Whether it is aqueous or solvent cleaning, both processes require prudence and diligence from users in ensuring worker safety, environmental protection and regulatory compliance.
In aqueous cleaning, effluent treatment is a key issue. Although water tends to be associated with sustainability or “green”, it is a finite and precious resource. Certain water-based cleaners are also classified as more dangerous than specific solvent cleaners in their toxicological profile. Proper treatment of wastewater is therefore of crucial importance.
Even if the water-based cleaners are biodegradable, given that soils generally are not, the wastewater still needs to be treated and disposed properly, especially since it can contain anything from cleaning additives to oil, lubricants, fluxes, particulates etc.
Companies who fail to do so not only risk high penalties, worse still, their negligence can severely impact the ecological profile and the local communities.
Similarly, while solvent cleaning does not consume water, it still demands a well-defined solvent risk management approach across storage, handling and external recycling of used solvent/disposal of waste oils.
As solvents can give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the use of closed cleaning machines with inherent distillation unit, along with a closed-loop solvent delivery system, can significantly reduce air emissions and waste to an absolute minimum (solvent consumption is optimized simultaneously since less solvent is lost to the air and less waste is generated).
Modern closed cleaning machines are now engineered to avoid any interface between operator and solvent. In most cases the working chamber can only be opened when solvent volume falls below a defined limit. In addition, the vacuum operation model in closed machines also ensures that flammable solvents are safely handled.
Regardless of which cleaning method is chosen, there are risks involved. It is therefore vital to put in place adequate risk management policies where key aspects such as toxicological information, corrosivity, exposure risks, and flammability etc are carefully examined and considered.