Many automotive companies utilize equipment called “Parts Washers”. Parts Washers come in many different shapes, sizes and styles. The two main styles that you will see in most automotive manufacturing settings are aqueous parts washers and solvent style parts washers although, majority of industrial manufacturers have made the switch to aqueous due to inefficiencies with the other system. An aqueous part washer uses mainly water and detergent which are both non-hazardous liquids. Solvent style part washers commonly use some type of petroleum-based product or mineral spirit.
Industrial automotive manufacturers realized the advantages of using aqueous based systems over solvent based systems. Petroleum based parts washer solvents are effective at removing oil, grease and grime but, are bad for the environment. Aqueous cleaning products are water-based solutions that, unlike petroleum solvents, are nonflammable and non-hazardous. Instead of dissolving grease, aqueous parts washer units utilize heat, pressurized water, soap, and agitation to break up dirt and grease.
The need for solvent based parts washers has been on the decline since companies now have stricter regulations regarding hazardous materials and the environment. More manufacturers are moving towards sustainability. Performance between the two systems is about the same in most cases but, aqueous parts washers do have multiple advantages
- In most use-cases aqueous parts washers reduce labor cost.
- Lower overall hazardous waste generation
- Petroleum solvents = Increased cost
- Performance. Parts coming out of a solvent style parts washer may have to be re-cleaned due low performance
- Elimination of Fire-hazard
- Toxic and can increase the chance of cancer.
All in all, it’s probably a good thing that solvent style parts washers that use petroleum-based cleaning solvents are becoming obsolete. Aqueous parts washers and cleaning systems create easier disposal and safer work environments.