The Fastest Way to Clean Stainless Steel Welds

What is Weld Cleaning?

Weld cleaning is done to increase the corrosion resistance of metal surfaces after TIG and MIG welding.

Metal surfaces and welds are quite susceptible to different types of degradation – Rust and cross-contamination are just some of the examples.

Problems such as discoloration and heat tints often occur after certain welding techniques are applied.

Both sets of problems can be eliminated through proper cleaning and finishing.

Stainless Steel Surface Treatment

What Causes Corrosion?

Preparation of metal surfaces for welding leaves them exposed to different atmospheric elements like oxygen and humidity which creates perfect conditions for rusting.

This is why weld cleaning (and polishing) is crucial for preservation of strength, shape and other properties of steel structures. Increased durability and attractive appearance of metal surfaces are additional benefits of the cleaning process.

Types of Weld Cleaning

MECHANICAL WELD CLEANING

Mechanical weld cleaning includes use of grinding machines and abrasives to remove the upper layer from the metal surface where rust and other imperfections are formed. This process is time-consuming and rarely achieves clean results with necessary aesthetic value.

CHEMICAL WELD CLEANING

Pickling paste is the most commonly used chemical for weld cleaning. The process is fairly effective but is increasingly unpopular due to obvious shortcomings:

Health hazard – Pickling paste contains hydrofluoric, nitric and sulfur acids. All of them are highly dangerous for human body and can cause serious and long-term damage to the skin and internal organs.

Ease of use – Pickling paste can be used only by certified operators. In addition, the entire body has to be covered so no contact with the acid occurs. This adds a whole new level of complexity to your weld cleaning process.

Environmental impact – Immediate damage to the human organism is not the only negative side effect of using the pickling paste. Air pollution and waste materials pose a serious threat to the environment.

Read more about dangers of the pickling paste here.

ELECTROCHEMICAL WELD CLEANING

Electrochemical weld cleaning is faster and more effective than the other two methods. Also, it does not pose significant danger to human health.

This method is exceptionally effective with removal of cross-contamination, rust and other forms of impurity on metal surfaces.


Machines for safe and effective weld cleaning

Cougartron weld cleaners offer safer and quicker alternative. Right technology for every application, TIG, MIG and even aluminium.

Click here to see Weld Cleaning Machines


Electrolytic Weld Cleaning Process

Electrolytic cleaning process is extremely simple.

A mild electrolytic cleaning fluid is applied to the surface of the weld by using a conductive weld cleaning brush. Electric current (AC/DC) is employed so desired cleaning and passivation results are accomplished.

Here is a nice demonstration of the electrochemical cleaning process:

Benefits of Electrochemical Weld Cleaning

Here are the main benefits of weld cleaning with electrochemical machines:

Flexibility – Electrochemical cleaning systems are portable and you can easily use them on-site – you are not confined to a controlled area.

Safety – Electrolytic fluids only contain a mild phosphoric acid (also used in soft drinks) and can be used by both hobbyists and professionals.  Protective equipment (gloves excluded) is unnecessary in most cases.

Process speed – Electrochemical weld cleaning is extremely fast. Good machines will clean and passivate the surface at the same time – no unnecessary hassle and repetitions.

Optimal corrosion resistance – Our research suggests that electrochemical process provides the best corrosion resistance compared to other cleaning methods.

 

Stainless steel corrosion resistance

Electrochemical weld cleaning is especially effective with stainless steel welds.

Why is this important? – Stainless steel is widely used in all industry branches due to its appearance, durability, maintainability and high corrosion resistance.

Stainless steel is widely used in all industry branches


Better, faster and safer stainless steel cleaning

Breakthrough Technology for Cleaning, Polishing & Etching Stainless Welds & Surfaces. Cougartron ProPlus is the machine you need to clean MIG and TIG welds. The ProPlus even has enough power to clean aluminium.

Click to see ProPlus in Action


Is Stainless Steel Easy to Clean?

The material is exceptionally resistant to corrosion. Under normal conditions, it will easily maintain its appearance and integrity – kitchen sinks are an excellent example.

However, industrial environment is rather harsh so it is extremely hard to avoid rust – particularly in the area of the weld.

Majority of common defects appearing on stainless steel welds – rust, discoloration, heat tints, weld and burn marks – can be easily and successfully removed through basic electrolytic treatment.

 

Weld cleaning results

Electrolyte fluids can penetrate even the smallest cracks on the surface of metals and prevent further problems like pitting and corrosion build-up.

Electrochemical cleaning does not change the metal surface – it only returns it to its original (bright and shiny) condition.

Maintaining attractive appearance of stainless steel is an important aspect of electrochemical weld cleaning.

