Nearly all efforts at cleaning disposable medical devices require several steps during manufacturing. Each cleaning process is designed to remove contamination created during manufacturing processes, such as particulate, oils or inorganics. But achieving high quality cleaning results is a challenge in the world of medical devices because of the complex assemblies, intricate shapes, sensitive substrates and delicate parts. Many device manufacturers use water-based cleaning systems and simply tolerate the problems those machines bring. But today, many new solvent options are available. These new chemistries are highly effective, safe, environmentally friendly and affordable. In response, medical device manufacturers are once again realizing that vapor degreasing is highly effective method for critical cleaning.
The author describes the flawed decision-making criteria used by many companies when selecting cleaning equipment. All too often, companies focus on the “cost-per-liter” of the cleaning fluid as the principle life-cycle cost. This is misleading because aqueous cleaning systems generally only use their inexpensive cleaning saponifiers and surfactants once, while solvent systems recycle the cleaning fluid indefinitely — the solvent never wears out. This distinction results in substantially different cleaning costs. The model also includes indirect costs, such as maintenance, floor space, ancillary systems, and labor costs. Modern solvent cleaning usually is faster and less expensive than aqueous cleaning.
First published November 2o11
Revised June 2018
For decades, vapor degreasing was the “go to” precision cleaning technology. This came to an end in the 1990s when the ozone issue forced the phase-out of the most popular vapor degreasing solvents. Water-based cleaning systems filled some of the void. But today users of aqueous cleaners know those systems guzzle electricity, have large footprints, require significant capital investment, are maintenance intensive, and usually require extensive wastewater treatment systems. It’s time to revisit vapor degreasing.
Critical cleaning processes are found in many industries and they all have different definitions of ‘clean’. The author suggests the definition of critical cleaning is simple: if the cost of a cleaning failure is high, then it’s mission-critical. The author then explains the deployment of low-boiling solvents in vapor degreasers offer a better, faster and less expensive option for many critical cleaning applications. In the conclusion, the author also suggests specific cleaning fluids for specific applications.