The Cost to Switch to a
TCE Replacement

A note of caution. Be careful not to evaluate TCE replacement fluids simply by cost alone. TCE is inexpensive with the safer replacements often costing much more on a per gallon or per pound basis.

However, there are savings to be had with the TCE replacements in other areas. For instance, many of the TCE replacement fluids, when used in a proper vapor degreaser can be used and recycled hundreds of times with little cleaning fluid loss.

In addition, the benefits of employee well-being, a pleasant working environment and good worker morale are immeasurable.

Replacing Trichlorethylene

Many companies are looking for a substitute for trichlorethylene in their critical cleaning processes. They want a TCE replacement that is just as effective as TCE, but with a better safety profile to help protect their workers, safeguard the environment and reduce their regulatory reporting burden.

Fortunately, there are a variety of trichlorethylene replacement cleaning fluids on the market today that can fulfill all those requirements. They meet almost any industrial cleaning requirements while helping companies maintain or even improve their cleaning processes. Plus, the trichlorethylene replacements hold several other advantages.

Same or Better Cleaning
The TCE replacement fluids have been lab-tested and analyzed to ensure the cleaning results are reliable, consistent and just as good as the TCE solvent. Cleaning efficiencies were maintained or improved.
Lower Cost Conversion
In many cases, most of the TCE replacement fluids can be used in existing equipment, using the same methods. After emptying and cleaning the vapor degreaser many of the TCE replacement cleaning fluids can be “dropped in” into the machinery without an appreciable change to the cleaning process
Energy Savings
Many of the TCE replcaements have a lower boiling point and heat of vaporization than TCE, requiring less energy consumption, resulting in an overall energy cost savings.
Improved efficiency
Since many TCE replacements boil at a lower rate than TCE, parts come out of the vapor degreaser cool enough to handle. No extra time is required for the parts to cool down. This allows workers to move on to the next production process sooner, boosting overall throughput and productivity.
Enhanced safety
Many of the TCE replacement cleaning fluids are nonflammable for improved safety in the workplace. Their azeotropic properties ensure they are thermally stable and safe to use. This could also translate into to company insurance savings.
Healthier for workers
Many of the substitutes for nPB, PERC or TCE have better toxicity profiles and higher TLVs (Threshold Limit Values) than the legacy solvents making them safer for workers to be around.
Better environmental impact
Since the replacements for trichlorethylene do not carry a heavy regulatory burden like some of the legacy solvents, switching to a modern cleaning fluid helps you improve your environmental footprint. Most TCE replacements are not considered a HAP (Hazardous Air Pollutant) and may not require NESHAP (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) permits.
Improved maintenance procedures
Except under the most extreme conditions, such as if exposed to a strong base or acid, or exposed to extreme heat, the TCE replacement fluids will not “turn acid”. They do not require the stabilizers or scavengers or weekly testing required of the legacy solvents.
Better working conditions
Most TCE alternatives do not have the same pungent, sweet smell associated with TCE or the other legacy solvents. Less fumes means a more pleasant work area and happier, more productive workers. In addition, since many of the next generation fluids are safer to use, PPE requirements may be less stringent, making the working environment more convenient and comfortable for employees.
Easier handling, transport and disposal
TCE replacements are more easily recycled on-site because they do not contain any stabilizers or additive required when using legacy solvents. Employees do not need the same type of intensive training to manage the new fluids safely, saving time and money.

Choosing the Right TCE Replacement

There are many substitutes for trichlorethylene that are people-safe, planet-safe and affordable.  The best substitute for trichlorethylene for you will depend on a few different factors.

First, determine the contamination. Are you cleaning flux paste and solder residues from circuit boards? Or are you degreasing metals part in preparation for finishing? Lubricants, dust, metal particulate, fingerprints, waxes or other residues must be removed prior to processing or assembly. The common need is to clean components prior to painting, plating, welding or subsequent processing.  The type of contamination you face will help dictate which trichlorethylene replacement cleaning fluid will work best.

Second, identify the material. What is the substrate you are cleaning? Whether it be plastic, metal, ceramic or any other type of material, there are TCE replacement cleaning fluids available. Matching the correct fluid to the substrate will ensure the fluid will safely displace soils without causing detrimental effects to the substrate or cause flash-rusting.

Finally, what is your geographic location and local regulatory restrictions? Depending on your locale regulations can be stringent. For instance, in the United States you need to meet EPA standards and in Europe you are required to follow REACH regulations.

