Not all degreasers are equal

Even though we may call the Henry living under the stairs a hoover, he is actually a vacuum cleaner not a branded Hoover. Similarly, even though we tend to lump them all into one category, not all degreasers are the same. Just as all vacuum cleaners are different and have their own benefits, so do degreasers. Here, Peter Crossen, VP of the Maintenance and Partsmaster Innovation Platform of water, energy and maintenance solutions provider, NCH, discusses how, despite traditional perceptions, solvent based degreasers aren’t the only option.

Degreasing is a vital part of good maintenance practice, not least because industrial grime could be covering abnormalities or problem areas that could incur costly downtime and higher maintenance costs.

Reducing the cost of maintenance isn’t the only way degreasing can save money. Just 0.25mm of dirt on a heating exchange coil will lead to 40 percent increase in electricity usage. However, plant engineers seem to be blind to the volume choice of degreasers on the market, and getting the right one for the job is the key to capitalising on these savings.

For years, solvent degreasers were pretty much the only thing available, so it’s easy to see why businesses have been oblivious to the development of water-based alternatives. Water-based degreasers use surfactants to emulsify greasy build up and contain penetrating agents that increase the speed of degreasing.

Compared to solvents, they can be used on a variety of surfaces safely, such as plastic and rubber. Being pH neutral, like NCH’s Aqua-Sol Neutra Split, also means the degreaser won’t cause damage on any surface it is being used on; as well as reducing potential risks when handling or storing them and mitigating certain regulations on handling, transport, storage and labelling.

Water-based degreasers also offer fantastic value for money. Due to their composition, they are transported as concentrates and can be effectively diluted up to a ratio of 1:500.

There are such a variety of water-based degreasers that it’s often easier to find one to suit your specific needs than when searching for something with a solvent base – and they can be just as effective. For instance, NCH’s Aqua-Sol range includes a silicate free aerosol that can be sprayed from all angles to effectively clean hard to reach areas, and being silicate free it is safe to use on or around glass surfaces. The product also foams to ensure maximum contact time on the surface and to prevent run off on vertical surfaces.

Water-based degreasers are also a more environmentally friendly, safer alternative to work with. Vapours from solvent degreasers can cause inhalation health risks whilst the high levels of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) found in solvent products can mean you risk being in breach of storage legislation. Water based degreasers do not pose inhalation risks, have no or very low levels of VOC’s and are non-flammable.

However, this does not mean they are less effective. For example, Aqua-Sol Power is the most powerful degreaser we have ever developed at NCH. The water-based product uses the latest surfactant technology to break even the toughest bonds that fix greasy soils to surfaces.

Water based degreasers are also ideal for the food industry. Anything used in a food processing setting must be food-safe to eliminate risk of contamination – even degreasers. So any degreaser you choose needs to be NSF certified like the NCH range. Very few solvent degreasers achieve this accreditation.

Of course, solvent degreasers still have their place. In the electronics industry, for example, it’s certainly not wise to spray around a product that is made up mostly of water and it’s essential for the degreaser to evaporate quickly. Because of these situations, water-based degreasers won’t replace solvent alternatives completely, but they will offer more choice and help plant engineers get the job done safely, effectively and with a reduced impact on the environment.

In general, there’s little need for the vast majority of companies to be so heavily reliant on environmentally harmful solvent-based solutions. The longer this reliance goes on, the more damage we risk doing to the environment, not to mention the space we waste storing them instead of concentrates, the extra unnecessary costs, and the ongoing risk of harm to the user and potential damage to the end product.

When Dyson released its first vacuum cleaner traditional Hoovers found themselves cast aside in favour of the new, more efficient and user-friendly design. So why stick with the old model when advances in degreaser technology can offer a better all round result? There’s a place for water based, solvent and specialist degreasers, but maybe it’s time we start to think about what’s best for the job at hand rather than simply sticking with tradition.