A cleaning agent is any substance used to remove an unwanted smell, dust, dirt, or stains from surfaces. Whatever the purpose, cleaning agents exist around every corner in the form of liquids, sprays, powers, or granules. Each consists of a different chemical makeup thus making some more hazardous than others. Solvents are a substance capable of dissolving a solute (liquid, solid, or gas) to form a cleaning or degreasing solution. They are used for a number of industrial strength applications including:
- Dry Cleaning
- Nail Polish Removal
- Spot Removers
- Glue Removal
- Grease Elimination
One important quality of solvent cleaners is the boiling point as it determines the speed and temperature of evaporation. Some solvent cleaners evaporate within seconds at normal room temperature. A low boiling point results in the release of potential toxins into the air quickly under normal conditions. If a solvent has a high boiling point, this means it requires increased temperatures in addition to air flow or vacuum application to evaporate faster. This particular characteristic affects workplace safety during application of certain solvents.
What Dangers Exist When Using Solvent Cleaners?
Solvent cleaners are either organic or inorganic in nature with new water-based options becoming available for safer removal. Isopropyl alcohol is an example of a mild organic solvent because most commercial based formulas contain a percentage of water. Acetone, on the other hand, is a strong organic solvent that must be used with caution. Solvent cleaners using acetone are dangerous to inhale for an extended period of time. Hexane, often used in commercial lubricants, is another example of a strong organic solvent. It is typically applied for removal of stains or spills that do not dissolve in water such as vegetable oil or grease. Workers handling stronger organic solvents must be in a well-ventilated area to reduce the dangers of inhalation.
Inhalation is one of the biggest dangers of strong organic solvent cleaners. Handling requires a well-ventilated area, precautionary clothing, and eye protection in many cases. Those with a low-boiling point are more dangerous for both the environment and people because they have a higher vapor pressure. They are referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs and consist of any organic chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. A good example would be formaldehyde, which is released from certain paints. The largest health risks are respiratory, allergic, and immune system complications due to inhalation or direct exposure.
Safer Options Are Available
Using solvent cleaners containing low or no VOCs is one option for reducing exposure. Stocking only the needed quantity also reduces exposure as these items evaporate even when not in use. Taking measures to find a lower VOC alternative is equally important. Several companies are able to offer solvent cleaners with Low-VOCs or No VOCs, which do not evaporate as quickly and are safer to handle. At Ecolink, we not only offer choices capable of doing the job with lower VOCs, but also are able to formulate a solvent cleaner based on your specific needs. Contact us today to learn how we are able help you get the same clean with a safer, specially formulated solvent cleaner.