Before we go on to identifying the right chemicals for different applications, it is essential to spell the functions of chemicals in the cleaning process. In the cleaning process, mechanical action is the energy added by scrubbing, temperature is the heat energy and chemical is energy added through the use of cleaning agents.
The chemical interactions begin with wetting the surface with water which causes high surface tension due to the hydrogen bonding. Water alone cannot penetrate the space between the soil and the surface; hence the need for chemicals. Surfactants/detergents, or chemical compounds are added for deflocculation, followed by reactions like suspension, dissolution, emulsification, neutralisation and oxidation. There is a lot that goes on when chemistry is used in cleaning and not all cleansers can create the required interaction to treat a particular soil. Specialised chemicals customised for each application in different industries can alone provide the required cleaning results; besides ensuring safety of the surface being cleaned, safety of the person engaged in cleaning and savings through limited use of chemicals.
However, most industries are still engaging caustics, phosphates or chlorine bleach to break the coagulated protein in the soil clinging to the surface. Wrong chemicals can damage the surface leading to additional expense in the long run.
Besides right chemicals, the proportionate dosing of chemicals is equally important. Lowering the regulatory chemical cost and maintaining high cleaning quotient through dilution control system can be the ideal way.
Says Jigar Shah of Revachem, there is a lot of difference in general or commercial cleaning and industrial cleaning as each has its specific challenges. “Industrial cleaning takes the challenge to a whole new level owing to the specific requirements it demands – cleaning of shop floors, which are often covered with oil and grease.
The spills easily spread in the whole factory through trolleys or forklifts that are constantly running on the shop floor. This demands specific chemicals to clean floors as well as offices, as the oil and grease sometimes spread to those areas as well.
Soiling levels in workers’ uniforms and on the shop floor are usually too high – demanding extra treatment for cleaning. Further, most of the shop floors usually are operated 24 hours; hence cleaning has to be done without affecting the performance. Cleaning staff need specialized training to do the same with extra care. Retaining skilled staff is another major challenge being faced by industries. Apart from the requirement of skilled staff, cleaning on shop floor needs to be mechanized as much as possible as there remain some odd soiled spaces that can’t be cleaned manually.
One of the leading manufacturers of diesel engines recently upgraded their Pune plant by laying high quality epoxy on the complete floor. The epoxy floor turned dull due to oil deposits. The oil and grease residue used to spread across the plant due to footfalls and trolley movement. The company’s facility services then decided to install a degreaser which was free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the result was more than satisfactory. The step was also in sync with their going green.”