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How to Safely Use An Explosion Proof Ultrasonic Cleaner for Flammable Solvents

Is it possible to safely use an ultrasonic cleaner for flammable solvents?

Yes, but you must understand the risks associated with these solvents, especially considering their low flash points—the temperature at which they ignite.

If not handled properly, these solvents can pose serious hazards.

Let’s explore the safety considerations for using flammable solvents in ultrasonic cleaning, including precautions, equipment options, and compliance with safety standards.

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What Are Some Flash Points for Flammable Ultrasonic Cleaning Solvents?

“Flash point” refers to the lowest temperature at which the vapors of a volatile compound ignite in air when exposed to an ignition source.
Guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) define a flammable liquid as one that possesses a flashpoint below 199.4F (93C).).
Flammable solvents can create a hazardous environment, as stated by the National Electrical Code (NEC), since any ignition source can readily ignite fumes.
Here is a table of common organic solvents:

SOLVENT Flash Point (°C) Flashpoint (°F)
Denatured Alcohol 14 57
1-propanol (IPA) 12 53
Toluene 4 40
Acetone -20 -4
Cyclohexane -20 -4

(All figures are rounded to the nearest whole number and might vary slightly depending on solvent brand and purity.)

Understanding the flash point of a solvent is essential in determining the potential risks and hazards associated with its use.

Flash points also help identify the appropriate storage and handling procedures to minimize the chances of fire or explosion. 

By considering the flash points of flammable solvents, users can implement necessary safety precautions and choose suitable equipment to mitigate the risks of ultrasonic cleaning.

Understanding the Risks of Ultrasonic Cleaning with Flammable Solvents

Using flammable solvents in an ultrasonic cleaner can pose several risks:

  • Fire Risk: The most immediate risk is the potential for a fire. Solvents can ignite from a spark or any form of heat.
  • Explosion Risk: If the solvent vapors reach a specific concentration, they can cause an explosion.
  • Health Risk: Solvent vapors can be harmful if inhaled. They can cause dizziness, headaches, and longer-term health issues.
  • Environmental Hazards: Improper disposal of flammable solvents can lead to environmental pollution.
  • Equipment Damage: Certain solvents can damage the equipment if they are not compatible with the materials used in the cleaner.

Fumes or spilled solvents can easily ignite when exposed to extraneous sources such as electrical equipment, associated wiring, or uncertified explosion-proof ultrasonic cleaners.

Key Industrial Ultrasonic Cleaning Applications of Flammable Solvents

Here are some key industrial applications where flammable solvents are used in ultrasonic cleaning:

  • Medical: Surgical implants are cleaned using IPA.
  • Electronics: Electronic components, such as printed circuit boards, are cleaned using flammable solvents, as they can easily remove oils, greases, and other contaminants without damaging the components.
  •  Automotive: Parts like powder coating nozzles are cleaned using IPA, and flammable solvents are used for cleaning or degreasing car parts, including engine components
  • Aerospace: Small X-ray tube components are cleaned in volatile solvents, as are other critical components where a high degree of cleanliness is required
  • Textiles: Some flammable solvents are used in the textile industry for spot or general cleaning.
  • Paint and Coating Stripping: Flammable solvents, including Toluene, can dissolve and remove paints, varnishes, and surface coatings.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Flammable solvents such as Acetone are used in various stages of drug production, including purification and cleaning processes.
  • Printing: Flammable solvents are used to clean equipment, remove ink residues, and maintain the machinery.
  • General Manufacturing: Various parts and equipment are cleaned using flammable solvents, requiring strict adherence to safety protocols to prevent accidents and potential hazards.

Safety Precautions for Dealing With Flammable Solvents in an Ultrasonic Cleaner

Handling flammable solvents in ultrasonic cleaning requires utmost care. Here are some safety precautions you should follow:

  • Proper Ventilation: Make sure the area is well-ventilated. This will help prevent the build-up of flammable fumes.
  • Use of Safety Equipment: Always use appropriate safety equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and lab coats, to protect yourself from accidental spills or splashes.
  • No Smoking or Open Flames: Ensure no smoking or open flames are near the area where you’re handling the solvents.
  • Grounding: Flammable solvents can generate static electricity, which can cause a spark. Always ground all equipment to prevent this.
  • Proper Storage: Store flammable solvents in approved containers and cabinets designed for explosive materials.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Have a fire extinguisher nearby and be familiar with its operation. Also, know the location of the nearest fire exit.
  • Proper Disposal: Dispose of used solvents per local regulations. Never pour them down the drain.
  • Training: Everyone who works with flammable solvents should have proper training in handling and disposal and in responding to emergencies involving these materials.

Safety should always be your priority when dealing with flammable solvents or hazardous materials.

