One problem that is constantly facing manufacturers, those who work with industrial machines, and members of the food production industry is how to effectively and safely clean. Machines used in all these industries have to be cleaned in a way that doesn’t leave a dangerous residue where bacteria can grow, doesn’t damage delicate surfaces, and doesn’t create any hazardous waste. For most applications, the most environmentally sustainable cleaning method, and the method safest and most practical for the machines in question is CO2 blasting.
What Is CO2 Blasting?
Also known as dry ice cleaning, this method of environmentally sustainable cleaning involves the use of small pellets of dry ice, which is carbon dioxide at a temperature of -79°C. The process of dry ice blasting was invented and patented in 1955, and it works by using compressed air to blast the dry ice pellets at a high velocity at the surface that needs to be cleaned.
Isn’t CO2 Unsafe?
It is true that carbon dioxide at very high concentrations can be a problem for human beings. Concentrations of 3-5% in the atmosphere can cause a person to experience headaches and rapid breathing. Concentrations of 7-12% can cause a person to go unconscious. Beyond these levels, a person exposed to too much carbon dioxide can suffocate. However, carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring substance in our own atmosphere and is generally considered harmless.
The reason CO2 is not widely considered dangerous is that it is 40% heavier than the air and always sinks. Unless a person is locked away in a room with large concentrations of CO2 or is lying on the floor in a place where CO2 is being used, there is very little danger. As dry ice melts, it simply sublimates into the atmosphere without first turning into a liquid as water does.
Why Is Dry Ice Cleaning Safe and Practical?
There are several benefits to dry ice blasting that make it a preferred method for cleaning.
- There is no contamination. With other cleaning processes, anything from moisture to chemical residue can be left behind. Sometimes the item that has just been cleaned has to be cleaned from the cleaner! Because of the way dry ice evaporates, it leaves behind no moisture or residue of any sort.
- There is no secondary waste. Again, because of the evaporation method, this environmentally sustainable cleaning method produces no secondary waste and thus requires no extra time or effort to clean up after.
- Equipment can be cleaned without disassembly. With other cleaning methods, it is usually necessary to disassemble the machine, clean all the tight spaces, and then reassemble the machine at the end. Dry ice cleaning is able to reach into the tightest spaces and saves an enormous amount of time because machines can be cleaned in place and without disassembly.
- There is no risk of fire or abrasion. Unlike sandblasting or chemical cleaning, there is no chance that dry ice blasting will set anything on fire or damage the surface of the item being cleaned. It’s safe to use on electrical components and other delicate pieces of machinery. Employees are kept safe and unexposed to any sort of grit, fire hazard, or chemicals.
How Is it an Environmentally Sustainable Cleaning Method?
In the first place, dry ice blasting produces no secondary waste. Dry ice pellets simply evaporate into the atmosphere. No water or moisture contaminates anything or carries contaminants into the water supply. No toxic chemicals or corrosive solvents are necessary. CO2 itself can be taken from the atmosphere, and considering the need to reduce CO2 levels worldwide, there is more than enough to use in cleaning! No other cleaning method comes close to the environmentally sustainable cleaning that can be achieved with dry ice cleaning.
The CDC estimates that every year one out of every six people in the United States will get sick because of a food or beverage that was contaminated in some way. This is just one of the industries that needs a safe, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable cleaning method. CO2 cleaning is the right way to keep us, our environment, and our machinery safe.