Recommendations for cleaning nicotine

Discussion in '"Boat Anchor" & Classic Equipment' started by VE2GCE, May 8, 2019.

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  1. VE2GCE

    VE2GCE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks guys for all the great suggestions. I will do a second pass at cleaning the case.

    Smell is not an issue here, I guess the heat of the amp boiled off the odor.
    I normally avoid smoker owned equipment, but I make exceptions for Collins radios :)

    I should not complain too much about the nicotine, I used the smoking angle to negotiate a good deal on the unit.
    It is wired for 240 volts and I only powered it up 120 volts to be safe for initial testing.
    HV reads 900 volts (1/2 of the normal value as expected) and three of the four 572B tubes light up.
    Hopefully, just a nicotine clean up and tube replacement is needed. Caps looks like they were replaced at one point.
    K9ASE likes this.
  2. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Nicotine/tar is an excellent preservative for old radios!

    I prefer Krud Kutter well diluted in warm water. Available at Lowes and Ace Hardware. Chip brush, sponge and toothbrush are gentle scrubbers. Rinse well with water.

    Others have often recommended Windex with a little added household ammonia.
  3. KE0ZU

    KE0ZU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've used Plain ole Ammonia for years, straight out of the bottle, liberally dampening paper towel. It will remove most ANY organic curd with literally, one swipe. Make sure you're "up wind" of it though. Done well, there will be NO smell when you're done.


    As HCP pointed out, Nicotine is an excellent preservative. Both these Hammarlunds were VERY brown when I got, but after cleaning they were beautiful.


    I've also used a pressure washer with great success, and nearly immediate results. Using the typical "Pressure Washer" soap, and a presoak of a couple minutes, hese took less than 5 minutes to clean.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    As others have already said, the Key to success with these "techniques" is to be sure you rinse well with distilled water, and making sure the unit is thoroughly dry before applying power. In the summer time I leave units in the Sun for a few days, failing that, I use a few heat lamps around the clock, for a couple days.
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
    AI3V, KA0HCP, N0TZU and 2 others like this.
  4. VE2GCE

    VE2GCE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Beautiful job Mike
  5. WD0GOF

    WD0GOF Ham Member QRZ Page

  6. W2WDX

    W2WDX Subscriber QRZ Page

    Cleaners that use sodium hydroxide (such as Super Clean, Formula 409, etc) react strongly with aluminum. Any aluminum parts must be totally rinsed with cold water after application; otherwise oxides (white powdery coating) will form over time or even destruction of the part will occur. Glass and clear plastic can also be instantly frosted by sodium hydroxide, and once that damage occurs it is irreversible; particularly with clear plastic. Sodium hydroxide will also soften painted surfaces or remove silk-screened lettering. Dilution of these cleaners does not help with this, and the dilution also inhibits any cleaning action they may have.

    It is not recommended to use such cleaners on assembled radio gear. The mating surfaces are impossible to rinse, any damage will occur where the sodium hydroxide has not been thoroughly removed. Some aluminum parts can actually fuse together in extreme examples.

    Basically, the best cleaner for nicotine and general dirt on assemblies I have found is simple Windex or any basic ammonia solution.

    When I restore I totally disassemble the radio, and for aluminum parts I use a commercial aluminum de-oxidizer used for prepping aluminum aircraft fuselages for painting. For general cleaning of other items I use Windex exclusively.

    You can always look up the chemicals in any given cleaner by searching for the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) online. This informs you if chemicals like Sodium Hydroxide are present and in what concentration.
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
  7. N4MTB

    N4MTB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ammonia works great and a good rinse with a hose. I read here on the Zed about putting a cleaned, wet chassis in a low (150 F) oven for a few hours to dry it off. It is a Navy reclamation
  8. KF5LJW

    KF5LJW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Another option is 100% alcohol. Available at any box store that sells paint supplies. Sometimes referred to as Camping Fuel, Regent Grade, or Denatured Alcohol. Electronic manufactures use it to clean circuit boards after flow soldering. Not Everclear which is 5% water.
  9. W8AAZ

    W8AAZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have used just Windex and a toothbrush on chassis before. And then wipe off with paper towels. Will also clean faceplates pretty well of residue too. Windex seems OK for all but the most delicate painted markings. I can see using stronger chemicals for spot cleaning or removed components, but broadcasting powerful detergents or solvents to save time and effort also increases the possibility of damages. Sometimes it is a matter of time. A strong cleaner that works well might be bad news if left on too long or not fully rinsed off. It is practical to even immerse alot of electronics equipment if you have the ability to rinse it clean, have compressed air to blast out most of the moisture, and have the capability to dry it with heat that is sufficient to evaporate water but not hot enough to damage components, and for long enough duration to dry out trapped moisture inside stuff. One thing you should be careful of is potentiometers and getting solvents or detergents in those. A 24 hour dry with moving air that is heated to say, between 100- 120 F. should dry out gear but not hot enough to damage stuff that is not powered up. Frankly, in some places you could set it on the dash of your car with the windows up on a hot summer day!
  10. KF5LJW

    KF5LJW Ham Member QRZ Page

    That would be Ammonia right?

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