Key Features of Explosion Proof Ultrasonic Cleaners

These specialized cleaners are designed to prevent sparks or ignition sources from coming into contact with flammable solvents, reducing the risk of explosions or fires.

Here are some key features of explosion-proof ultrasonic cleaners:

  • Class I, Division 1 Compliance: An explosion-proof ultrasonic cleaner is certified for use in Class I, Division 1 compliant per the NEC classification method
  • Robust Construction: They are built with rugged materials like stainless steel to withstand harsh environments and provide prolonged service life.
  • Robust Ventilation: Explosion-proof ultrasonic cleaners are equipped with a robust ventilation system that effectively removes any fumes or vapors generated during the cleaning process, reducing the risk of ignition.
  • Intrinsically Safe Electrical Components: All electrical components used in explosion-proof ultrasonic cleaners are inherently safe, meaning they are designed to prevent sparks or arcs that could ignite flammable solvents.
  • Temperature Control: These cleaners have precise temperature control features that ensure the solvent remains within a safe temperature range, minimizing the risk of reaching flash points.
  • Time Control Settings: Users can set a specific cleaning duration depending on the level of cleanliness required.
  • Inbuilt Drain Systems: These facilitate easy and safe disposal of used cleaning solutions.
  • Automation Features: Some models may offer automated fill, start, and stop functions for ease of use and efficiency.
  • Multiple Frequency Options: Multiple ultrasonic frequency options allow for fine-tuning the cleaning process.
  • Portability: Despite their robust construction, many explosion-proof ultrasonic cleaners are portable, allowing for convenient relocation.
  • Noise Reduction: Some models come equipped with noise reduction features for a quieter operation.

Importance of Ventilation and Fume Control

Ventilation and fume control are critical when dealing with flammable solvents for several reasons:

  • Preventing Build-up of Flammable Fumes: Flammable solvents can emit vapors that build up in the air over time. If these vapors reach a particular concentration and come in contact with an ignition source, they can cause a fire or even an explosion.
  • Maintaining Air Quality: Many flammable solvents release harmful fumes that can be dangerous if inhaled. These fumes can lead to health issues such as respiratory problems, dizziness, nausea, and in severe cases, loss of consciousness. Proper ventilation helps to ensure that these fumes do not reach dangerous levels.
  • Avoiding Chemical Reactions: Some flammable solvents can react with other chemicals or materials present in the environment, leading to hazardous conditions. Ventilation helps to remove these solvents from the environment before they can cause such reactions.
  • Improving Visibility: In some cases, the fumes released by flammable solvents can reduce visibility in the workspace, making it more difficult for workers to perform their tasks safely and efficiently.
  • Compliance with Safety Regulations: Many jurisdictions have safety regulations that require adequate ventilation when working with flammable solvents. These rules are designed to protect workers and prevent accidents.

Compliance With Safety Standards and Regulations for Flammable Solvents in Ultrasonic Cleaning

Safety standards and regulations for flammable solvents in ultrasonic cleaning often vary by country and region. 

However, some commonly recognized international safety standards include:

  • NFPA 30: This is the Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code provided by the National Fire Protection Association. It provides fundamental safeguards for storing, handling, and using flammable and combustible liquids.
  • OSHA 1910.106: This Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard applies to handling, storing, and using flammable liquids with a flash point below 200°F.
  • ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU: In Europe, equipment used in environments with flammable solvents should comply with this directive.
  • IECEx System: The International Electrotechnical Commission System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres (IECEx System).

Compliance guidelines include:

  • Use equipment specifically designed for use with flammable solvents.
  • Ensure the equipment is adequately earthed/grounded to prevent static electricity build-up.
  • Keep the working area well-ventilated to prevent vapor accumulation.
  • Store solvents in appropriate containers in a well-ventilated, cool, dry place away from ignition sources.
  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and eye protection.
  •  Follow proper procedures for handling and disposing of flammable solvents.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain equipment to ensure it’s in good working order.

Are Ultrasonic Cleaners Made For Flammable Solvents Really “Explosion Proof?”

No device can be 100% guaranteed as “explosion proof.” Proper use, maintenance, and adherence to safety protocols are critical when using these devices with flammable solvents.

Can Ultrasonic Cleaners Be Used With Non-Flammable Solvents as Well?

Yes, you can use ultrasonic cleaners with non-flammable solvents. However, it’s always important to consider the following factors:

  • Ensure that the solvent is compatible with the materials of the items you are cleaning.
  • Check that the solvent suits the dirt or contaminants you want to remove.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the ultrasonic cleaner and the solvent.
  • Safety should always be your top priority, so use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and work in a well-ventilated area if necessary.
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To determine the best ultrasonic cleaning equipment and solutions for your business needs, please contact one of our experts today. You can reach our main office at 800-992-7378. For national and international sales representatives in your area, please click here. For email, please use our contact form.
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Considering An Industrial Heated Ultrasonic Cleaner?

