Care and Feeding of Fog Machines

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Introduction: Care and Feeding of Fog Machines

Do you have a Fog machine? Do you use it infrequently? Have you noticed it's output decrease? Here's some simple cleaning tips you can use to keep your fog machine working well.

Step 1: Empty the Fluid Tank

Most fog machines that are cheap have a built in fluid tank so you will have to empty it. But wait, don't throw away the fluid. If the fluid is still clear (or it's original color) and doesn't have any debris in it, you can use it again. I recommend getting a small Nalgene container to store the fluid in. A 500ml container is usually about the right size and should only cost a couple of dollars at a camping / outdoors store. In Canada we have Mountain Equipment Co-op and Campers Village which are the best places to find a container like this. As a side note, if the fluid is clear but has debris in it, you can pour the fluid through a disposable coffee filter to remove the debris.

Step 2: Clean the Fogger Vaporizing Tube

Prep: Mix a solution of white vinegar and distilled water (this is the cleaning solution) the ratio is 1 part vinegar to 8 parts water, which is close enough to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a 1C of distilled water. This should be enough cleaner for 1 machine and still keep the pump happy.

Why distilled water? Well distilled water has it's minerals removed. Minerals are bad for fog machines as they tend to coat the inside of the tube, reducing it's diameter and therfore reducing the fogger's output.

Rinse the Fluid tank out with distilled water.
Pour the cleaning solution into the fluid tank.
Take the fogger outside.
Plug in the fogger and allow it to heat up.

When the fogger is ready, run it until it stops. Try and avoid inhaling the vapor, I'm sure it's bad for you. Repeat until you run out of solution or patience. I would estimate that 10 cycles should be enough.

The output should start off as thick white smoke and slowly become a very thin haze over the many cycles.

Unplug the fogger and rinse the fluid tank out with distilled water.
Refill the tank with distilled water. About a half cup if you're going to use the fogger for fogging soon or about a half tank if you plan on storing the unit.

Take the fogger outside again (If you're not already there).
Plug the fogger in and allow it to heat up.

When the fogger is ready, run it until it stops. Try and avoid inhaling the vapor , I'm sure it's bad for you. Repeat at least 5 times. You should do more cycles if it still smells like vinegar. You have to get all the vinegar out of the fogger.

Step 3: Use or Store, You Decide

If you are planning to store the fogger, leave the distilled water in the tank. This will help keep the pump from siezing and keep the gaskets from shrinking. Please note, you have to store the fogger in it's normal operating position or the fluid may leak out. Most machines have a small hole in the cap to allow air to enter during normal operation. When you are ready to use see below:

If you are planning to use it soon (in the next couple of weeks). Empty any remaining water from the fluid tank and refill with fog fluid.

Step 4: Other Tips and Tricks.

The best time to clean a fogger if you plan to store it is after you use it (it doesn't have to be immediatly after you use it, but within a day or so.)

If you use your fogger on a regular basis, I have found that monthly cleanings will greatly increase it's life. I maintain an attraction where 2 small foggers are used constantly and if I do regular maintenance I can get over a year out of a fogger, whereas if I don't we've replaced them in less than 8 months.

You can shoot fog through a hose to get fog into tight places you can't get the machine into. A Dryer vent hose works best, it is about 4" in diameter and cheap. You don't need the fancy metal ones, the basic white plastic ones work and you can spray paint them to match the surrounding area. The one big thing to remember is not to seal the hose to the machine. When Fog exits the machine it needs to mix with air otherwise it quickly becomes liquid again and will drip out of the hose. Leave at least a 1" air gap between the hose and machine. I have left up to a 4" gap and still managed to get the fog to all go through the tube.

Want low lying fog (like for a grave yard scene at Halloween?). It's pretty easy. Google "Fog Chiller" and you will find lots of projects on line. I will post an instructable when I get mine finished

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    47 Comments

    The reservoir of my fog machine has mildew in it. How do I clean this?

    I don't know what's wrong with my fog machine cause when I press power I don't hear any humm sound and I've waited for like 20 mins and it didn't heat up. I don't know wether it's clogged or the thermo is broken or the pump. I'm really new to fog machines btw

    I bought a fog machine at Halloween Spirit store this past halloween. I used it quite frequently n everything is fine. However one at it just stopped working. It doesn't eat up which wand it won't work. I have plenty of Luis n the remote but it still doesn't work. Plez help because I really blot it n its great fur parties. Now it just its there lonely. Thank you, kat johnson
    Johnsonkat423@gmail.com

    About a month ago I picked up a 700+ watt Fog Machine from the local thrift store for 5 bucks without a remote. It even had a jug of fog juice. ifigured for 5 bcks can't beat that. Local department store had fog machines of the samemanufacturer(smaller ones), and they were half off so I picked one up for 15 bucks. So I used the remote on the big one and it works. Being a bit of an electronics guru I opened the remote, and it's so simple. Soon, I will be making an instructable on making your own remote. I have a different instructable I need to make first to make a piece of equipment needed to make the remote. Stay tuned and remember my name. I promise the equipment and a remote within 2 weeks.

