How Often Do I Need to Change My Aqueous Cleaning Product?

When business owners begin to do their research on industrial parts washers, they have questions. They think about what kind of parts washer would be best to use for their specific needs. They wonder whether they can purchase one already made or should have one designed to clean parts to specification. They calculate how much space the parts washer will take up on the shop floor and how many employees it will take to operate it.

Another question they should ask, particularly when it comes to aqueous parts washers is: How often will the aqueous cleaning product need to be replaced? If you’re a business owner in the market for a parts cleaner, how do you know the answer to this question?

While aqueous parts washers use water-based solutions to clean instead of petroleum-based solvents, those solutions require cleaning formulations to do their work (in addition to heat, agitation, and soap action). Those cleaners have a limited lifespan. Even when a parts washer is combined with a washer washer, the cleaners do not last forever; they degrade. A number of factors influence how long they will do their job effectively. These are:

The amount of dirt, grease, or swarf the cleaner has to remove – This would include how dirty the individual parts are and how many parts there are to clean. Is the “dirt” just dirt or is it debris or swarf? What is the overall workload? If the parts are very dirty, the cleaner will lose its effectiveness sooner and have to be replaced.

How big the parts washer’s sump is – The size of the sump determines how much soil in solution the parts washer will be able to accommodate before the solution no longer works to clean. The smaller the sump, the sooner the cleaner will need to be replaced.

Because the soil composition varies based on the parts themselves and how they are used, it’s difficult to estimate how long a cleaner will last. It’s a good question to ask of your parts washer manufacturer, however. The engineer who designs the parts washer will have an idea.

After you have installed your parts washer and begin to use it, you can monitor how clean your parts are bath after bath and then determine when the cleanliness levels dip below specification. After observing this process several times, you’ll have a better idea of how often you will have to replace the cleaning product for your parts washer to remain effective.

If you are looking at parts washers and would like to know how a specifically designed washer can and would work to clean your parts better and more efficiently, call us at AEC Systems. We would love to talk to you about your needs and how we can design a system to meet them.


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What Your Parts Washer Performance Should Be

parts washer performanceDoes your business need a new parts washer? Is your current parts washer performing efficiently and to specification? Does it need frequent repair? AEC Systems has been designing and manufacturing parts washers for decades. We want our customers to know that a parts washer that is correctly designed and built will perform its job the right way the first time. There are five expectations you should have of parts washer performance. Your parts cleaning system should:

Remove contaminant from parts – Parts should no longer be coated with dirt or contaminants after they have been washed. In fact, a parts washer should be able to do this within one cycle. You should not have to run your machine repeatedly to ensure that all traces of common contaminants like dirt, grease, oil, cleaning fluids, water and swarf are removed. If you’ve been using an older machine or one that’s not suited to your application, you might think repeat cycles are necessary to get parts clean. This isn’t true.

Clean efficiently – Older or one-size-fits-all parts cleaners often take longer to clean and use more energy to operate. Time and energy cost your business money every single time a parts washer is run. Efficient cleaning is possible with the right parts cleaner.

Dry to specificationDrying is usually the most complex part of cleaning a component, and it needs to be done exactly right and not expend any more energy than necessary.

Minimize costs – Time and energy are not the only costs associated with parts washers. Cleaners cost money,  and so does machine maintenance. There is also waste disposal to consider – waste heat, waste water, sludge. A correctly engineered machine will require less cleaner and produce less waste for a company to dispose of.

Operate safely – No parts washer should be a health threat to an operator. The washer should be designed to foil any anticipated operator error. Parts washers can be built to size in order to accommodate space requirements or constraints. They can also be designed to need less operator input in order to increase safety and lower operational costs.

parts washer performance

There are so many parts washing options available that your parts washer should be able to accomplish all of the above. A new parts washer is an investment, but old parts washers are expensive to run. If you are interested in having a high performance parts washer built with the cleaning needs of your parts in mind, call us today at AEC Systems. We have over 30 years experience with these systems, and we can design one to clean any part efficiently and to specification.


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Replace Trichloroethylene (TCE) with Aqueous Cleaning for a Safe and Clean Solution


Chemical structure of trichloroethylene (TCE) pollutant and obsolete anesthetic

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a non-flammable liquid clorinated hydrocarbon used as an industrial solvent for its degreasing properties. It’s commonly used in dry cleaning as well. Surprisingly enough, given what we now know, it was used topically on humans as a disinfectant and anesthetic and even incorporated into coffee as a spice. The FDA banned these uses in 1977 after the toxicity to humans and wildlife of TCE was determined. Businesses quite commonly continued to use trichloroethylene as a solvent, though. For this reason it’s found in in the environment in indoor and outdoor air and drinking and surface water.

In May of 2013, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study showing possible links between trichloroethylene and liver cancer and called for more research. Previous studies have shown a link between TCE and cancers of the kidney, cervix, liver and biliary passages as well as other types of cancer including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Unfortunately, buried waste from industrial uses has leaked into the ground water, placing the general population at risk for higher exposure to TCE. It’s found at Superfund sites throughout the country.

