizer, you can see the shiny 'primer' on it:

    After vaping a millilitre of so (I wasn't inhaling this btw, but the room smelt very nice),
    extreme carbon build up !

    Burn off by heating the coil (this was with 4.5V, the e-cig battery probably wont get it so hot)

    After burn-off:

    hydrogen peroxide boiling on the coil:

    Not too bad a result, thee coil is clean, & the wick is clean under the coil.
    The ends of the wick are still a bit dirty, but I don't think this matters too much
    (it might in the long run, if it stops it actually 'wicking' eventually)

    This is an extreme example, and of course prevention is better than cure, so doing this as frequently as possible
    would keep the build up to a minimum (say at least once a week?).

    The hydrogen peroxide leaves no residue and also seem to clean & de-colourise the metal wick parts nicely.

    Any other tests I should perform?

    Here's a quick vid to show it happening for real on an intact atomizer:
    YouTube - e-Cigarette Atomizer In-Place Clean Using H2O2
    (There's some extra details in the 'details' section for this vid on YouTube proper)
  2. misantroll

    misantroll Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Feb 28, 2009
    Lausanne, Switzerland
  3. Sun Vaporer

    Sun Vaporer Moved On ECF Veteran

    Jan 2, 2009
    Exogenesis --I will give it a go and report---Looks good!!!---Sun
  4. exogenesis

    exogenesis Super Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 1, 2009
    Well, if you can only get 75 of your 150 atomizers usable again, it'll be a win :)
  5. RjG

    RjG Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Oct 16, 2008
    Edmonton AB Canada
    Really nice shots there Exo :)

    Have you tried that with just using water instead of peroxide? I wonder if it would do the same job. From those great pictures you can see the heat obliterated most of the stuff, all that's left is a bit of cleanup :)

    It might be the liquid boiling that's giving you the rest of the cleaning action, not necessarily the properties of the peroxide.

    If you could try that, that would be cool. 9% peroxide is quite a bit harder to find than the regular 3% on the shelf

    great job though :)
  6. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    The H2O2 was always a strong possibility because it reacts with organics. Happy to hear you persevered in testing this Exogenesis (I knew you would). I didn't know one can get 9% peroxide so easily. And the heat is an important factor. I could even get vinegar to achieve results by doing so with the atomiser running.

    This is looking positive.

    As I said before, a two step process with H2O2 first makes best sense. First oxidise, then use an acid to remove the oxides (if any still there); and other mnerals, carbonates etc.

    Good work. I think your worked-out protocol using H2O2, followed by a stronger phosphoric acid bath, as Sun will get tomorrow, should deal with most caes of deposits.
  7. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    One note of caution though, after reading more carefully. You say worst case juice, but this is far from worse case scenario - the deposit was formed perhaps same day from new ? The deposits that are proving difficult to remove are those that have been heated over and over for weeks.

    I really hope this still works, but there is a possibility that it might not.
  8. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Exogenesis - a guy (i assume) called Jimbob had a nice idea for an atomiser cleaning gadget - plug in atomiser, fill tank, switch on (usb perhaps?). And the fluid is cycled with a small motor. Put this idea with the right solution and it is a big step forward :)
  9. surbitonPete

    surbitonPete Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Jan 25, 2009
    North Yorkshire UK
    I had tried 'boiling' in some hydrogen peroxide but it made no difference...I shall have to give the heating the coil up idea a try ..hydrogen peroxide had always been my favourite idea to work so I was surprised it failed.....but I am now very hopeful for sun's idea of the much stronger Phosphoric acid bath...the perfect cleaner would be one we can just simply leave the atomizers in soak for a while and rinse out.
  10. Okiki

    Okiki Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Feb 10, 2009
    NW Ohio, SE Michigan
    As you said I think the ultimate application of cleaning the atomizer would be something we could soak the atomizer in, Say overnight while your battery is charging and you are sleeping.
  11. exogenesis

    exogenesis Super Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 1, 2009
    I'll try it again with just water, then again with vinegar (acetic acid), then lemon juice (citric acid).
    But tbh I think the extra ooomph of H2O2 could well be the key.
    Also from previous experiments I think any hot acid is going to start dissolving the thin metal wire,
    particularly where the coil meets the blobs.
    Unfortunately (or maybe not) this Boots formulation contains a very small amount of phosphoric acid
    (to keep the H2O2 from dissipating I think).

    edit :Although the red-heat burnt off most of the crud, I don't think it leaves
    'just a little cleaning', the crud is deep in the wick & I would hazard that the coil
    will taste worse if you just do the heating step - in fact I don't think that step
    is really necessary at all.

    The 9% H2O2 skin disinfectant was what Boots had, didn't see any 3%
    (I think you can get that as a surface cleaner elsewhere?)

