What is vapor degreasing?
Vapor degreasing is a highly effective cleaning process that involves the use of a solvent to clean a surface. The process involves putting the vapor degreasing solvents in the machine, which then boils the solvent to a vapor, and in turn condenses on the material to dissolve grease and contaminants on the surface. The system also utilizes cooling coils, which condenses the vapor to prevent it from getting out of the machine.
What solvents are used for vapor degreasing?
Vapor degreasing solvents are typically nonflammable chemicals that are used in vapor form and utilized in many surface-finishing processes. It is also essential for solvents used in this system to be chemically stable and have a low boiling point to allow for the machine to heat the solvent efficiently. Trichloroethylene and N-propyl bromide are examples of commonly used halogenated vapor degreasing solvents.
Though effective as a degreasing solvent, N-propyl bromide is considered an air pollutant and a potential carcinogen. N-propyl bromide is a colorless organobromine solvent that can also cause neurological issues and respiratory distress if someone is chronically exposed. Trichloroethylene is a colorless organic solvent that is also a known carcinogen and considered toxic to humans, causing kidney cancer and potentially liver cancer. TCE can pass through soil and accumulate and contaminate groundwater.
Are there any safer options for vapor degreasing solvents?
Yes! The number of safer alternatives for vapor degreasing is increasing and becoming more widely available. An example of a safer solvent substitute could be hydrofluoroethers (HFE’s), which are a group of organic solvents that do not contribute to ozone depletion and have a low global warming potential.
Another example of a safer option could be acetone, which can be mixed with water and used as a degreasing solvent because of its favorable cleaning properties. Though acetone is flammable, it is not considered to be a hazardous air pollutant and is usually easily accessible. Acetone is also a good option as a degreasing solvent because of its ability to evaporate very quickly and effectively clean large quantities of grease and oil.