Choosing the Right TCE Replacement

When trying to determine the best TCE replacement to use, it is recommended that you work with a critical cleaning expert. They will have the knowledge, training and experience to help you make the best choice for your particular cleaning project.

With hundreds of years of combined critical cleaning expertise, the MicroCare team of cleaning engineers, chemists and technical experts help companies convert from TCE solvents to effective, safe and compliant TCE alternatives. They will evaluate the contamination and the substrate or material to make a recommendation for the best trichlorethylene replacement. The goal of our support team is that the TCE replacement fluid will deliver cleaning results as good as or better than TCE at a similar cost-per-part-cleaned

On-Site Cleaning Audit

An on-site audit helps determine your unique requirements for a tricholoethylene replacement fluid. Understanding the applications helps us understand important information, such as fluid density and viscosity requirements, and any other constraints.

Identify Replacements

MicroCare offers a range of safer substitutes for trichlorethylene that can meet almost any industrial cleaning requirement. The alternative fluids can, in most cases, be used in the same equipment with the same methodologies.

Critical Cleaning Lab Testing

MicroCare operates a state-of-the-art critical cleaning lab where cleaning studies are performed. Sample parts with the identified soils are cleaned with the prescribed MicroCare TCE replacementcleaning fluid. The process is fully documented so it can easily be reproduced outside the lab.

On-Site
Testing

After a potential TCE alternative cleaner is identified, a MicroCare regional engineer works with you to test how well the potential TCE replacement works.

Create a Custom Fluid

If the sample testing doesn’t deliver the results needed, we can alter its formulation to create a custom cleaning fluid to suit your exact needs.

Effective TCE Replacement Cleaners

MicroCare offers a variety of powerful, fast-drying, residue-free cleaning fluids as substitutes for trichlorethylene.  These high-purity, non-flammable, synthetic cleaning fluids offer high-performance cleaning on parts without leaving unwanted residue or causing detrimental effects to the substrates.

These fluids also are low in viscosity and surface tension, which allows them to get into tight crevices and wet all the surfaces of the parts. They also offer high solvency (“Kb Values”) which allows them to rigorously clean the surface and displace stubborn soils.

Tergo Metal Cleaning Fluid

  • Based on  HFO chemistries
  • Featuring enhanced environmental benefits
  • Maximum stability and ease of recycling
  • Strong, aggressive cleaning (high Kb value)

Tergo Chlorine-Free Fluid

  • An economical co-solvent system
  • Excellent replacement for nPB, Perc or TCE
  • High-temperature cleaning of waxes and buffing compounds
  • Excellent materials compatibility

Opteon SF79 Fluid

  • Ultra-low global warming potential (GWP)
  • Uncompromised degreasing of heavy hydrocarbons
  • Excellent replacement for nPB, perc and TCE

Vertrel SDG Degreaser

  • The solvent of choice for maximum cleaning
  • Versatile cleaner of oil, grease, hydraulic fluids and silicones
  • Significantly improved safety profile over older solvents

Vertrel SFR Degreaser

  • Excellent electronics cleaner optimized for vapor degreasing
  • Ideal for removing high temperature lead-free fluxes and pastes widely used in modern electronics

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the PEL of TCE?

To help protect people who work in potentially hazardous environments, OSHA established a PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) range. A PEL is the legal limit of a chemical substance that workers should be exposed to during a typical eight-hour day, 40 hours per week, for a working life time (which is taken as 40 years). A lower number means even a brief exposure to the chemical may pose health hazards. A relatively hazardous liquid might have a PEL of 5 or 10 ppm. A safe fluid would be 400 ppm or higher. The highest possible rating is 1,000 ppm. TCE has a PEL of 100.

Are TCE replacements used in a vapor degreaser?

Both TCE and MicroCare TCE replacement fluids are designed to be used in a vapor degreaser.

How do I handle TCE replacement fluids?

MicroCare trichlorethylene replacement fluids are nonflammable and are shipped as “DOT non-hazardous”. Keep them in a cool, dry location, out of sunlight. You can recycle the cleaning fluid hundreds of times through distillation before disposal. When needed, handle the empty containers and spent fluid according to Federal, State and local regulations. Contact a MicroCare precision cleaning expert for more details.

Do the replacement cleaners turn acid like TCE?

