Home /
Search 🔍
the Site
pub Where the world gathers for
plating, anodizing, & finishing Q&As since 1989


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 -- almost always possible for steel parts, more difficult for aluminum, and quite troublesome for mixed metal.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, 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

Multiple threads were merged: please forgive repetition, chronology errors, or disrespect towards other postings [they weren't on the same page] :-)


Q. Now in Thailand, most of our customers are applying for ISO 14000 system, and there is a restriction about no use of Trichloroethylene at all, so we were requested by our customers to get rid of TCE from our pre-treatment process. As a Finishing Industry company, we use a lot of TCE in our pre-treatment process to remove oil from the surface before do surface treatment and plating, so now we have a big problem. Do we have another choices of Solvent cleaner with certified by ISO 14000 system? It can be other solvent or another cleaning system is welcome. And how can we be supplied here in Thailand?

- Bangkok, Thailand


A. Probably your question should contain details about the base metal. The type of oil you get on the parts? Mineral oil? or any other? Volume of material you clean, etc.

In general there are few aqueous solvents which contain chelating agents and saponifiers which can be used for this purpose. You can contact some plating chemicals suppliers who will have the recipe ready for you. IPA can be used but if will not be as efficient as the TCE for the cost you put.

Ferrous material can go for series of alkali cleaning if your system is equipped with oil skimmer.

Good luck ..

- Singapore


Q. We are a chemicals trading company in INDIA. We are also dealing Trichloroethylene. But some of our customers are telling that TCE is a restricted material after 2005 in India and asking for some de-aromatized hydrocarbons with high flash point solvents. They are also raising a question if this de-aromatized hydrocarbon solvent whether can replace TCE or not effectively? Kindly revert me in this regard. Expecting your valuable reply.

Best regards,

Chemicals trading - Chennai,Tamilnadu, India.


A. My understanding is that n-propyl bromide is very close to being a drop-in replacement, but is very expensive.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. May I know that what is the difference between hydrocarbon and trichloroethylene? Is the hydrocarbon the best replacement for trichloroethylene? What is the temperature is suitable for hydrocarbon for degreasing stainless steel part and is it hydrocarbon suitable to use for degrease stainless steel part? thank you.

- Singapore


A. Hydrocarbons are compounds of hydrogen and carbon, the best example being gas and oil and other petroleum products. Please talk to a distributor of industrial metal finishing products, Malcolm. They can introduce you to alternatives ranging from drop-in replacements to switching to aqueous cleaners.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Trichloroethylene replacement is fairly complex. Specifically as there is pressure to move away from VOC's. However a range of solvent types can be utilised from hydrocarbon (least effective) modified alcohols, esters, etc.

John Neale
- Halesowen, West Midlands, UK

July 14, 2009

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

January 2010

!! Readers please note that Acetone is flammable though! Maybe not a big issue when applied with a cotton Q-tip, but a significant concern when "tons" are used in a big open tank in a production environment.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Need REACH-compliant replacement for trichlorethylene

June 5, 2014

Q. I am in the Aerospace (Aircraft manufacturing) industry and am looking for a suitable replacement for Trichloroethylene, it must be REACH compliant. We are processing aluminium, steel and titanium materials.

Portia Ditsele
Aerospace - South Africa

June 10, 2014

A. Hi Portia,

It is so difficult to have a truly "REACH compliant" solution to TCE as the goalposts keep moving. In the short term you could consider perchloroethylene or methylene chloride, these have similar solvency to TCE, but different boiling points. These both have a R-40 risk phrase, so eventually will end up on the SVHC list.

n-Propyl bromide is probably not going to be around as a cleaner much longer as it has an R-61 classification in the EU nowadays and will end up on the SVHC list sooner rather than later.

You could consider the HFEs as marketed by 3M or the HFCs as marketed by DuPont. These are considerably more expensive than TCE, but are unlikely to be caught by REACH too soon (although watch out for the F-Gas regulations).

Of course you could move away from solvent cleaning altogether and look at aqueous cleaning. Aqueous technology has moved on a huge amount in the last few years and combined with the correct equipment can be just as effective as solvent cleaning. You are better off talking to local reps about this possibility as there are a lot of companies manufacturing aqueous cleaning chemicals.

You could look at some of the more exotic technologies such as plasma cleaning or dry ice blasting. These are likely to have a cost implication, but may well be worth looking at, even if you don't go down that route.

