Cleaning Aluminum Cylinder Heads with Soda Blasting

Hi Everybody! Welcome to my blog about soda blasting, the environmentally friendly cleaning method that uses a form of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in place of other non-environmentally friendly, and health hazardous blasting medias like sand.

In my earlier postings, I explained what soda blasting is, what makes soda blasting such a unique cleaning process, some basic information on air compressors, on soda blasting equipment, on stripping paint, and auto restoration. Once you understand how soda blasting works, it is much easier to appreciate why it is such an effective, safe, and eco-friendly cleaning method for many different types of jobs.

In my last blog posting, I talked about one of the best eco-friendly cleaning uses for a soda blaster: mold remediation and fire damage restoration.

Today, I am going to discuss cleaning automotive cylinder heads; one of the most popular uses for a soda blasting cabinet system.

As motor vehicles have evolved over the years, more and more manufacturers use lighter materials, such as aluminum, for various engine parts. As a result, a lot of engine rebuilders have used less aggressive medias, particularly glass beads, to clean engine parts such as aluminum cylinder heads.

While glass beads do a good job of cleaning, there is a major downside to using them: media retention. The glass beads breakdown as they hit the surface. As a result, fine pieces of glass can become trapped in areas such as threads, oil passages, intake runners, and exhaust ports. Sometimes it is very difficult, if not impossible, to insure that the head has no particles trapped in it after blasting with glass beads. Of course these fine glass particles can cause havoc, and potentially ruin an expensive motor.

Soda blasting cleans aluminum cylinder heads, and other engine parts, just as well as glass beads, but without any chance of harmful media retention. When the soda blast media hits the surface, it also shatters and breaks down into a fine dust, like talcum powder. The big difference is that soda blast media is 100% water soluble, and will simply dissolve and wash away with water. This eliminates the potential for any media retention.

Soda blasting does not remove any material or micro peen the aluminum surfaces, so it does not change any surface/flow characteristics in combustion chambers or intake/exhaust ports. It also does not change any dimensional characteristics of the part being soda blasted. It is the best blasting method available for this type of work.

In addition to cleaning cylinder heads, soda blasting is also commonly used for cleaning carburetors, pistons, connecting rods, and other engine components. Various types of aluminum casings and housings, such as those found on some motorcycles, are perfect parts to clean by soda blasting.

There are a number of other popular applications for a soda blasting cabinet. Cleaning various types of pumps and electric motors are very popular uses for a soda blasting cabinet. Soda blasting does not harm bearings, seals, or windings, so many different kinds of parts can be effectively cleaned in a soda blasting cabinet without harm.

A new and growing application is soda blasting parts and prototypes made with 3D printers, to give a consistent finish to the parts without changing dimensional characteristics. I even know of a few people cleaning dinosaur bones with soda blasting!

ACE Automotive Cleaning Equipment makes a good, high quality, reasonably priced soda blasting cabinet called the ACE Model 2-S Soda Blast Cabinet with Dust Collector. There is a video that shows them cleaning an aluminum cylinder head that had been sitting out in a junk yard for a couple years. They didn’t even remove the cam or valves or even pre-clean it. Literally picked it up off the ground and started soda blasting it…..amazing results. You have to see it.

I hope this helps you. In coming posts, I’ll discuss various soda blasting applications in more detail, along with tips and ideas to help you with your cleaning project or business. Thanks for reading!

The Sodablasting Guy