How to Clean Watch Parts with IPA

Beginner’s Guide: Effectively Cleaning Watch Parts with IPA

Welcome to our beginner’s guide on effectively cleaning watch parts with IPA. If you’re new to the world of watchmaking, you may be wondering what IPA is and how to use it to clean your watch parts. In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the information and step-by-step instructions you need to make sure your watch parts are sparkling clean and running smoothly. Whether you’re a watch enthusiast or a professional watchmaker, this guide will help you take your watch cleaning skills to the next level. So, let’s get started!

Beginner’s Guide: Effectively Cleaning Watch Parts with IPA


Cleaning watch parts is a crucial process in maintaining your timepiece’s performance and longevity. However, using the wrong cleaning agent can damage or even destroy your watch. Professional cleaning fluids are costly, and not everyone may have access to them. Fortunately, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) provides a safe and economical alternative. In this guide, we will discuss the proper use of IPA for cleaning watch parts effectively. We’ll also include some essential tips to help you avoid common mistakes that can damage your watch.

What is IPA?

Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is a versatile cleaning agent used in many industries, including medicine, electronics, and watchmaking. It’s a colorless liquid with a unique odor and evaporates quickly when exposed to air.

Why Use IPA for Cleaning Watch Parts?

Using IPA for cleaning watch parts delivers several benefits, including its safety and cost-effectiveness. It is a water displacer that can replace expensive watch cleaners, preventing corrosion and other issues. Non-residue leaving IPA also facilitates a quick dry.

What You Need For Cleaning Watch Parts With IPA

Ensure that you have the necessary accessories and safety precautions when cleaning your watch with IPA. You might need the following:

  • IPA (70-99% concentration)
  • Microfiber cloth or watch-cleaning paper
  • A soft-bristled brush
  • A dust blower
  • Rubber gloves and eye protection
  • A well-ventilated area

Cleaning Watch Parts with IPA

Here’s a simple guide to help you clean your watch parts effectively with IPA:

  1. Disassemble Your Watch To ensure all the parts are properly cleaned, disassemble your watch and place the different components in a container.
  2. Clean the non-shellac parts Immerse the non-shellac components such as the watch mechanism, gears, and screw heads in IPA. Agitate them gently until dirt or dust separates from their surface. After that, rinse with distilled water.
  3. Clean the shellac parts Short periods of soaking shellac parts in IPA are safe, but exposure over two minutes might cause the shellac to soften and fail. Thus, avoid it! Use a microfiber cloth dipped in IPA to wipe. After wiping the shellac parts, rinse them with distilled water and let them dry.
  4. Clean the watch case Use the dust blower to remove dust and debris from the watch case. Dip the brush in IPA and clean the case together with the crown and the strap to remove accumulated grease. Afterward, rinse them with distilled water.
  5. Reassemble your watch After cleaning and drying all the components, reassemble your watch. Use a microfiber cloth to polish and remove any remaining dirt.

Precautions to Take When Cleaning Watch Parts with IPA

Although IPA is a safe cleaning agent, it’s always advisable to take precautions. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection, especially if you have sensitive skin or are trying IPA for the first time. Moreover, avoid highly concentrated IPA as it can damage your watch. If you don’t know the ideal concentration to use, start with a maximum of 70% IPA.

The Importance of Avoiding IPA on parts with shellac jewels

The video highlights the importance of not using IPA on watch parts with shellac jewels like the pallet fork or safety roller on the balance. Exposure to shellac parts or jewels on your watch while using highly concentrated alcohol may cause them to soften or fail.

Vintage Pallet Forks: Testing Safe IPA Exposure

The video tests how much exposure vintage pallet forks can take in IPA before failure through various tests like ultrasonic cleaning. The results show that short passes of no longer than two minutes in IPA is safe.

IPA displace water and Prevents Corrorsion

Aside from cleaning, IPA also prevents corrosion on your watch parts. It is a water displacer and can help remove any water that might have accumulated on your watch.




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IPA provides a safe and inexpensive way to clean watch parts effectively. Always take precautions when using IPA, disassemble your watch, and avoid using it on parts with shellac jewels. The video offers excellent advice and tips to DIY watchmakers looking to maintain their timepieces without spending big bucks on professional cleaning fluids.

FAQs After The Conclusion

Q1. Is IPA safe for cleaning a watch?

Yes, IPA is safe for cleaning your watch, but caution should be taken. Avoid extended exposure of shellac parts or jewels to IPA.

Q2. Can I use any concentration of IPA for cleaning my watch?

No, only use concentrations up to 70%. High concentrations can damage your watch.

Q3. Is IPA safe to use on vintage watch parts?

Yes, IPA is ideal for cleaning vintage watch parts, but exposure to shellac parts or jewels may cause them to soften or fail.

Q4. How often should I clean my watch with IPA?

You can clean your watch frequently with IPA, but to avoid damage, only disassemble your watch when necessary.

Q5. Can IPA leave any residues on my watch?

No, IPA is a nonresidue leaving cleaner.

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