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How Do You Deal With Ammonia?

ammonia smell

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15 replies to this topic

#1 Venemo

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 19:17

I've read a lot of topics here and noticed that the first suggestion for many problems on this forum is: "Have you tried soaking in ammonia?"

So I decided to get some ammonia to see the magic for myself. Apparently the regular grocery stores don't sell it around here anymore, so it took some time to find some in a chemical shop. I was given the choice of 18% (technical) and 25% (analytical). I chose the 18% one. However, the first thing I noticed when opening the bottle is that it reeks! The smell reminds me of freshly cleaned swimming pools and the toilets in big supermarkets.

 

Even when diluted to a fraction of its original content, it still has a noticable smell. Is this normal?

 

How long should I soak a pen in ammonia anyway? Say, a Parker 51 which is skipping? I would think that only the nib and feed assembly would need to be soaked, and maybe the inside of the filler, but carefully.

 

What is your experience with this?

 

EDIT: Also, what pens are safe to flush with an ammonia solution? Would it damage the celluloid of an Esterbrook or a Parker Vacumatic? And is it safe to use on a metal cap?


Edited by Venemo, 17 January 2018 - 19:22.


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#2 Ron Z

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 19:39

All of the pen flushes sold contain ammonia and some amount of detergent.  he commercial pen flush may use distilled water, but water makes up the largest part of the solution.  When made at home, most usually about 10% ammonia and a small amount of Dawn dish detergent diluted in water.  T  Yes, it will smell.  OSHA says that household ammonia is 5-10%  ammonia, so you would want to make your solution with maybe double the water that we usually use.

 

You need to soak the front end up to the clutch ring to be effective.  The end of the collector and feed go that far, and the breather tube goes almost the length of the sac under the sac guard.  Not only do you need to clear the collector and feed, but also the breather tube, or the pen won't fill right.  I use it on most pens that I clean, but I don't soak. Instead I use an  ultrasonic cleaner which is much more effective, and reduces the amount of time that the pen is exposed to the solution.

 

I disagree with those who say that water is sufficient.  Not for a really gunked up pen with a lot of dried ink in it.  A couple of decades of repairing pens tells me that you need something else for for the ultrasonic to work with to remove the ink. 


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#3 Inkling13

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 20:39

And the reason supermarkets smell like ammonia... is because it is. Not because it's been recently cleaned, but rather the lack of. The urea in our urine is broken down by bacteria, and becomes ammonia. 



#4 LukeSkyliner

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 04:06

Amazing some of the things I learn on this board!



#5 wastelanded

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 09:12

I usually use a tablespoon of ammonia in an Old-Fashioned glass of water. Rather I did, as household ammonia seems utterly impossible to find anywhere in Canada now. I used to pick it up at Walmart, or even No Frills, but now it's nowhere to be found.

 

I know it's been said a million times, but never use, or even store, ammonia anywhere near chlorine bleach. These two get together and produce chlorine gas, which has a high probability of killing you. It turned my grandfather's hair white at Ypres in 1915.


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#6 Venemo

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 10:56

Would the ammonia damage the celluloid of an Esterbrook or a Parker Vacumatic?



#7 Chrissy

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 11:33

Would the ammonia damage the celluloid of an Esterbrook or a Parker Vacumatic?

 

Yes it might if you soaked it for any length of time. Celluloid doesn't even like being soaked in water. At the correct dilution, and for a short period of time, you should be OK with soaking the section.



#8 Venemo

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 11:49

 

Yes it might if you soaked it for any length of time. Celluloid doesn't even like being soaked in water. At the correct dilution, and for a short period of time, you should be OK with soaking the section.

 

And is it okay to clean the insides of the said pens with ammonia?

I guess the Esterbrook would be OK, as the ammonia would only contact the sac. But AFAIU the Vacumatic filler draws ink into the barrel, so cleaning the inside with ammonia would result in the ammonia contacting the celluloid directly.



#9 Chrissy

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 11:51

 

And is it okay to clean the insides of the said pens with ammonia?

I guess the Esterbrook would be OK, as the ammonia would only contact the sac. But AFAIU the Vacumatic filler draws ink into the barrel, so cleaning the inside with ammonia would result in the ammonia contacting the celluloid directly.

 

Yes you're correct. I wouldn't leave it for long in the Vacumatic.



#10 Venemo

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 12:37

Awesome, thanks everyone for your advice and thoughts! :)



#11 Pentode

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 18:19

Bear in mind that Vacumatics are more difficult to flush than a lot of other types of pens. That means that whatever you put in there will be harder to get out. It can be done - its just more of a nuisance. In a Vac I would always try water first and only move to a very dilute ammonia solution if the water isnt cutting it.

As Ron points out, water very often doesnt cut it and, at that point, you may want to consider his World Famous Salad Spinner Centerfuge, which greatly reduces the hassle of flushing Vacs and would make it far less of a bore to extract ammonia residue from inside your pen.

Edited by Pentode, 19 January 2018 - 18:24.


#12 ac12

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Posted 20 January 2018 - 15:28

Also ammonia will attack most metals.

So you need to minimize the soak time and wash it out WELL.

 

BTW a gold nib is not immune to ammonia.

While the gold is resistant to ammonia, it is the other metals in the gold alloy will be attacked by the ammonia.


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#13 Ron Z

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Posted 20 January 2018 - 16:51

Also ammonia will attack most metals.

So you need to minimize the soak time and wash it out WELL.

 

BTW a gold nib is not immune to ammonia.

While the gold is resistant to ammonia, it is the other metals in the gold alloy will be attacked by the ammonia.

 

Which is why I generally recommend using an ultrasonic cleaner, not soaking.


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#14 minddance

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 14:30

+1 for ultra sonic cleaner :)

#15 pen lady

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 17:23

Wastedland, have you tried Home Hardware for household ammonia?  It was a while ago, bu that was where I bought some.



#16 eckiethump

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 07:21

[quote name="Ron Z" post="3986407" timestamp="151621797
 
I disagree with those who say that water is sufficient.  Not for a really gunked up pen with a lot of dried ink in it.  A couple of decades of repairing pens tells me that you need something else for for the ultrasonic to work with to remove the ink.
[/quote]
Amen to that! There is quite a prolific poster(not so much on here now), who advocates only dry heat in pen servicing! Ridiculous, not worthy of even,as far I concerned debate.

As always,everything is dangerous, unless treated with caution and care.
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