The replacement fluids for TCE are thermally and hydrolytically stable. They will not turn acid unless exposed to a strong base or acid or if exposed to extreme heat. They also do not require stabilizers or scavengers that are common with TCE.

Are TCE replacements safe for all materials?

TCE replacements have the same or better material compatibility than TCE.

What is TCE?

TCE (Trichlorethylene) is a manmade chemical compound that is used as an industrial cleaner degreaser. It is a volatile unsaturated aliphatic halogenated hydrocarbon (C2HCl3). It is a clear, colorless liquid and has a sweet smell that can be offensive. It is a low boiling (189° F, 87°C) solvent that is also non-flammable with a flashpoint of >200°F (93°C). Some of the industrial abbreviations for trichlorethylene include TCE, Trike, Triclor, Tri or Tricky.

Within the critical cleaning industry, TCE is valued for its ability to solubilize contaminants such as oil, grease and buffing compounds on many types and configurations of metal parts. The combination of its vapor density (4.53), viscosity (0.545) and surface tension (0.0264 N/m at 20 deg C) make it a good cleaner degreaser.

It is a strong cleaner with a Kb value of 133. Kb value refers to a standardized ASTM test that measures the relative strength of a non-aqueous cleaning fluid. The test involves measuring the solubility of a very specific type of contamination, called “kauri gum.” Kb values range from 10 (very mild) to 200 or even higher (very strong).

TCE is used in a wide variety of commercial and industrial products, including degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners, pesticides, resins, glues, and a host of other mixing and thinning solutions. Its chlorine-containing chemical structure helps it to efficiently dissolve organic materials like fats and greases and to serve as a raw material or intermediate in the production of other chemicals.

What is the history of TCE (Trichlorethylene)?

Throughout the years, Trichlorethylene has been an aggressive, inexpensive and readily available solvent that worked very well in a number of different industries.

Trichlorethylene (TCE) was first produced in the 1920s. Its major use was in food processing. TCE was used to extract oils including coconut, soy and palm from plants. It was also part of the process to decaffeinate ground coffee.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, both in Europe and North America, TCE was widely used for medicinal purposes. It was used as an anesthetic to replace the malodourous and volatile options of chloroform and ether that were commonly dispensed at that time. It also once served as a painkiller, most often inhaled by obstetrical patients.

Due to concerns about its toxicity, the use of trichloroethylene in the food and pharmaceutical industries is being phased out or has been completely banned in much of the world since the 1970s. However, it is still being used as an anesthetic in less developed countries.

TCE is also used in the manufacture of refrigerants, adhesives and paint removers. It was also once widely employed as a dry cleaning solvent through the 1950s and as a textile spot cleaner through 2000.

However, the greatest use of TCE is as a cleaner and degreaser for metal parts. Often it is used in vapor degreasing functions to remove machining oils, metal fines, grease, fingerprints and waxes from components prior to painting, plating, welding or other subsequent processing.

The demand for TCE as a degreaser started to decline in the 1950s in favor of the less toxic 1,1,1-trichloroethane. However, 1,1,1-trichloroethane production was phased out in most of the world under the terms of the 1987 Montreal Protocol as a compound responsible for ozone depletion. As a result, TCE experienced a resurgence in use as a degreaser.

In 2011, the US EPA (United State Environmental Protection Agency) issued a health assessment for TCE. Their assessment recognizes TCE as carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure (i.e., by ingestion, inhalation, and skin exposure).

Today, TCE continues to be on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State OSHA watch lists. It hasn’t been officially banned yet. In Europe it is classified as SVHC (Substance of Very High Concern). However, experts speculate that TCE will most likely be phased-out over the next ten years and safer substitutes for trichlorethylene will take their place.

Even now, some chemical companies still have TCE in their products. However, many companies are proactively removing TCE from their aerosol formulations. Still others have stopped selling TCE altogether, making TCE availability more limited. This in turn has driven up costs for manufacturers resulting in higher prices on TCE for the end users. Fortunately, this has prompted many end-users to search for a safer substitute for trichloroethylene.

Are the replacement cleaners as strong as TCE?

MicroCare offers a variety of cleaners that perform just as good, if not better than TCE.

Are TCE replacement cleaners flammable?

All of the cleaning fluid formulations that MicroCare provides for vapor degreasing are nonflammable.

Are TCE replacements SNAP approved?

All of the MicroCare TCE replacement cleaning fluids are EPA SNAP accepted.

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