These kinds of complications from chemical solvent use underline the need for more environmentally friendly cleaning processes, either using safer chemicals or other cleaning methods such as aqueous cleaning technology. Water-based or more environmentally friendly solvents reduce the risks of employee and environmental exposure to toxins without compromising the benefits of solvents. Many companies have found that replacing TCE with aqueous parts cleaning technology can be safer and less expensive.

AEC Systems is committed to providing companies with environmentally safe parts cleaning technology and working towards ever more stringent goals of zero waste production. Clean should also mean safe – for parts and for people.

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Why Is Aqueous Cleaning Better than Using Solvents?

aqueous cleaningParts washers are unseen heroes of the everyday world, doing the task of keeping parts we never even consider clean. Most people don’t stop to think about how those parts washers do their jobs. How do grease, oil, grime, and otherwise hard-to-clean contaminants get removed? Is that process safe?

During the mid-20th century the chemical revolution that produced wall-to-wall carpet, pharmaceuticals, and plastics also developed ways to clean parts. For most businesses that had to clean parts regularly in order to operate, this meant using solvents. Chemicals such as benzene and trichloroethylene worked very efficiently and effectively to remove grease and baked-on contaminants. The problem was that these solvents caused real damage to the people who worked with them and to the geographical areas in which they were used. Many of the Superfund sites that cost the public, the government, and the environment so much money and time to clean were (and are) toxically polluted from solvent exposure. As a society, we became aware of the damage these chemicals caused only well after the fact.

The long-term effects of solvent exposure on people has been linked to reproductive damage, liver and kidney disease, respiratory issues, cancer, and even brain health and memory.

In 1970 Congress passed the Clean Air Act. The EPA began regulating solvent use in the early 1970s, requiring businesses to follow much more stringent emissions and disposal requirements. Much progress has been made restoring polluted land and water and in designing safer chemicals since then. Still, solvents are widely used today in many industries and manufacturing sectors. You’re familiar with the smell of some of them, including that new car smell. Yes, that’s the smell a toxic mixture of solvents and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produces.

Volatile organic compounds aren’t just bad for indoor environments. They evaporate and react with other pollutants in outdoor air to produce ozone, and increased ozone is bad for health too. It causes headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation, exacerbates respiratory problems like asthma, and has even been linked to cancer. Because of this, many state governments continue to pass legislation further limiting the use of VOCs.

Companies still need clean parts, however, regulations or not. As a result, aqueous washers have proliferated as the safer and more economical alternative to using traditional solvents. Aqueous washers use water instead of chemical solvents in tandem with other mechanical or chemical methods in order to clean parts to specification. This can be challenging, but the results are safer and even more economical in the long term. It’s important to remember that, while aqueous cleaning is a more environmentally safe way to clean, proper disposal of all cleaning solutions should always be done.

AEC Systems designs our industrial parts washers to utilize water and heat, pressure, agitation, and other engineering solutions to remove dirt, grease, oil, and swarf effectively and safely, minimizing expensive waste removal costs. We can design a parts washer to clean any part, no matter how large, small, or complex. If you have a unique cleaning challenge, call us today. We would love to discuss how we can solve your problem together.







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Customizing a Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

The Problem:

A customer came to AEC Systems with a cleaning problem that could not be satisfactorily resolved by the traditional washer solutions. Our customer had used standard cabinet style washers to clean the inside and outside of canister engine liners with only varying degrees of success.

In the discovery portion of the process we determined that the client’s current washer cleaned these liners at a rate of one liner every 2 and a half minutes. The parts were washed, rinsed and dried. After this point in the customer’s process, the parts were transported to a separate rust preventative dip tank. Between the wash process and rust-prevention process, every eighth part needed to be examined and gauged for tolerances.

All of these processes were very labor intensive and our customer was looking to reduce labor from three workers to one. The customer also had space constraints – a very limited work envelope that they were trying to stay within. Finally, the canister engine liners had unique features that made them difficult to get completely dry. This client needed a parts washer specifically designed to solve these time, space, and financial complications.

Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

Our Solution:

AEC Systems presented the customer with a three-station, auto-feed, guillotine-door pass-through washer. The first chamber washed the liner on a turntable with a retracting center nozzle in order to fully clean both the inside and outside of the liner.

The second stage, which also featured a turntable with retractable center nozzle, was both a rinse and blow-off stage to provide a polishing rinse and dry. Once the part was washed, rinsed and dried, the liner moved out of the turntable chamber and was automatically lowered into a rust-prevention dip solution. Every eighth part was held, allowing the operator to remove it to check for machined tolerances.

This solution modified the honing/washing operation from a three-person operation to a one-person operation. We were also able to design the parts washer to fit within the limited work envelope the customer’s space required.

Three Chamber Pass Through Washer with Dip Tank

Our Customer’s Feedback:

Our customer has had this three chamber pass through washer with dip tank in continuous operation for three years with minimal downtime. This washer has become the workhorse of their operation with its reliable error-free process. It has saved them in labor costs year over year. Our customer has become a reliable reference for the durability and successful implementation of a custom, non-traditional solution.