Finally you could move away from cleaning technologies that may need the use of expensive chemicals and/or equipment. If the geometries are simple then simple swab degreasing with one of the many solvents marketed for this process may well work for you. Look at the iso-parafinnic hydrocarbons, these have become quite popular over the last few years for swab degreasing. You could always go with some of the more common solvents such as acetone, MEK, iso-propyl alcohol etc, but be warned these are highly flammable so need special precautions for use.

Brian Terry
Aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, UK

July 16, 2014

Hello Portia,

I am confronted with this type of question on a daily base, having lots of well-known customers in aerospace.
Wherever an ECSA Type IV or V machine is involved, normally it should be no problem to re-adjust the machine from usage of Trike and Change to Perc.
Perc is the best solvent next to Trike and in 95% of all applications usable.
Type V hermetic sealed degreasing machines operating under vacuum also come very close to the temperature range of Trike.
So-called "alternative" solvents like the HFE,HFC and npB are practically not usable in state-of-the-art machines according ECSA IV and V, only in the old style open-top machines with the related emissions and running costs for continuous consumption and refill.
In Europe they are absolutely minor in number of applications.
Trend in Aerospace is usage of Perc and modified alcohols.
-> for sustainable usage but only in most modern equipment, emission free.

See the recent discussion going about cost pressure in aerospace-manufacturing coming from the carriers down to the manufacturers and their suppliers:
A replacement of Trike by just seeking a solution in a complex and expensive aqueous machine in operation and quality control, just to be virtual more "green", does not help.

BTW: we offer aqueous as well, where it is suitable on application.
Certainly not on composites and also not where NDT is involved -> solvent is the answer.

Michael Hoeckh
- Neuenburg, Germany

Multiple threads were merged: please forgive repetition, chronology errors, or disrespect towards other postings [they weren't on the same page] :-)

November 3, 2014

Q. I would like to know what is the best cleaning system for automotive brass turned components. Vapor degreasing solvent TCE is banned in USA and Europe? If yes, please suggest another equaling solvent for vapor degreasing.

Himen Baldha
brass industry - Jamnagar, Gujarat, INDIA

November 2014 opinion!

A. Hello Himen. PERC and n-propyl bromide are two that I can think of. But the truth is probably that the environmentalists and the solvent manufacturers are playing whack-a-mole, and that the new European REACH standards will become a bridge too far for any vapor degreasing solvent.

It can be difficult, but switch to aqueous cleaning.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 4, 2014

A. Hi Himen,

Under the EU REACH regulations both n-propyl bromide (nPB) and trichloroethylene are listed as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), with trichloroethylene being now on the Annex XIV Authorization list, with a sunset date for use somewhere in 2016, after which it will be illegal to use the material in the EU without an approved authorization.

Now, there is nothing stopping you using it in India and then shipping your product into the EU as there will be no offending solvent on the parts when they arrive in the EU. As far as I am aware the USA doesn't have any bans on the use of trichloroethylene, although it is frowned on, there is also no worry about the use of nPB currently.

Perchloroethylene is currently not covered by REACH, but to be honest it has an R-40 phrase so is likely to end up on the SVHC list, as is methylene chloride.

Of course if you are looking to "future-proof" yourself you need to look for a solvent with low toxicity, not rated as a carcinogen, mutagen, reproductive toxin, endocrine disruptor, bioaccumulative toxin, low global warming potential, non-ozone depleting...best of luck with that one!! You can look at the products based on trans-1,2-dichloroethylene with either Hydrofluoroethers (HFEs) or Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) (be careful of the EU F-gas regulations though) or possibly a new set of solvents based on Hydrofluoro olefins (HFOs).

Brian Terry
Aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, UK

November 5, 2014

Q. Many Thanks for your prompt response.

If we clean the components with your suggested solvent how long it will remain stain free if kept in proper packing?

Himen Baldha [returning]
- Jamnagar. India

November 7, 2014

A. Hi Himen,

It will stay clean as long as it is not in contact with any contaminants, which can be as simple as finger prints to deliberately added corrosion protective oils.

How long will it stay corrosion-free, well that is a different question and will depend on the storage conditions. If you store in a high humidity environment then the brass will certainly tarnish, and will probably corrode.

Brian Terry
Aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, UK

November 2014

A. Hi. Brian has answered your question, but I would add that it is possible to use corrosion inhibitors such as VCIs in your packaging, or to dip the work into sodium benzotriazole before packaging to extend the stain-free life.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 18, 2019

Q. I wanted to hear some of your thoughts on n-Propyl Bromide, the ever-moving goalposts, and estimates of current yards-to-goal for the US EPA...

