A discarded coffee container and a scrap of screen may be practical complements to your existing parts washer.
Cleaning parts is a necessary operation for many common automotive repairs. Still, just because it's an unavoidable part of the job doesn't make it pleasant by any means. My shop experiences have taught me that whatever we can do to simplify this task makes major points with all technicians, regardless of their experience.
Understandably, techs prefer to clean parts and hardware quickly, effectively and neatly. Yet achieving all three of these goals simultaneously may be challenging because the dirty items are relatively small pieces. The smaller size makes them more difficult to grip and brush off—making them easier to lose.
The parts washer in your service bays may have a fine-mesh screen or grate in the bottom of its basin. If not, then a tech has to be extra careful that smaller items don't flow down into the washer's solvent reservoir.
Meanwhile, your parts washer may or may not have accessories for handling those small parts, nuts, bolts, etc. For example, it may have a perforated cup or a fine-mesh screen basket. While this cup or basket holds the small parts securely, the tech cleans them by flowing solvent through it. Or a tech may fill a separate container with solvent, place it inside the parts washer's basin and then repeatedly dip the cup or basket into that container.
Many times, I have found myself at a parts washer where there are no devices that accommodate smaller bits and pieces. In a pinch, I've improvised very effectively with an empty coffee container.
First, wash out any coffee remnants in the container and dry it. Drop the smaller parts and hardware in, fill it halfway with solvent and put on the lid. Hold the lid firmly in place and vigorously shake the coffee container for 30 seconds or so. Spread some shop towels or wipes on the workbench, remove the pieces from the container and place them on the wipes.
A variation of this approach is placing those smaller items inside a scrap of window screening. Be sure to trim any sharp edges from the screen beforehand. Usually, a scrap of screen is very inexpensive at the local hardware store or home center. Fold the screen around those small parts and then repeatedly dip it into a coffee container of cleaning solvent.
When you're finished, carefully empty the screen onto those shop towels on the workbench.
I also have seen techs fabricate neat little parts baskets from strips of scrap metal and a piece of window screen.
The bottom line is that some inexpensive improvisation may serve your needs just fine.
And if you've got a neat trick for washing parts, let me know.