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Historically, I used a cheap (i.e. $11.00 USD) Type K thermocouple with cloth braid on my Heatermeter temperature controller rig, until my daughter tripped over the thermocouple while she was running around and rendered it unreliable. When I threw the old thermocouple away, it was heavily coated in old smoke and grease due to the environment in my charcoal-fired BBQ smoker.

I invested a bit more in the replacement thermocouple (a Thermoworks TW-113-442-GC Type K, with an armored-metal cable jacket). My question is what (if anything) I should do to prolong the useful life of this thermocouple; can I soak the junction end in apple-cider vinegar to clean it? How can I clean the grease, without damaging the electrical functionality?

Thermoworks TW-113-442-GC

Google searches for cleaning Type K Thermocouples haven't been terribly productive.

To be explicit, I am not using a Thermapen; Thermoworks has a FAQ that addresses cleaning this Thermapen, but they do not have anything addressing a simple Type K thermocouple.

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It is clear from the picture that the actual thermo junction is contained in a metal sheath. If you saw the actual junction, it would look like two thin wires welded together where they meet. As such, you can aggressively clean (but perhaps not submerge) the probe tip with any means that does not harm the metal jacket. I would probably choose steel wool to give it a quick buffing up.

On the other hand, in a grill application, it would take a tremendous buildup of byproducts before having any real effect on the application. The normal buildup will slightly slow the thermal response (seconds) but it will not cause an overall temperature error.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If it was only the metal jacket around the thermocouple junction that gets soiled, you'd have a fair point about not requiring submersion; however, in the real application, the armored jacket and metal sheath will get soiled. I would rather submerse the jacket and sheath in boiling water or white vinegar, if possible. \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Pennington Jul 17 '17 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Soiling the cable sheath will have no effect whatsoever. Don't bother cleaning it. \$\endgroup\$ – Glenn W9IQ Jul 17 '17 at 1:14
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From that site's FAQ:

Am I supposed to clean my ThermoWorks thermometer? How, and how often?

You should wipe the probe clean with cleansing wipes or soap any time it comes in contact with raw meat, and you should wipe the whole thermometer casing after each use being careful not to get it wet. Never put the housing of your digital thermometer near water unless it has an IP rating of 66 or higher.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thermoworks sells a Thermometer-kit which is what you're quoting about. The use-case dynamics are night and day different between a thermapen probe (which is what this FAQ addresses) and my thermocouple (as shown in my original post). \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Pennington Jul 16 '17 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it applies to only a specific product then why is it under "General Thermometry FAQs"? \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 16 '17 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair question, I've been doing business with this company for a couple of years and know the product line well; I'm confident that you're going too far when you claim that I shouldn't submerge a thermocouple, because this in fact is how you calibrate them (i.e. submersion in an ice-bath). However, my thermocouple is not listed IP66 on their site. \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Pennington Jul 16 '17 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ They talk about "casing" and "housing" though, which are independent of the probe and would likely apply to an entire thermometry solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 16 '17 at 22:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I maintain that the "casing" and "housing" refer to the handle of the Thermapen temperature probe solution. I will call them tomorrow for clarification on this point since I don't want to steal thunder if your answer is indeed correct. In my defense, I'd point out that 60% of their business volume comes from Thermapens alone. \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Pennington Jul 16 '17 at 22:32

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