It seems like such a short time since everyone was looking for alternatives to tri- and per-chloroethylene, and n-PB was the newest greatest thing. And then one day, a shiny new vapor degreaser of the stuff appeared outside my lab, after we've been asking for one to be put in the budget for years. Great! It is super, and we love it.

Fast forward a couple weeks and a little industry bird told me at a finisher's conference that the EPA has it in their sights for increased regulation and/or a phase-out. So soon!?? I see that there are some posts on the subject here referencing European regulatory tightening that has already occurred. Does anyone have more specific information about a possible timeline for a decision to be made on this side of the pond?

It's a bit frustrating to have this system that we're quite happy with, and before the protective plastic is even peeled off all the digital readouts... SURPRISE!

So what's next on the seasonal menu of solvents that are compatible with the same type of system as nPB? We already have multiple aqueous cleaning systems. I'm starting to look specifically for a replacement to go in the vapor degreaser that we JUST bought. I'd be interested to hear what folks are moving to now.

Rachel Mackintosh
Industrial lab rat - Greenfield, Vermont

February 19, 2019

A. Hi Rachel,

Can't comment on timelines for EPA regulation, I'm on the wrong side of the pond. n-Propyl bromide is already heavily regulated in the EU, with it first of all appearing on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation (and restriction) of Chemicals (REACh) regulations Candidate list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) and then accelerated to the Annex XIV Authorisation list. It has a sunset date of 4th July 2020, after which time it will be illegal to use the substance, unless there is a valid Authorisation in place, or an Application for Authorisation (AfA) has been submitted.

So, this side of the water people have gone in many directions. By far the most popular option has been aqueous. Away from the chlorinated solvents common solutions have involved a mixture of trans-1,2-dichloroethylene and certain fluorinated solvents (HFEs and HFCs), available from companies like 3M and DuPont. Single component fluorinated compounds are not particularly good degreasers, but trans-1,2-dichloroethylene is good, however it is flammable, hence why it is not used on its own. Then there are HFOs, these are either used as a single component or cut with 2% methanol to increase polar contaminant degreasing ability.

Saying that, the Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) are now after fluorinated compounds as they are considered persistent polluters (no evidence of toxicity, but why let facts get in the way...), so I'm guessing we Europeans will be looking for new technologies again, much sooner than I'd hoped...

Brian Terry
Aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, UK

February 19, 2019

thumbs up sign Thank you Brian for your detailed response. We are impacted by REACH as it applies only to finished products but the wording of the regulations may impact our processing anyway- this is another thing I need to work on, lots of reading catch-up, and I ALREADY can't find my desk :/
So it seems, as I suspected, that any of the halogenated solvents are going to be off the table sooner rather than later. *Sigh.

Rachel Mackintosh
Industrial lab rat - Greenfield, Vermont

March 4, 2019

A. Hello Rachel

The search for a TCE replacement continues with us as well. It is good to get this discussion moving in regards to a viable longterm replacement to TCE. We are looking at (t-DCE) as a drop in replacement.

(hydrofluoroether methyl nonafluorobutyl ether (C4F9OCH3), ethyl nonafluorobutyl ether (C4F9OC2H5), trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (t-DCE) and isopropanol)

I have found there are not a lot of options. Currently using TCE in a shiny piece of equipment as well. We are also using Aqueous Ultrasonic and DI water rising methods to clean parts.

I am interested in any comments regarding the long term performance of the (t-DCE).

It will become more important than ever to control the soils that are entering your process if aqueous becomes the best practice.

The current TCE solvent solution allows for a level of confidence in cleanliness results.

Great discussion.

Kurt Krueger
- Lexington Massachusetts USA

Is trichloroethylene okay to degrease aluminium?

← Posters: please describe Your actual situation.

October 24, 2019

Q. Is trichloroethylene used to degrease aluminium; if not what is other suitable solvent for aluminium degreasing?

Jagdish Yadav
- Ghaziabad/up/India

October 2019

A. Hi Jagdish. It probably won't hurt the aluminum, but may not be the best answer to your overall situation. Please tell us who you are and what's going on. Thanks.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

adv.: ResinTech banner

(No "dead threads" here! If this page isn't currently on the Hotline your Q, A, or Comment will restore it)

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread -or- Start a NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
Consult'g, Train'g
& Software

About/Contact    -    Privacy Policy    -    ©1995-2023 finishing.com, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA