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Alternatives to trichloroethylene to vapor degrease parts


Q. I now vapor degrease aerospace parts with trichloroethylene. Are there good alternatives?


Chris Laudani
- East Longmeadow, Massachusetts


A. Well, there are some new and very expensive proprietary "non-CFC" vapor degreasing solvents as alternatives to tri-chlor and TCA. But the basic thrust of the movement has been to try to switch to aqueous cleaning when possible.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Brick, New Jersey


A. A think a lot depends on your application. For some you might try one of the aqueous or citrus degreasers but for some applications I have never found anything as a specified alternative. I hope someone can correct me because I would love to find an alternative too. I know some of the studies failed because of residues on the items.

Ciaron Murphy
- Great Britain


A. Nothing will ever be as effective as good 'ol tri-chlor! There are fluorinated solvents that work extremely well. Only problem is that they are quite expensive and evaporate at an even faster rate than tri-chlor. So a lot of your $$ disappears, so to speak. If your application is somewhat of a closed environment, though, they may be worthwhile.

Karl Hermann
- Ft. Wayne, Indiana


A. Alternatives to trichloroethylene (TCE) are becoming essential, especially in Europe where the compound is now classed as a Category 2 carcinogen with an R45 risk assignment.

There are two possible options open:
1) switch to an alternative solvent for vapour degreasing such as
a) perchlorethylene (PCE), which has a lower health risk (R40) and fewer penalties for use, or
b) stabilised n-propyl bromide, which carries only an R20 health risk.
2) switch to aqueous cleaning.

The first option has a number of benefits over aqueous cleaning and in stand alone situations where the cleaning is not followed by further aqueous processes, it can be demonstrated to be more environmentally sound. N-propyl bromide is widely gaining acceptance as a drop-in alternative to TCE, including a number of aerospace companies such as BAE Systems, Airbus, Lockheed-Martin. Boeing is however still testing for approval. It can give cost benefits over TCE and is also safe to use on oxygen system parts and in electronic applications. The latest information I have indicates that it is about to get a SNAP approval for metal cleaning applications.


Geoffrey A Wright
- UK

July 14, 2009appended

Q. We do Surface Treatment Process of Copper components. In this process, the 1st Step is Vapour degreasing, using Trichlorethylene as solvent at 85 °C, to remove oil & grease from the surface. Now, we're finding the best substitute for the Trichlorethylene, that will serve the same purpose fruitfully.

So, provide me the name of the chemicals (also mentioning the Operating temp. & other controllable parameters), which will be the best substitute of Trichlorethylene?

Exec- Chemical Process Control - KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL, INDIA

August 5, 2009

Q. Hello, we manufacture parts in titanium and also nickel / chrome based alloys. We would like to use vegetable based oils for the machining operations instead of mineral oil, but the mixture of this vegetable oil with hydraulic oil leaks from the NC machine is difficult to clean with our existing aqueous cleaning machines.

What product (for aqueous cleaning) or other process would you recommend? The ideal solution for us would provide good cleaning results for both the cleaning of mineral and vegetable oil on machined parts. Would vapour degreasing with nPB solvents (e.g., EnSolv) work for that? What about new dry processes like SCO2 or cryogenic blasting? These look promising but not for large parts (>1 m diameter) and on heavy soils.

Thanks a lot for your help.


Jean-Raphael Ouin
aerospace manufacturing - Paris, Ile de France, FRANCE

November 19, 2009

A. Have you considered plasma cleaning? Plasmas are a dry, environmentally friendly alternative to solvent cleaning/degreasing, use no harmful chemicals and produce ultra-clean surfaces with complete removal of organic residue.

Terry Whitmore
- Warrington, Cheshire, UK

January 7, 2010

A. We use tons of TCE as of now for degreasing the metal stamped parts and deep drawn parts used in motor making.
Aqueous is bit risky if not done properly.As such we tried several alternatives and for one application we could use MTO instead of TCE..
TCE is a wonderful degreasing agent and nothing is as powerful as this.
We are in the process of trying Acetone and yet to see the success..


- chennai, India

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