The decision of whether to invest in a heated ultrasonic cleaning system is significant, and understanding the pros and cons is an essential first step.

In this article, we’ll demystify the world of industrial heated ultrasonic cleaners, shedding light on their capabilities and helping you determine if it’s the right choice.

Whether you’re a business owner, a technician, or someone intrigued by the latest cleaning technology, we hope this brief guide helps!

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The Advantages of Using Heat Energy With Ultrasonic Cleaning

Operators commonly use heat during ultrasonic cleaning because it brings several advantages:
  • Improved Efficiency with Certain Cleaning Solutions: Some cleaning solutions are designed to work more effectively at higher temperatures. Using heat with these solutions can, therefore, improve their cleaning power.
  • Better Removal of Stubborn Residues: Heat can help soften and dissolve stubborn residues, making them easier to remove during ultrasonic cleaning.
  • Degreasing Capability: Heat is particularly effective at dissolving grease and oil, making it ideal for cleaning mechanical parts and kitchen utensils.
  • Reduced Cleaning Time: By speeding up the cleaning process, heat can significantly reduce the time needed to clean items thoroughly.
  • Enhanced Disinfection: Heat energy can help kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, making it an effective method for sterilizing items.
  • Better Penetration: Heat can help the cleaning solution penetrate deeper into hard-to-reach areas, ensuring a more comprehensive clean.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Heat energy can make ultrasonic cleaning more cost-effective in the long run by reducing cleaning times and improving efficiency.
Always follow manufacturer recommendations when using heat in ultrasonic cleaning processes, as some materials may be sensitive to high temperatures.

The Disadvantages of Using Higher Temperatures for Ultrasonic Cleaning

While heat can enhance the effectiveness of ultrasonic cleaning in certain situations, it can also present several potential disadvantages:
  • Damage to Some Sensitive Materials: Delicate, extremely thin, or fragile items can be damaged when exposed to high temperatures. Plastics and certain rubbers, for example, can warp or melt, and certain metals can discolor or deform. Certain gemstones can be damaged by heat.
  • Damage in Some Scientific Applications: Heat can denature proteins and damage other biological samples.
  • Cleaning Sensitive Electronic Components: Heat can cause thermal stress to electronic components, potentially leading to failure.
  • Risk of Burns and Fire: Using heat introduces risks related to burns and fire, especially if flammable cleaning solutions are used or if the equipment is not handled correctly.
  • Increased Energy Consumption: Heating the cleaning solution requires additional energy, which can increase operating costs.
  • Longer Preparation Time: Heating the cleaning solution to the desired temperature takes time, which can prolong the overall cleaning process.
  • Potential Acceleration of Unwanted Chemical Reactions: Heat can speed up chemical reactions. This can lead to the creation of potentially harmful gases, especially when certain cleaning solutions are used.
  • Reduced Equipment Life Expectancy: Excessive heat may lead to accelerated wear and tear of the components of ultrasonic cleaning equipment.
Always use appropriate safety measures and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using heat with ultrasonic cleaning.

Key Features to Look for in a Heated Ultrasonic Cleaner

The key features of a heated ultrasonic cleaner should have vs. a non-heated one are:
  • Heating Function: While obvious a need, be careful to look for this specifically when choosing your system.
  • Adjustable Temperature Control: This allows you to set the heat level as needed for different types of items and levels of dirtiness.
  • Timed Heat Settings: These allow you to control how long the solution stays heated during the cleaning cycle.
  • Automatic Shut-off: This prevents accidents that can occur when the temperature gets too high for any reason.
All other features related to the operation, such as frequency range, capacity, construction material, timer, ease of use, safety features, drainage system, noise level, and warranty, are generally the same for both heated and non-heated ultrasonic cleaners.

How do I determine the correct heat settings for my ultrasonic cleaning tasks?

For industrial ultrasonic parts cleaning, the correct heat settings will vary based on the type of contaminant and the material of the parts.
Here are some general guidelines:
  • Light oils, dust, or fingerprints: These can often be removed at lower temperatures, around 50-60°C (122-140°F).
  • Cutting oils, heavy grease, or similar contaminants: Higher temperatures, around 70-80°C (158-176°F), might be necessary.
  • Very stubborn residues or contaminants: Occasionally, temperatures up to 90°C (194°F) may be needed.
However, these are just general guidelines; you should not see them as recommendations. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or material safety data sheets to ensure the chosen temperature won’t damage the parts.
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To determine the best ultrasonic cleaning equipment and solutions for your business needs, please contact one of our experts today. You can reach our main office at 800-992-7378. For national and international sales representatives in your area, please click here. For email, please use our contact form.