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Cleaning and Degreasing of Industrial Machinery with Solvents

Solvents are essential for any industrial cleaning application. There are hundreds of different types of solvent cleaning, each with its own characteristics and uses. Before discussing the types of solvents, what is a solvent first? A substance (usually a liquid) that can be used to dissolve another substance without changing it chemically. Solvents are classified as either inorganic (water is the most common example) or organic. Organic solvents contain carbon and include all common industrial metal cleaning solutions. It can sometimes be difficult to choose the exact cleaning solution among all the available options that best suits your needs. It's a good idea to get to know the different types of solvent cleaners.


There are three metal cleaning solutions available for use in precision cleaning:

Oxygenated solvents

As the name suggests, these solvents contain oxygen in their molecular structure. Derived from petroleum products, these solutions usually have low toxicity and high solubility. Oxygenated solvents are widely used as additives in the manufacture of a wide variety of products from cosmetics to paints, as well as for cleaning. Many of these applications require high levels of purity, so specifications for these solvents often focus on levels of impurity and these products are usually refined to maintain high levels of purity. However, the process of making these materials is not expensive, so they tend to be relatively affordable. Examples of oxygenated solvents are alcohols, ethers, esters, glycol ethers, ester glycol ethers and ketones.

Hydrocarbon solvents

This solvent is a petroleum-based solvent whose chemical structure contains hydrogen and carbon atoms. Hydrocarbon solvents have a complex chemical structure. There are 2 main types of hydrocarbon solvents, namely:

  1. Aliphatic solvent: has a straight chain hydrocarbon structure and is used as a metal cleaning solvent as well as in manufacturing. Some examples of aliphatic solvents are gasoline, kerosene, and hexane.

  2. Aromatic solvents: widely used as degreasing agents as well as in the manufacture of paints, inks and agricultural chemicals. Aromatic solvents contain a benzene ring structure. Examples are benzene, xylene, and toulene.

The complex composition of hydrocarbon solvents means they can be formulated to meet very specific industrial requirements. It is not uncommon for special hydrocarbon solvents to be prepared. Some of the differentiating factors between different hydrocarbon solvents include flash point, density, distillation range and aroma.


Halogenated solvents

These solvents contain halogen atoms (such as fluorine, bromine, iodine or chlorine) in their molecular structure. Because they are generally stable, non-flammable, and rapidly volatile with high solvent capacities, they are widely used in industry for precision cleaning and many other applications. However, many types of halogenated solvents have been or are being phased out for environmental reasons. Some examples are perchlorethylene, chlorinated fluorocarbons.


When choosing a metal cleaning solution, you will need to consider a number of factors, including:

The type of material you are cleaning

  • Methods of cleaning used metals and equipment.

  • Compliance with health and environmental regulations

  • Storage requirements

  • Recovery and recycling options

  • Product availability

  • Price


Hope this article is useful!

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