We all know the adage, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance,” and in welding it couldn’t be more true. While not all metals are as sensitive as, say Titanium, it’s always a good idea to work with a clean surface, especially when TIG/GTAW welding. You’ll get a better weld, and in the case of titanium, a stronger weld.
Degreasing your weld surface
Some metals, like titanium, will react (negatively) to even the oils in your skin so you’ll want to wear lint-free gloves when cleaning and handling your metal. Acetone is a popular solvent for degreasing metal surfaces, but acetone is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, this stuff is nasty! Here’s what the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says:
Breathing moderate- to-high levels of acetone for short periods of time, however, can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation; headaches; light-headedness; confusion; increased pulse rate; effects on blood; nausea; vomiting; unconsciousness and possibly coma; and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women. More info on the CDC website–>
Second, there are better options for prepping your weld surface.
At Arc-Zone we recommend denatured alcohol, applied with a lint-free cloth. Denatured alcohol is basically pure alcohol with additives that make it taste really bad and other additives like ipecac (which causes vomiting) to discourage folks from ingesting it (which can cause blindness).
You may need to use a stainless steel brush to scrub your metal. Remember with metals like titanium you’ll want to use a brush that you use only for titanium. I keep my brushes in separate containers for various metals–that way they stay clean and I mark the container with the metal the brush is used for.
While it’s always a good idea to TIG weld on a surface that has been cleaned of grease and debris, some metals are more sensitive. Titanium welds, for example, can become brittle if there is contamination in the weld zone. My white paper, “Welding Titanium”(.pdf) offers more detailed information. And if you haven’t had a chance to read the article I wrote for Practical Welding Today magazine on welding aluminum, “5 tips for successful aluminum GTAW: Understanding the metal’s unique properties, techniques, and equipment is key” it’s available online.