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9 min read

The Up-Front, Hidden Costs of Solvents for Industrial Parts Cleaning

Here at UltraSonic LLC, we talk a lot about the tremendous cost savings you can achieve by ultrasonically cleaning your industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical parts. In this blog post, we want to discuss the up-front and hidden costs of an alternative cleaning method—namely, using chemical solvents to clean parts. Those costs are significant; common industrial solvents are hazardous for people and the environment. Managing the associated risks can be expensive and time consuming for businesses. When you compare them to the lower costs of ultrasonically cleaning parts – and the many other benefits of ultrasonic cleaning – we think you’ll agree that ultrasonic cleaning clearly stands apart.

As mentioned in previous posts, ultrasonic cleaning offers numerous benefits over hand washing and washing methods that use solvents. Ultrasonic cleaning is used for a wide range of workpiece shapes, sizes and materials. The ultrasonic cleaning process gently moves parts to assist with cleaning; this mitigates the risk of damage to industrial parts during cleaning. Ultrasonic cleaning may not require a specific part to be disassembled prior to cleaning. Lower labor costs equal increased profits, while short cycle times save time, money and increase plant efficiency.

Solvents include a variety of commonly used chemicals, such as alcohol, mineral spirits, petroleum distillates, turpentine, benzene, toluene, xylene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), gasoline and kerosene. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were perhaps only a dozen or so known and commonly used solvents during the early part of the 20th century. By 1981, there were approximately 350 solvents commonly in use in the U.S.

Let’s take a closer look at the up-front and hidden costs of solvents.

Up-Front Costs of Solvents vs. Ultrasonic Cleaning

The solvents themselves: Chemical solvents are expensive—especially when compared to the cost of soap and water used in ultrasonic cleaning. If you are considering solvent cleaning, you will need to purchase or rent a solvent tank. That tank contains the solvent, and it generally comes at a cost of about $200 to $300 per month for service, or for removal of the solvents. One tank alone is expensive enough; but if you run a large operation and clean many parts regularly, you may need several tanks, so that cost can really add up.

Infrastructure and safety costs: When you use chemical solvents in an industrial or commercial setting, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that adequate ventilation and safety systems are built into the area where the solvents are being stored and used. This entails several associated costs for the following:

  • Infrastructure improvements to your facility or facilities
  • The cost of safety equipment
  • Administrative time (and the associated costs) to devise and implement controls to minimize employee exposure to chemicals (for example, rotating workers through different jobs or locations, and coordinating maintenance during off-hours so that any accidental release of toxic substances will affect fewer workers).

Disposal costs: Solvents – and the contaminants they clean off of parts – cost much more to dispose of than soap and water—and the contaminants they clean off parts through ultrasonic cleaning. With solvents, you’re not only paying for the acquisition rental cost of the tank and the solvent, you’re also paying a disposal fee for the solvents and contaminants—and that fee can vary based on the specific municipal and state regulations where you operate. Furthermore, if you don’t comply with mandated regulations, you could face stiff fines for non-compliance.

Hidden Costs of Solvents vs. Ultrasonic Cleaning

Employee costs: Ultrasonic cleaning uses water and soap to clean parts, and water and soap are environmentally safe. Conversely, chemical solvents used to clean industrial and other parts are hazardous, non-environmentally friendly and non-employee friendly.

What do we mean by non-employee friendly? Chemical solvents are smelly; they give off unpleasant odors, and while we at UltraSonic LLC haven’t come across anyone who’s claimed to like those odors, we’ve heard from numerous shop floor employees who complain bitterly about the chemical solvent odors they’ve had to endure in the course of their daily work.

On the other hand, ultrasonic cleaning uses environmentally friendly cleaning solutions. Here at UltraSonic LLC, we offer the following cleaning solutions:

Health risks and health-related expenses: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that there are nearly 10 million workers potentially exposed to organic solvents in the workplace, and NIOSH officials state that this number will likely increase over time.

Some chemical solvents have been known to cause skin irritations and turn skin white after repeated exposure, and chemical solvents in general can be extremely hazardous when misused. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, health hazards associated with solvent exposure include toxicity to the nervous system, reproductive damage, liver and kidney damage, respiratory impairment, cancer, and dermatitis.

If or when chemical exposure causes health problems for employees, there could be disability, workers’ compensation and lost personnel time costs that result—and these can prove very costly to your business.

We hope this blog helped you better understand two things:

  1. The costs – up-front and hidden – of using chemical solvents to clean industrial parts
  2. The benefits of ultrasonic cleaning for industrial parts—especially when compared to chemical solvent cleaning alternatives

If you have questions about industrial parts cleaning methods or industrial parts cleaners – or if you would like information about ultrasonic cleaning for industrial applications and UltraSonic LLC industrial cleaning machines, fill out this contact form, and an UltraSonic LLC representative will be in touch shortly to discuss your requirement.