Safe & Powerful Solvents for Vapor Degreasing
Chemtronics offers industrial strength vapor degreaser solvents to tackle the toughest jobs and applications. Vapor degreasing is a cost-effective method of precision cleaning parts, metal, PCBs, and other items. Vapor degreasing requires specialized solvents that are azeotropic. Our full line of solvents cleaners is designed to easily remove oil, grease, wax, flux, and contamination.
Cleaning product is boiled so only pure solvent is sent up in the vapor zone. The solvent then condenses onto the part, providing the cleaning action. For more difficult soils, parts can be submerged into the boil sump, which is often supplemented with ultrasonics. Because this is a closed-loop process, where the cleaner evaporates and condenses over-and-over, a specialized solvent is needed.
nPB Replacements for Greater Safety
n-propyl bromide (also known as nPB or 1-Bromopropane, CAS 106-94-5) is under close scrutiny by local and national government officials and health and safety managers because of safety concerns.
Studies have shown that exposure to nPB can cause negative neurological and reproductive effects. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has stated that nPB is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”, based on increased lung, large intestine and skin cancers observed in animal studies.
OSHA has issued a Hazard Alert detailing worker safety concerns. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends a 10 ppm time-weighted average threshold limit, but has proposed a lower 0.1 ppm (ACGIH 2013). (Source: OSHA Hazard Alert - https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/1bromopropane_hazard_alert.html)
Safety, regulatory and liability concerns are driving the change from nPB, and Chemtronics® has the ideal replacements with Tri-V™ High Performance Solvents. Electro-Wash® Tri-V, Max-Kleen™ Tri-V, and Flux-Off® Tri-V offer the cost and cleaning performance of nPB, but with much greater safety!
What is vapor degreasing?
Vapor degreasing is a highly efficient and widely used industrial cleaning process designed to remove grease, oils, waxes, fluxes, and other contaminants from various metal, plastic, and electronic components. Vapor degreasing is a valuable cleaning method for industries that require precise and thorough cleaning of parts, such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, and medical device manufacturing.
The vapor degreasing process typically takes place in a closed chamber or tank with two distinct sections. The lower section contains the solvent, while the upper section holds the parts to be cleaned. The solvent is heated to its boiling point, creating vapor that rises and comes into contact with the soiled parts. As the vapor condenses on the colder surfaces of the components, it liquefies and effectively dissolves the contaminants. Gravity then causes the dissolved contaminants to drain off the parts and settle in the bottom of the tank.
The key advantages of vapor degreasing are its ability to remove stubborn contaminants thoroughly and quickly, its compatibility with various materials, and its relatively low energy consumption compared to other cleaning methods. It is also a closed-loop process, so solvent is reclaims and used over-and-over. Additionally, the process can be automated for large-scale industrial applications, leading to increased productivity and consistency in the cleaning results.
For more information on vapor degreasing, check out "Vapor Degreasing: The Quick Guide".
Is vapor degreasing safe?
Vapor degreasing can be safe when appropriate solvents are used, and safety guidelines are strictly followed. However, to ensure safety, it is essential to assess the specific process, equipment, and materials involved and take necessary precautions accordingly.
Here are some safety considerations for vapor degreasing:
- Solvent Choice: The safety of vapor degreasing largely depends on the solvent used. Some solvents, such as chlorinated solvents like trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (perc), and bromiated solvent like n-propyl bromide (nPB) have been associated with health and environmental hazards. These solvents can pose serious risks if not handled properly, and their use is being phased out or regulated in many regions. We offer many alternatives with much lower toxicity, and we do not offer TCE, perc, and nPB because of the health concerns.
- Ventilation: Adequate ventilation is crucial to prevent the buildup of potentially harmful solvent vapors in the workspace. Proper ventilation helps maintain air quality and reduces the risk of exposure for workers.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employees working with vapor degreasing equipment should wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and respirators, to protect against potential contact with solvents or vapor inhalation.
- Environmental Impact: Adequate disposal methods and compliance with environmental regulations are necessary to minimize the impact on the environment.
- Training and Safety Measures: Workers involved in vapor degreasing should receive proper training on handling solvents, operating equipment, and understanding safety protocols to minimize risks.
For more information on solvent safety, check out "Case Studies on The Negative Health Effects of 1-Bromopropane (1-BP, nPB, n-Propyl Bromide)".
How can you reduce chemical exposure?
Every organization using hazardous chemicals within their facility has the responsibility to equip their facility and personnel to maintain exposure levels below the TLV. Personal monitoring badges can be used to measure exposure of a specific material. Then, depending on the threshold limit and the application, exposure can be controlled with PPE like masks, face shields, respirators, and even coveralls. If they don’t reduce exposure below the recommended limit, you will need to consider a special ventilation hood or even containment booth. As you can see, as the exposure limit gets down to a certain level, the equipment required to safely use the solvent can get impractical. At that point, your best option is to consider a safer alternative.
