Three steps to effective degreasing

Here, Peter Crossen, VP of the Maintenance and Partsmaster Innovation Platform at global water, energy and maintenance solutions provider NCH, looks at the top three things to consider when choosing an effective industrial degreaser.

It is not uncommon to overlook important aspects of a process as long as the end result is acceptable. A working industrial PC, for example, is often taken for granted until it stops working. The same is true for degreasers, which are seldom given a second thought and yet play a vital role in ensuring machinery operates effectively and efficiently.

For example, the removal of dirt and grime that accumulates during operation can save substantial amounts in energy consumption. In fact, even something as seemingly insignificant as 0.25mm of dirt on a heating exchange coil can lead to a 40 percent increase in electricity usage, which in turn drives up operation costs for businesses.

When choosing the right degreaser for an application, plant engineers can maximise operational savings and guarantee compliance with industry regulation that is often overlooked. Fundamentally, there are three core things that must be considered to make the most of degreasers.

Surface compatibility

The first step to effective degreasing is to look at the surface the degreaser will be used on and check whether the product is suitable. Glass surfaces, for example, require the use of a silicate-free solution to prevent the surface from being etched.

By completing regular audits on the state of the surface and the effectiveness of the degreaser being used, engineers can ensure that the solution is actually addressing the problem.

Is it solvent- or water-based?

When choosing between a solvent-based and water-based degreaser it’s more than just a question of how environmentally friendly it is.

Solvent degreasers were, for a long time, the most popular and widely available type, using chemical formulations to dissolve grease and dislodge stubborn contaminants from parts and equipment. However, most solvents contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are extremely hazardous and pose dangers to health. In confined spaces, for example, these degreasers produce fumes that are harmful if inhaled and often need to be handled with the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Plant managers also need to consider the environmental impact of certain solvent degreasers as well as the fact that many are flammable.

The alternative is to use water-based degreasers, such as NCH’s Aqua-Sol range. Whereas solvent degreasers solubilise and thin the grease, water-based degreasers use the latest surfactant technology to emulsify the greasy soil, as well as penetrating agents to increase the speed of degreasing. They can be as effective as their solvent counterparts and are also non-flammable, available as concentrates and do not produce harmful vapours, making them suitable for enclosed areas.

Yet water-based degreasers too have their limitations. Water-based degreasers are unsuitable for electronic and electrical applications where the high dielectric strength — the point at which a liquid conducts electrical current — and fast evaporation of solvent degreasers allows electrical equipment to be back up and running sooner.

Regulatory compliance

Depending on the industry that a business serves, there will be different regulatory restrictions in place that outline which substances can and cannot be used on surfaces.

For example, the food and beverage industries require degreasers to be NSF A1 certified, meaning that the product is suitable for use in food processing areas.
Many industries will also have regulations in place determining that amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be stored on site; use of low VOC water based degreasers can ensure compliance with these regulations.

The best way to ensure this is to invest in sector-specific degreasers, ensuring compliance with relevant regulations. This can either be done through extensive research or by contacting a maintenance solutions specialist, such as NCH, to complete site surveys.

While it may be easy to take a staple of industrial maintenance such as a degreaser for granted and overlook it, plant managers that remember to select their product carefully and assess effectiveness can reap the benefits. Not least, improved energy efficiency, reliable operation and minimal production cost. In more ways than one, consideration of degreasers pays off.