Home>Production Engineering>Component cleaning>Degreasers: Selection matters

Degreasers: Selection matters

29 June 2017

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. Despite traditional perceptions, solvent-based degreasers aren’t the only option, as Peter Crossen, VP of the Maintenance and Partsmaster Innovation Platform of NCH Europe, explains

Reducing the cost of maintenance isn’t the only way degreasing can save money – just 0.25mm of dirt on a heating exchange coil can lead to a 40% increase in electricity usage. Getting the right degreaser for the job is key to capitalising on these savings.

For years, solvent degreasers were pretty much the only thing available, so it’s easy to see why many 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 safely on a variety of surfaces, such as plastic and rubber. NCH Europe’s Aqua-Sol Neutra Split, for example, is pH neutral so the degreaser won’t cause damage to any surface it is being used on; it also reduces potential risks when handling or storing the product and mitigates certain regulations on handling, transport, storage and labelling. 

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

There are many water-based degreasers, so 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 Europe’s Aqua-Sol range includes a silicate-free aerosol that can be sprayed from all angles to effectively clean hard-to-reach areas, and 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 a more environmentally friendly, safer alternative to work with. Vapours from solvent degreasers can cause inhalation health risks whilst the high levels of VOCs (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 VOCs and are non-flammable.

However, this does not mean they are less effective. For example, Aqua-Sol Power is NCH Europe's most powerful degreaser. 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 suitable for the food industry. Anything used in a food processing setting must be food-safe to eliminate risk of contamination. So any degreaser you choose needs to be NSF certified like the NCH Europe range.

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 most 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. There’s a place for water-based, solvent-based and specialist degreasers, but maybe it’s time we started to think about what’s best for the job at hand rather than simply sticking with tradition.