    2 replies

    i have a cheap fogger that I bought from walmart and it has a remote. the machine works fine but ive dropped the remote twice and now the remote doesnt work. I cant seem to find a replacement remote anywhere. i took the remote apart and tested it with some of my test gear and it still doesnt work. any advice?

    Are you still planning the fogger instructable?

    One discovery I have made is that some foggers come with a metal screen filter on the end of the tank hose. Over time, this metal filter deteriorates and bits of metal get sucked into the pump killing it. Now, the first thing I do when I get a fogger is check for this metal screen filter. If it has one, I remove it and replace it with a paper fuel filter made for small engines (available at Home Depot and such).

    I have an American DJ F-500 fog machine. It is not working (again), and seems like it may/must be the pump this time (heat unit went bad last time, and was fixed under warranty). The machine is now considered old/obsolete, and parts are not available.

    Anyone have one of these machines, and/or know where to buy a (correct) pump for it? When this machine works, it seems to work better than MOST foggers I've seen (sounds like a jet engine when it goes off, and makes LOTS of fog!).

    I'm pretty sure stealing a pump from a smaller machine will not provide anywhere near enough juice to supply the machine properly...Any thoughts/help would be really appreciated.
    Thanks, Joe

    1 reply

    I know its a late response, sorry, just saw this post. parts.americandj.com is a great website for a lot of parts associated with American DJ equipment.

    Sadly, the part you need I couldn't find on that website, but on their sister page, parts.elationlighting.com, has the pump.

    If it uses the same pump as the F300A then this is what you need: http://parts.elationlighting.com/ProductDetails.aspx?ItemNumber=Z-1000-P&ProductLine=Z-1000

    Hope this helps!

    Ok what will it take to convert a smoke machine to a hazer? I have many smoke machines, some good quality and some cheap ones that I can fiddle with.

    1 reply

    Not sure exactly but I would guess that there might be a temperature difference in the heaters. Certainly the amount and type of fluid put into the heat exchanger is different. I think you could do it. Take a look at an MDG hazer for some insperation. I have some cheap foggers I pulled the pumps out of and I am going to mod them to use fluid that is pressurized with CO2 instead of the pump. I think a paintball CO2 tank could be used as a pressure vessel to hold the fluid.

    Perhaps a stupid question but... why do you dilute the vinegar? Wouldn't a straight vinegar solution, being stronger, do a better job with fewer cleaning cycles needed? Yes, it's acidic, but the fogger parts wouldn't be exposed to it for very long and a good rince cycle would certainly clear it out.

    1 reply

    Somewhere along the line it was recommended by the manufacturer. I'm not sure but would guess it's for the benefit of the plastic pump parts in the long term.

    Cool. Interesting that you say minerals damage the fogger. This may be what reduces its output over time, as the fog juice is... MINERAL OIL! And the vapour would be mildly acidic, so, yes, avoid inhaling it as you don't want to burn the inside of your lungs.

    3 replies

    Hi BlueFusion. I know that in Australia they sometimes refer to fog fluid as mineral oil, however, pump propelled fog fluid does not contain mineral oil. It is made up of Glycol and Water. Please feel free to consult ESTA standards for information on how fog machines work. Also as a member of the theatrical community for more than 18 years now, we DO NOT, as a rule, use mineral oil based machines because of the serious health side effects including possible links to cancer.

    Whoa. You either know what you're talking about or are very good bluffer. I believe you. OK thanks, I'll keep that in mind.

    He's not bluffing. The fog machines generally in use use a water/glycol (aka glycerine) mix that is far safer - non-flammable, and doesn't kill you by inhalation.

    I have a Eliminator E-119. Bought it last year after Christmas time, maybe used it a couple times. I had it stored in a box in my closet, got it out filled it up, lights come on!....nothing...what to do?

    If you use vinegar, you MUST get it all out. I've run vinegar and water through a couple foggers that worked fine and found they were dead the next year. The vinegar will swell the rubber parts in the pump and render it useless if the slightest bit of vinegar remains in the lines.

    When speaking with a pro that sell foggers and fog fluid, he offered this advise to home haunters- Buy cheap foggers and throw them way every year. He stresses that our foggers weren't designed to be used outdoor in the cold like most of us use them. He also said to leave fog fluid in the units when storing them.

    Good tutorial. Just exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!