We set-up our first display at the 2000 National Insulator Association Show in Bloomington, MN and received the First Place - General Category plaque. In our display, we attempted to show the effects of different cleaning agents on the dirt,soot and grime commonly found on glass insulators.

We selected fourteen insulators that had a similar degree of crud. An equal number of plastic containers were set-up, each containing a different cleaning solution. We placed each insulator, on its side, with just half of the insulator submersed in the solution. We wanted to be able to show the results, side by side, of the half that had been cleaned verse the half that had not. The insulators were allowed to soak, undisturbed for approximately forty-eight hours. Then they were removed from the solutions, rinsed with water and allowed to air dry. We did not scrub or wash any of the insulators. The intent was to see what solution removed the most grime without any scrubbing.

We selected cleaners that we had around the house and garage. Only a few were purchased just for this experiment. We used the following products: BONDEX - Wood Bleach (Oxalic Acid Crystals), SUPER IRON OUT (Sodium Hydrosulfite & Sodium Bisulfite), RED DEVIL - Drain Opener (Lye) (Sodium Hydroxide), BAR KEEPERS FRIEND (Oxalic Acid Powder), TRANSCHEM - Muriatic Acid (Hydrochloric Acid), C L R - Calcium Lime Rust Remover (actual ingredients not disclosed on packaging), SANIFLUSH - Bowl Cleaner (Sodium Acid Sulfate), PARKS - Kerosene (Kerosene), DAWN - Dish Soap (Biodegradable anionic & Nonionic Surfactants), BIX - Paint Stripper (Methanol, Toluene, Methylene Chloride), UNOCAL - Mineral Spirits (Mineral Spirits), GOOP - Hand Cleaner (Surfactants), LUNDMARK - T.S.P. (Sodium Meta-Silicate) and WALMART - Clear Ammonia (Ammonia).

We set-up each of the insulators in the display to show the side by side results of the cleaning agent. It presented the half that had been cleaned verse the half that remained in its original dirty state. We had data cards displayed identifying: the brand of the cleaning agent (with a picture), the solution or ingredient, the mix / dilution rate, soak time, cost, source of product, unit cost, insulator description and the test results.

Since the displays were roped off, not allowing a close observation, we included a notebook explaining the experiment that people could look through. We included photos of each insulator before and after cleaning, a photo of the cleaning agentís original container, a shot of the data card and a couple of photos of the experiment in action. We also printed copies of ICON's section on - Cleaning Insulator - to use as a handout. This is a very informative article, used with the authors permission, detailing the proper use of Oxalic Acid and Lye to clean insulators. It provides all the necessary information and the related precautions that should be observed to safely and effectively clean glass insulators.

The final results of our experiment showed that the Bondex - Wood Bleach (Oxalic Acid) and the Red Devil - Drain Opener (Lye) produced excellent results. The Super Iron Out ranked right up there. The Bar Keepers Friend produced great results with a lot less of the hazards associated with the others. The Muriatic Acid did a good job, but the corrosive vapors (even from a covered container) rusted every metal tool hanging anywhere near the workbench. All of the other products had marginal if any effects.

A special thank you to Bob Stahr, Ian Macky and Bill Meier for letting me use their article on Cleaning Insulators and to Rick Soller for the dirty insulators and his help on the idea for our display.

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by Russ Frank
Last updated
May 2008