Top Reasons to Switch to a Better Cleaning Fluid

Venesia Hurtubise from MicroCare says switching to the new modern cleaning fluids will have a positive impact on your cleaning process.


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Q. We realize there are new modern cleaning fluids out there that are overhauling the way metal parts are cleaned, but is it worth changing from a long-established cleaning solvent if what we have been using works?

A. In short, the answer is yes. Switching to the new modern cleaning fluids will have a positive impact on your cleaning process.

All cleaning methods should be reviewed and monitored regularly because the parts that require cleaning are often being updated. For example, in recent years the introduction of composite parts made with a combination of materials is making cleaning more challenging. When you factor in the global  competition to make parts smaller, faster and more cost-effectively — together with changing environmental regulations and requirements — the metalworking industry has to adjust to stay competitive and profitable.

One of the biggest changes affecting how metal parts are cleaned and prepared for further processing (such as plating, coating, painting or welding) are new environmental restrictions and workplace safety rules. Traditionally, fluids containing nPB (n-propyl bromide), TCE (trichlorethylene) and PERC (perchloroethylene) were an effective and economical method of cleaning. However, toxicity standards are being tightened and their use has become problematic.

Companies are starting to realize the environmental and worker safety impact of these solvents and are moving away from them. Business owners, plant managers and environmental safety and health officers are seeking better choices that will be more efficient, easier to maintain and less hazardous for workers and the environment. Many companies are renewing their interest in the benefits of vapor degreasing over other cleaning procedures because it is a highly effective and sustainable way to clean metal parts.

One of the biggest concerns we come across when it comes to using a new cleaning process is the impact the change will have on the bottom line. Questions asked all the time are: Will switching to new cleaning fluids and processes cause production downtime? Will it require large capital investment in new equipment or result in time lost training employees on new processes? Not to mention the worry that the new cleaning fluids will not deliver the same cleaning results as the old ones.

Thanks to several solvent alternatives on the market, we can confidently reassure those concerned that modern cleaning fluids will not only clean effectively but, in some instances, will clean even better than their traditional methods. They can also most often be used as a drop-in replacement inside their existing vapor degreasing equipment. Plus, these next-generation cleaning fluids have an excellent toxicity profile, making them safer for the environment and people.

Switching to modern cleaning fluids has so many benefits. Let’s look at some of the biggest advantages:

Effective Cleaning: The modern fluorinated cleaning fluids have been lab tested and analyzed to ensure the cleaning results are reliable, consistent and as effective as the legacy solvents.

Greener Cleaning: Most modern fluids are not considered a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and may not require National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) permits. This means they do not have the regulatory problems found in some traditional solvents. When used in a vapor degreaser, the modern cleaning fluids can be recycled and reused for hundreds of hours before they need to be refreshed, thus saving on waste disposal.

Low Conversion Costs: Most of the modern cleaning fluids can be used in existing equipment, applying the same methods. Therefore, capital investment is not required. Once the vapor degreaser has been emptied and cleaned, the replacement cleaning fluid can be added directly into the machinery without any effect on the current cleaning process.

Enhanced Productivity: Modern cleaning fluids boil at a low temperature, so parts come out of the vapor degreaser cool enough to handle. This saves time on waiting for components to cool down enough before moving on to the next stage of the manufacturing process. Workers can, therefore, finish the process quicker, resulting in better overall throughput and productivity.

Greater Safety and Better for Workers:  The azeotropic properties of new cleaning fluids ensure they are compositionally stable and safe to use.  Their nonflammable properties improve safety in the workplace. They are also much better for workers. Many of the substitutes for nPB, PERC or TCE have improved toxicity profiles and higher Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) than the legacy solvents, making them safer for workers to be around. In addition, since many of the next-generation fluids have a higher safety profile, personal protective equipment requirements can be more flexible, making the working environment more comfortable for employees. 

Maintenance Procedures are Less Complicated: New cleaning fluids do not require additives (such as stabilizers or scavengers) or weekly titration testing, compared to legacy solvents. Therefore, the vapor degreasing operations can be managed more easily without the need for a chemist or other specially trained operators.

We understand that changing to a new cleaning fluid or process can be daunting and full of uncertainty. But being flexible in your cleaning choices can positively impact productivity, the environment and your workers’ safety.

The metalworking environment is changing and cleaning processes need to adapt in order to be effective. Finding the most versatile, flexible, low-risk option that meets all the critical cleaning requirements is key. Modern vapor degreasing is the future-forward choice, but it is important to partner with a precision cleaning expert to gain advice on the best fluids and process to make your switch to a better solvent easy.

Venesia Hurtubise is a technical chemist at MicroCare. Visit microcare.com.

Venesia Hurtubise

Venesia Hurtubise