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The importance of perfect cleaning cannot be over emphasised as the quality of preparation will directly affect the adhesion of the deposited metal to the substrate. Of the different process types used in cleaning, there is no more important function to that of soil, grease and oil removal, often left behind after processing and handling.

A simple way to test whether a part is clean is to spray cool water from an atomising spray onto the part. A clean part will have a uniform film of water on the surface, with no water breaks. An unclean or improperly cleaned part will show collections of water (or even globules) where there are still oils or greases present on the surface. Whilst this test is not always necessary after process as experience will help with all aspects of metal finishing and preparation, it is a nice test to show the differences between clean and not clean.

Problems with electroplating are often attributed to poor cleaning and surface preparation, so it’s essential to get it right!

Preliminary cleaning or degreasing involves the removal of heavy oils, soils and greases and is necessary before a component can be pickled or bright dipped for the removal of oxide and scale.

This cleaning type is of utmost importance and can be carried out by using different methods by the home plater –

Industrial electroplaters will often use a combination of cleaning types to ensure that the base material is as clean as possible. If possible or practical the home plater should also use more than one way to clean and avoid handling at all times with bare skin or dirty gloves!

Pickling is a method of surface preparation generally used to remove rusts, oxides and scales prior to electroplating in an acidic solution (but can occasionally be alkaline). Whilst degreasing by various means will remove shop soils which will stop electro-deposition, the process will – in most cases, not these oxides and scales.

Pickling, used in various forms is a method of preparing the metal for treatment by ensuring the surface is a “pure” as possible, free from soils and ready for electroplating.

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