    The H2O2 is a powerful oxidizer and safe bleacher, rather than an acid, which I think is the key.

    With the concentrated acids(/caustic), I possibly now expect these to the leave a deposit
    in the fine voids in the metal mesh, which simply can't be washed out properly.

    Be interested in the results from 85% phosphoric acid tests though, possibly the coil will clean,
    but the metal mesh might block up (I'd advise washing with distilled water rather than tap,
    until you're sure all the acid is gone, due to flock/precipitate that might form in the wire mesh).

    You're right about possibility of my example not bwing the worst case (although it was a pretty tough test).
    I have it in mind to cake the testing coil/wick up over a longer time with a cleaner e-liquid, possibly
    just 36mg unflavoured, and maybe then a further test with just VG.

    An automated effective 'gadget' would be fantastic, I'd buy some.

    I tried the same thing - immersion boiling in a volume of H2O2, with the heat applied externally,
    on the same test coil as above, it was not effective.
    I think the key here is to repeatedly super-heat small amounts of H2O2 on/in the coil/wick as outlined above.

    I think it's quite possible that there's no 'something' that will do the job as a simple soak,
    at least not one that leaves the atomizer intact.
    I was going to try hydroflouric acid at one point, but thought better of it.

    So some further tests to do then....
  12. Frody

    Frody Full Member

    Mar 21, 2009
    Some germans are using "effective microoganisms" (em). They just soak the atomizer 24h in em and most of them got very good results. But be aware, the em's could "eat" the paint or silicone stuff!

    Here's a picture after the cleaning (sorry can't post url's, so don't forget the dot after "www"):
  13. ZambucaLu

    ZambucaLu ECF Guru ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Nov 23, 2008
    Central NY, USA
    Of course I couldn't actually read this thread since it's foreign but it hasn't been active since 9/08. Is there something more current on this? Or something to say how it's going?

  14. Frody

    Frody Full Member

    Mar 21, 2009
    I posted the link just for the images to see how good it works.

    What is EM and how it works?

    EM is no chemical. Some use it to clean their floor or use it as a roomspray (eliminates bad smell) or drink it.

    If someone has any questions, feel fee to ask.
  15. ZambucaLu

    ZambucaLu ECF Guru ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Nov 23, 2008
    Central NY, USA
    Have you tried it yourself yet Frody? If so, how did it go?

  16. exogenesis

    exogenesis Super Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 1, 2009
    That's definitely interesting, had a look & that microorganism mixed culture
    seem to be able to do a lot of things.

    If the microbes 'eat' the deposits on the atomizer coil over a period of days,
    that'd be an extremely good start, but then you've got to get the microbe culture
    completely washed out again, not sure how easy that'd be ?

    I'm a microbiologist by university degree & worked for 13 years in the labs,
    so it's doubly interesting to me, thanks for the link :)
    (might even get some 'EM')
  17. Frody

    Frody Full Member

    Mar 21, 2009
    Yes, I tried it on two old pen atomizer, which were left lying around for approx. 6 months. They worked much better after the use of EM but far not as good as a new one (no surprise after 6 months drying). Unfortunately I can't see the wick of the (pen) atomizer to see the results..
    Next time I'll use a MiniFogger atomizer. There I can see the wick! I'll try to make some photos..

    In the german forum they use wodka or ethanol for the washing. I think that will do the job.
    Otherwise I see no need for that. As mentioned before some people are drinking EMa (some drops per glass) or use it in the household. I think the EM's are the good guys.. ;)
  18. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    I think the limitation with claning is going to be inside the fibres inside the coil. Neither H2O2 or any acid can dissolve all the deposit, some solids will be left. These may break off and flush out after the gunk is weakened by having some of it dissolved but some deep in the coil fibres may be stuck there more or less permanently. *

    Neverthless, to hazard a guess, if cleaning is done early and often, it might be possible to extend atomiser life to months rather than weeks.

    * Exogenesis - if you were to vape for a few minutes and take one more picture of the coil after that (i.e., after the last photo in your current series) you might well find the coil has become shiny and the remaining black stuff at the edges gone.
  19. Di

    Di ECF Guru ECF Veteran

    Oct 30, 2008
    from the german forum ----

    Unglaublich aber wahr.
    Nochmal 24 h in neuem EM super strong Reinigungsflüssigkeit

    I think this says soaked 24 hours in EM superstrong -------

    but the pix are incredible.....
    we need someone to get this - EM stuff, and try it....

    Di ......
  20. ZambucaLu

    ZambucaLu ECF Guru ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Nov 23, 2008
    Central NY, USA
    Hey thanks for the pix Di. I'm waiting for someone to try it too!

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