So, is stainless steel easy to clean? – The answer is yes.

However, appropriate equipment (machines, accessories and consumables) have to be used.


Compact Weld Cleaner

The Cougartron Plus incorporates ProPlus innovative electronics into a lower-powered machine for smaller production environments.

Click here to see Cougartron Plus


Our Recommendations for Stainless Steel Weld Cleaning

Cougartron’s proprietary weld cleaning systems have been developed to answer the rising demand for fast and safe stainless steel cleaning solutions.

Weld cleaning machines for stainless steel

Weld cleaning machines from Cougartron are compact and lightweight but strong enough to remove all imperfections on stainless steel after welding.

Cougartron ProPlus
Cougartron ProPlus

ProPlus is a superior solution for cleaning MIG and TIG stainless steel welds. The system weighs only 33.07 lbs and can be used off- and on-site. Use Cougartron ProPlus to clean up to 197ft of welds per hour.

Cougartron Plus
Cougartron Plus

Cougartron Plus is lighter and less-powered than ProPlus but still highly effective on stainless steel TIG welds.
The machine is ideal for on-site use and smaller production environments.

InoxMuscle
Cougartron InoxMuscle

InoxMuscle has the highest power-to-weight ratio in the market.
The machine weighs only 18.52 lbs but does wonders with weld cleaning and electro-polishing. This is a flexible and mobile solution for stainless steel TIG welds.

Weld cleaning fluids – electrolytes

Electrolytes are liquid chemical compounds used to protect the steel surface against formation of oxidized stains and rust. Here are some of our major liquid solutions for stainless steel:

CGT 550 weld cleaning polishing fluid
Cougartron CGT-550 Weld cleaning and polishing fluid

When used with Cougartron weld cleaners, CGT-550 achieves impeccable results on stainless steel welds. The liquid can be used for weld cleaning, passivation and polishing.

cgt 550g weld cleaning polishing fluid gel
Cougartron CGT-550G Weld cleaning gel

CGT-550G is a gel version of Cougartron CGT-550. The gel is best used on steep surfaces – pipes and tubes.

cgt n1 neutralising fluid
Cougartron CGT-N1 neutralizing fluid

Neutralizing fluids are applied after weld cleaning to ensure that no acid residues are left on the weld surface. CGT-N1 is especially effective with white acid marks.

See more: Weld cleaning fluids | Weld cleaning fluid accessories

Weld cleaning brushes

Importance of using quality brushes when weld cleaning cannot be emphasized enough. Hair thickness and fiber structure are just some of the elements to consider. We offer different brush types for different applications – below you can see some of the models:

Cougartron Powerbrush

Powerbrush has a particularly strong fiber structure which is ideal for the most demanding weld cleaning operations. The brush is also highly durable and resistant to heat – it will last longer and do more!

thunderbrush 1
Cougartron Thunderbrush 1

Thunderbrush is small but has an incredibly dense fiber structure ideal for cleaning small unreachable areas and fillet welds.

pipebrush pro
Pipebrush PRO weld cleaning brush

It is quite challenging to clean interior welds on tubes and pipes – if you are not using the Pipebrush PRO. This brush was designed to thoroughly clean hard-to-reach surfaces and welds within stainless steel pipes.

See more: Weld cleaning brushes | Weld cleaning brush accessories

Summary

Weld cleaning is a key post-welding process used to prevent corrosion on metal surfaces.

Three weld cleaning methods are distinguished:

  • Mechanical (grinding with abrasives)
  • Chemical (pickling paste treatment)
  • Electrochemical (Cleaning with electrolytic fluids)

Mechanical process is fairly ineffective and time-consuming. Pickling is more effective but poses a dangerous threat to human health.

Electrochemical cleaning is a safe and fast alternative to these methods. It also provides better protection against corrosion and rust.

The method is particularly effective when applied to stainless steel welds. Rust and other impurities are quickly removed and/or prevented.

However, this cannot be achieved without proper equipment.

Cougartron has developed a line of compact and strong weld cleaners designed to provide unrivaled cleaning performance and optimal results on stainless steel welds.

cougartron weld cleaning

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Weld Cleaning Q&A

How often do I need to dip the brush?

When you start to see excessive arcing at the tip of the brush, it’s time to dip again. When there is not enough fluid in the brush, weld-cleaning performance will be reduced, and the brush will start to burn away.

How do I know that the surface is clean and passivated?

It is a manual process and a visible decision. It is important to understand that the machine does not easily remove slag or oxides but the passivation will still be complete.

Read More Answers

Weld Cleaners

Weld Cleaning Accessories

Weld Cleaning Fluids