3 Ways to Clean Without Water

Chad Harris, Saskia Prestidge
December 15, 2020

In some manufacturing plants, water wreaks havoc. 

It fries wires.
It wrecks product.
It feeds pathogens.

The list goes on.

But removing water from your factory environment can provide many challenges: one of them being cleaning. 

If you can dismantle your equipment and take it outside, great. Normal old cleaning with water will be fine.

But what if your situation is not so simple?

Where is water not allowed?

Sometimes, dismantling your equipment is not an option. Sometimes you need to clean plant inside your factory. 

Some places in a factory that cannot have water include dry powder and cereal plants; MCC electrical rooms; plants that has sensitive electronic equipment; when there is a short cleaning window therefore no time for drying out; and most importantly anywhere where there is a pathogen issue that thrives on moisture.

Electrical equipment

Moisture can cause fuses to blow.  If a fuse isn’t present, moisture can actually start a fire in electrical equipment.

Dry processing plants

In factories processing dry product – such as milk powder, flour, sugar, and salt – water can be a disaster.  If it splashes up into the machines, or open product, it will make it sticky or gluggy which can block pipes and ruin the product. 

Critical hygiene environments with known pathogen issues

Water is one of three things a pathogen needs to survive and breed (the others being food and temperature). Therefore, it accelerates pathogen growth. If a factory has a known pathogen issue, like listeria, eliminating water is a common control.

Extra-high hygiene standards

The cleanliness some factories require is higher than the water coming out of our taps.  As these factories cannot control what water is being brought onto their site, they may decide to prohibit anyone using water. 

Different types of waterless cleaning

If you are in one of these situations, here are three types of waterless cleaning:

  • Dry vacuum and wipe with microfibre
  • Dry ice blasting
  • Chemical fogging

1. Dry vacuum and wipe with microfibre

This method is best for cleaning up powder or dust that is can be easily moved (not baked-on, for example).  

Start with a vacuum to remove the bulk of the soil.  This will suck the soil up, without disturbing it as wiping would.  If you disturb fine powder, it will disperse into the air and resettle again once you have finished cleaning.

This is the same with air dusting. Air dusting blows soil into the air.  It settles later and re-contaminates your surface.  Vacuuming is better for removing soil from your plant. 

Top tip: make sure the vacuum cleaner you, or your contractor, are using uses HEPA filtration.  Vacuum cleaners expel air from their exhaust; if they don’t have a filter to capture the particles you have just sucked up, they will be spewing out dirty air. 

After vacuuming, use a dry microfibre cloth or mop head to wipe the remaining soil from the walls or ceilings.  It is important to use microfibres, as they are exceptional at picking up and holding large quantities of soil.  If you have soil on the floor, use a broom to sweep it up. 

2. Dry ice blasting

Technicians dry ice blasting sensitive components

Dry ice blasting uses zero water or chemicals and leaves no secondary waste.  It is non-abrasive: it can remove very tough build-ups, like tar and baked-on product, without damaging the surface beneath (provided it is in trained hands). 

Dry ice blasting works by blasting rice-sized pellets of frozen carbon dioxide at a surface.  The pellets are -78°C, so they kill any bacteria on the surface and freeze the soil.  It then becomes brittle and flakes off.  You can learn everything you need to know about dry ice blasting works here

3. Chemical fogging for environmental sanitising:

 Presco technician, Nick, fogging a warehouse with chemical to sanitise

If you only require surface sanitation, fog an ultra-low volume mist of sanitising chemical.   This most definitely is not for cleaning dirt off.  It is simply for killing bacteria on an already clean surface.

P.S. Technically, this is not even a type of cleaning. Want to know why? Read You Can’t Sanitise Dirt: 7 steps to clean.  

Which type of waterless cleaning is right for you?

Not quite sure which type of cleaning will be best for you?

Here are a few extra points to help you decide.

Got heavy build-up or a really big mess?

Outside of manual scraping and wiping, dry ice blasting is your only waterless cleaning that will really work. 

Wanting to clean dust or powder from large areas of smooth surfaces (e.g. factory walls or ceilings)?

A dry wipe will be great.

Need to clean electrical equipment?

Dry ice blasting is perfect. It is non-conductive and gentle on sensitive componentry, such as electrical cabinets or switchboards.   Read more about this in: Dry & Non-Conductive: 10 Key Benefits of Dry Ice Blasting #5

Post construction clean?

We often do post construction cleans in new or renovated factories.  Normally this is a dry wipe to remove the thin layer of construction dust, such as concrete, job or sawdust.  It can also be followed by a wet mop, if this is allowed.

One final point …

If you are suffering with a pathogen issue in your plant, or you are looking to eliminate water for a different reason, research footwear sanitation stations.  These help you isolate off the problem area, and then protect the access points to avoid cross contamination. 

Our recommendation is SmartStep because it uses only 6mLs of highly-evaporative sanitiser to protect your entire boot. 

A dairy factory asset manager using a SmartStep before leaving a redline change area.