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What is a Sanitary Fitting?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sanitary fittings include all components used to connect sanitary tubes or piping. Generally, sanitary piping systems include all plumbing applications where cleanliness and sanitation are of primary concern. These piping systems and related fittings can be found in food processing plants, pharmaceutical companies, and other facilities that process consumable goods. They are also used by companies that produce sensitive or reactive chemicals in environments where contamination could pose serious safety risks.

A sanitary fitting may be used to join two or more pipes or tubes, or simply to connect these pipes to material supply drums. The end of each pipe also requires a fitting to allow users to remove fluid, gases, or food products. Sanitary fitting components also include valves to slow or control flow through the pipes, as well as tees or elbows to transition around pipes or join pipes at an angle.

These fittings are available in many designs and configurations, but most sanitary fitting products are designed based on one of three basic operating principles. These include fittings designed for butt welding, which are butted against the adjacent pipe sections and welded in place to form a permanent bond. They may also include bevel set units, which fit inside each pipe and are fastened in place using a gasket. Finally, clamp-style sanitary fittings include an easy-to-use clamping mechanism that allows the fitting to be removed and replaced frequently.

The vast majority of sanitary piping systems and related sanitary fitting components consist of stainless steel. Stainless steel features a very smooth, easy-to-clean surface that serves as a safe and effective option for sanitary applications. It is naturally antimicrobial, and will not rust or corrode, even when exposed to oil, chemicals, or corrosive substances. Some non-food-based sanitary fittings may consist of other materials, including steel or copper. Thermoplastic piping may be used to transport water in some applications, but is generally not used to construct sanitary fitting components.

Stainless steel sanitary piping and fittings come in a number of grades, which represent the quality of the material. Higher grades often come at a higher price, but feature a smoother surface that's easy to keep completely clean and free of germs. Lower grades are more economical, but may not be as smooth. Rougher textures on the surface of a sanitary fitting can allow germs to hide and make cleaning more difficult. All of these fittings are generally used with gaskets made from food-grade rubber rather than traditional rubber products.

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