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What are the Different Types of Degreasing Solvents?

By Shannon Johnson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Degreasing solvents are an excellent way to clean gunk-laden, greasy surfaces. Solvents are frequently used to clean machinery, metal appliances, electronics and, in some instances, jewelry. When it comes to gunk-laden, greasy surfaces, there are several products on the market to clean, degrease and sanitize. Most degreasing solvents fall into one of five categories — vapor, ultrasonic, organic, metal and industrial — and all have a purpose for their design. Each type gets the job done in its own unique way.

Vapor degreasing solvents are commonly paired with chlorinated, non-flammable solvents when preparing a cleaning solution. Using a two-step process, the solvent is placed into two tanks — one that is heated and used to blast the greasy surface, the other an unheated tank used to sanitize the surface. Using vapor, delicate parts can be cleaned without the need for full immersion by placing them in a basket stand while the vapor steams off any debris. Wand attachments allow vapor degreasing in harder-to-reach areas. Household steamers are based on a vapor-degreasing design.

Ultrasonic degreasing solvents also utilize non-flammable chemicals to affect the cleaning process. These are typically used for smaller items, such as tools or jewelry. The items to be cleaned are placed in a basket and submerged in solvent. The tank is sealed and a timer set while the cleaner uses vibration to aid the solvent in shaking loose debris or grease.

Organic degreasing solvents are naturally forming cleaners used to degrease. Mineral spirits, alcohols and citrus-based solvents are effective home-based degreasers. Using natural solvents is an environmentally friendly decision for people concerned about potential downstream pollution issues.

Metal degreasing solvents are formulated to clean thick grease build-up on machinery. These solvents have a lower flash point but can still be flammable, so care should be taken during use. They have many uses, including immersion tanks in which they are able to effectively degrease metals, as well as engines and larger automotive parts, without corrosion.

Highly concentrated, caustic and flammable chemicals are used for industrial degreasing solvents. Such solvents are excellent for cleaning and sanitizing areas where grease and debris gather quickly, and they are safe for multiple surfaces, including glass and metal. Restaurants and smaller eating establishments often use this type of degreasing solvent.

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