How do you know the safe exposure limit of a degreaser, contact cleaner, or flux remover?
The personal hazard associated with a solvent is often defined using Threshold Limit Value (TLV), which is the recommended average exposure in an 8-hour day, 40 hour work week. The lower the TLV of a particular substance, the less a worker can be exposed to without harmful effects. TLV is stated on the SDS of chemical products, in additional to recommended personal protection equipment (or PPE). The threshold limit value of a solvent is generally set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). The unit of measure is Parts Per Million (PPM).
Is WD-40 a degreaser?
WD-40 is a lubricant dissolved in a solvent. While it can break down grease and oil to a certain degree, it also adds back some. This might be desirable if you are cleaning a hinge, conveyor, or corrosive-prone part, but not if you need it truly clean. For example, if prepping a surface before painting, cleaning with a cleaner/lubricant will lead to the paint dewetting (beading) or delaminating (flaking off). Chemtronics offers DPL for lubrication, and degreasers under the Eletro-Wash and Max-Kleen brands for high precision cleaning.
What is the best degreaser?
That depends on the requirements of your application. There are a number of factors that can have a big impact on performance and safety: flammability, dielectric strength, compatibility, toxicity, and environmental impact. Degreasers often contain very flammable alcohols and hydrocarbon solvents. They can be cheap and effective, but can dangerous without proper ventilation, or around open flames, sparks (e.g. welding), or hot surfaces. Nonflammable degreasers avoid these safety issues, but are generally more expensive. If you plan to powered equipment, or need to switch it on before the solvent has flashed off, consider a degreaser with a high dielectric strength. More care needs to be taken when cleaning plastic packaging, plastic components, rubber gaskets and seals. If the degreaser is incompatible with the plastic, it can craze (create small cracks), embrittle, or soften the material. Rubber seals may swell, shrink, or dissolve if exposed to a harsh solvent. A new degreaser should always be tested before being used extensively. N-Propyl Bromide (nPB), Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (Perc) are highly toxic chemicals commonly used in degreasers to provide cleaning performance in a nonflammable formula. All of this has caused maintenance facilities to reconsider their solvent choices, especially with manual cleaning when exposure tends to be higher. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), solvents that add to smog, or solvents with high global warming potential (GWP) have been a focus of a number of regulators. Some state (e.g. CARB or California Air Review Board), municipal, and even industry-specific regulations restrict the use of high VOC or high GWP materials.
Should I use gloves when using a degreaser?
Yes, it is a good idea to use gloves when degreasing. The solvents used in degreasers do a great job at breaking down greases and oils, which also happen to exist in health skin. If your hands are exposed to a degreasing solvent for enough time, oils will be drawn from your skin leading to “defattening”. Your skin will become very dry and you could eventually develop dermatitis, which looks more like a rash. In addition, some solvents like N-Propyl Bromide (nPB), Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (Perc) are highly toxic, so can be absorbed through the skin and cause issues like cancer, or impact liver or kidney function. Please wear gloves and other PPE as required.
Are degreasers toxic?
There are no degreasers that should be taken internally, but some ingredients are more harmful than others. N-Propyl Bromide (nPB), Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (Perc) are highly toxic chemicals commonly used in degreasers to provide cleaning performance in a nonflammable formula. There are documented court cases where workers suffered major health effects when exposed to high levels of these chemicals. Workers reported headaches, dizziness, and even loss of full body control. There are also possible links to reproductive problems and cancer. All of this has caused maintenance facilities to reconsider their solvent choices, especially with manual cleaning when exposure tends to be higher.
Do I need to shut off power before cleaning electrical equipment?
Before you start spraying, shut down power to avoid the potential of sparks, electrical shorts or discharges, and other safety hazards. If disconnecting the power is not an option, look for degreasers with a dielectric strength above 30 kV (30,000 volts). Choosing a nonflammable cleaner would also add a layer of safety in case there is a spark.
What is degreaser used for?
A degreaser is a cleaner designed to remove grease, oils, cutting fluids, corrosion inhibitors, handling soils, finger prints, and other contamination common in assembly, stamping, other types of metal fabrication, refineries, motor repair, airplane hangars, and many other applications. Degreasers go by a number of different names, including precision cleaner, maintenance cleaner, and specific for automotive repair, carb cleaner, brake cleaner. The objective for a degreaser is to remove the offending soil quickly, avoiding as much wiping and scrubbing as possible.