A great deal of misconception still surrounds the use of solvent cleaners, and many businesses are using aqueous solutions just because they think they’re safer, rather than considering the chemistry that is most appropriate for their needs.
While solvents do have a controversial history, the solvents of the 80s and 90s have been left in the past, and the current new generation of chemicals are just as safe as the aqueous solutions people have become accustomed to.
So what are some of the most common myths about solvents, and what’s the truth?
Are solvents bad for the environment?
Modern cleaning solvents use extremely eco-friendly chemistries, which offer a superior cleaning performance. They are low in cost and provide a genuine alternative to the old hazardous solvents which have now been banned or restricted. The Chemours™ Opteon™ range of safe, environmentally friendly solvents have become widely accepted as best in class, next generation fluids and are approved for use in a large range of standard cleaning systems.
Solvents now also boast low global warming potential (GWP), which is a measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere up to a specific time horizon, relative to carbon dioxide. It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas in question to the amount of heat trapped by a similar mass of carbon dioxide and is expressed as a factor of carbon dioxide. GWP is used to represent the equivalent of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. For example, 1kg CO2 = GWP of 1. Opteon™ SF80 has a GWP of <2.5 compared to a traditional HFC-based solvent with a GWP figure of around 148.
Are solvents dangerous to health?
While hazardous chlorinated and brominated solvents do exist, a safe, non-flammable solvent is preferable. The Opteon™ range is an ideal drop-in replacement for restricted chlorinated solvents such as Trichloroethylene, Methylene Chloride, perchloroethylene (PERC) and n Proplybromide (nPB). The products maintain compositional stability during use, are non-flammable, and have low odour and toxicity levels, whilst also having superior cleaning performance with the best solvency power in their class.
Are solvents cleaners better than aqueous cleaners?
There isn’t a simple answer to this, as it entirely depends on what needs to be cleaned. Solvents can be considered a ‘dry’ cleaning option and this process is ideal for water-sensitive or difficult to dry components. The Opteon™ SF80® solution, for example, can be applied to industrial cleaning applications like vapour degreasing, oil and grease removal, precision cleaning, high solvency defluxing, and silicone removal.
Overall, solvents offer speed and efficiency, which shorten lead times and reduce costs. There are lower capital equipment costs than with comparable water-based systems, so there is a low cost of ownership and a smaller equipment footprint. Plus, they are extremely easy and safe to use. These benefits combined with extremely high precision cleaning, make solvents a very attractive option for many businesses.