TCE going acid. What That Means and How to Prevent It.

Cleaning the Hard to Clean

How does TCE go acid?

Some common conditions that can cause the TCE to go acid are;

  • Excess water from condensation
  • Wet parts
  • Damaged cooling coils
  • Chlorinated oils
  • Water-based cutting fluids

Always check with the manufacturer of the vapor degreasing equipment or the supplier of the solvent for guidance.

How do I know if my TCE has gone acid?

An acid acceptance test is the most accurate way to determine if the TCE has gone acid. However, there are some visual indicators, such as;

  • A burning odor
  • Darker than normal solvent
  • Tar-like substances on the degreaser components
  • Spotting of processed aluminum parts or rusting of processed steel parts
  • Pinhole leaks on the condensing coils

What Can I Do to Prevent my TCE from Going Acid?

It used to be that if you added fresh solvent regularly, there was enough stabilizer to keep the solvent from going acid. However, as the supply of TCE diminishes, this may not be feasible from either a cost or lead time perspective. In addition, some commodity TCE is NOT stabilized. You should always check with the supplier to be sure the TCE is ‘degreaser grade’ or ask them for an acid acceptance test.

A good PM program can help keep your TCE performing properly. To-do items;

  • Run the degreaser without any parts to distill and clean the solvent
  • Check the stabilizer level – make sure there is an optimal balance of solvent and stabilizer
  • Test with a quality test kit and fresh reagents
  • Check the cooling coils and all temperature levels
  • Check the water separator, make sure the drain is not clogged

Do not rely on recharging your degreaser bath to keep the TCE stable. With uncertain supply chains, and low availability, the cost per pound of a good stabilizer is key to keeping your TCE viable and your process line running.



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