Which is Better, Solvent or Aqueous Cleaning?

Which is Better, Solvent or Aqueous Cleaning?

The answer? It depends! Surface cleaning of metal components is dependent on numerous factors.

  • The type and composition of the contaminant
  • The complexity of the part to be cleaned
  • The type of metal
  • How clean is clean?
  • Available footprint within the shop operation
  • Parts throughput
  • Energy costs
  • Waste treatment availability (in house or haul off)

At a high level, here is a chart that describes the pros and cons of the most used types of cleaning chemistries.

Non–halogenated Solvents –Hydrocarbons​
Relatively low cost​
Readily available
Good for pre-cleaning
Good for non-polar soils
Vacuum degreasers only
Less cleaning efficiency
Leaves oily residue
Fluorinated Solvent Blends​
Very stable azeotrope
Low surface tension for precision cleaning​
High fill cost
Not as effective on heavy soils
Requires additional cooling coils
Modified AlcoholsNo pending regulations​
Low operating costs
Effective on water and oil-based soils
High equipment costs (vacuum degreasers)​
Moderate fill costs
Requires stabilization
Aqueous CleaningGood cleaning capabilities – soils, oils, waxes​
Low chemical costs
Ability to recycle the chemistry
High energy costs
Larger footprint
Requires wastewater treatment or haul-off

It takes a lot of expertise to select the right cleaner. Therefore, companies like Hubbard-Hall ask for documentation on the type of contaminants to be cleaned off, samples of parts to trial, in-depth discussions on cleanliness requirements, current throughput, future projections…there is a lot of work involved in getting you the right cleaner for the process.

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