Intro: 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