Low Toxicity Cleaning Alternatives

Safer alternatives for the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industries

The purpose of this project was to find, develop, test and demonstrate alternative safer materials and methods of cleaning reactor tanks and associated equipment in the chemical industry. This project was sponsored by U.S. EPA and Cal/EPA's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). DTSC has contracted with the Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA) to perform the technical work of the project. Three reports have been developed as a result of this project.

  • Screening Tests of Alternatives - September 2011
    There may be more than 1,200 chemical manufacturing facilities in California and many of them use solvents to clean reactor tanks and associated equipment like process hoses. This project involved conducting tests of a range of low-VOC, low toxicity alternatives. IRTA worked with AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a progressive pharmaceutical company, to develop a test protocol and test the alternatives on three soils that would typically encountered. The results indicated that two alkaline water-based cleaners, soy and propylene carbonate performed well on some of the soils. Read the report.
  • Process Hose Cleaning - September 2011
    This project involved analyzing the feasibility and cost of reducing the use of solvents used today and converting to safer cleaning materials for hypothetical small and large process hose cleaning operations. Six options for reducing solvent use, including on- and off-site recycling and reutilization, were examined. Four options for eliminating solvent use, including converting to water based cleaners, were examined. In general, reducing or eliminating the use of solvents results in substantial cost savings. Read the report.
  • Paint Manufacturing Tank Cleaning - March 2012
    Paint manufacturers are part of the chemicals industry and there are many such manufacturers in California. This report focuses on a hypothetical manufacturer of waterborne paints. This report investigated the feasibility and cost of adopting alternatives to methylene chloride for cleaning the paint tanks between manufacturing runs. It examined approaches, processes and cleaners that could be used in place of the toxic solvent. The results indicated the lowest cost option is to use a pressure washer with plain water for the tank cleaning shortly after manufacturing the paint batch. Read the report.