AEC Systems would be honored to be involved in your parts cleaning solution. Businesses often feel they must settle for off-the-rack solutions to complex operational realities. Could the parts washer you are currently using be modified into a space saving, labor reducing solution? Call us. We would love to work with you to find out. (To read an interview with the designers with more specifics about this parts washer, click here.)

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What Kind of Parts Washer Is Best for My Company’s Needs?

parts washer is best top load washer“What parts washer is best for my company’s needs?”

This is the kind of question that AEC Systems can answer most authoritatively and comprehensively for our customers. If you are unfamilar with the range of parts washers, essentially there are four commonly used cleaning methods:

  1. Manual cleaning
  2. Automated cleaning
  3. Immersion/agitation cleaning
  4. Ultrasonic cleaning

Each of the above types of cleaning has its pros and cons. Manual systems are used when cleanliness specifications are less rigorous and when the company only needs parts cleaning capabilities for a fraction of the work day.

Automated cleaning systems are used when parts need to be cleaned more frequently, must meet more stringent cleanliness specs, and cannot be cleaned well or easily by hand. The most frequently used automated processes are immersion-agitation cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning. These two methods differ in a number of ways, including price, and a business must consider what their cleaning needs entail specifically.

Cabinet washers operate much like dishwashers, and conveyor belt systems, and additional rinse or drying cycles may be easily added on to them to address specific problems. Vat-style washers, however, use high energy bubbles to vibrate parts clean and are better for small parts and items with crevices or harder-to-reach places.

Many businesses assume that a standard parts washing system will work best and be most affordable for their needs. As with any other tool, however, you must examine the purpose. What will your parts washer be used to clean, and how often will it be used? Daily? All day? Are the parts it will be used on difficult to clean, dry, or dip? What is the chemical composition of the dirt or grime needed removed? How many workers will be required to run it? Will they have to be taken away from other work? What are the requirements for waste disposal or emissions?

An off-the-rack solution is perfectly acceptable for many parts-washing needs, but many of our customers have found that properly designed parts washing systems save their businesses money over time and make complying with environmental regulations an easier task.

If you have any questions about which kind of system would be best for your business, AEC Systems would be happy to advise you.

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Waste Prevention and Management

zero wasteIn another blog we discussed one of the principles of green chemistry – designing safer chemicals. This time we’ll talk about another principle that AEC Systems considers paramount every time we design a parts washer for a client: prevention. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.

In the natural world, organic matter  decays and becomes part of its environment when it dies. It nourishes the soil and provides nutrients for future life. Ideally, we could design cleaning systems that accomplished the same: recycling everything for another use and producing zero waste.

Zero waste management is an important goal companies strive for a number of reasons. First, environmental awareness is more prevalent everywhere as the limitations of our planet become more obvious. Anything that can be reused costs less money and requires the mining or production of fewer resources. Second, the government is becoming more strict in its regulation of waste as a way of stopping the kinds of environmental disasters of the twentieth century from occurring. No company wants to deal with either lawsuits or cleanup of that kind of damage. Finally, disposal of true waste – material that cannot be reused in any way and/or is toxic – is becoming much more expensive. Striving towards zero waste in cleaning processes makes sense in all of these ways.

Roger Sheldon,  Professor Emeritus of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, described the measure of waste as the E-factor: the mass ratio of waste to desire product and the atom efficiency. This idea and terminology is now used by companies globally for assessing the efficiency and environmental impact of chemical processes.

When we interviewed Ray Graffia of Arbortech Corporation, he discussed the usefulness of the washer washer. Utilizing a filtration system, companies can reuse the same wash water over and over, saving money and limiting waste. But what about producing less waste in the first place? Can a system be designed that will produce no waste byproducts, heat, or exhaust?

That is the question that engineers worldwide seek to answer in the affirmative. Recycling or reusing oil, grease, dirt, swarf, and other residues that are removed from parts during the cleaning process might seem an impossible goal. However, we’ve seen other unimaginable goals achieved over and over in the last fifty years, including putting men on the moon and designing complex computing systems that can be carried around in anyone’s back pocket. With time, effort, research, and dedication very little is impossible.

AEC Systems is committed to building the best, most efficient, and most environmentally friendly parts washing systems for our customers. A core component of that is pursuing zero waste as a goal.

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Surfactants Are Safe


Studies indicate that surfactants, have long been considered a threat to the environment, are actually benign in terms of their overall effect on water quality and fragile ecosystems.

Surfactants, short for surface active agents and defined as “compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid,” act as detergents, emulsifiers, dispersants, foaming agents, and wetting agents. In practice, most people know surfactants as soaps, shampoos, and detergents, and they use them to clean and remove grease and grime from clothing, dishes, and any number of other items.

Surfactants are able to remove dirt and oils because they are water soluble but can, at the same time, dissolve fats. This is because surfactant molecules have hydrophilic heads and a hydrophobic tails; their hydrophilic heads are polar and are attracted by the molecules of polar solvents such as water.  Their hydrophobic tails are non-polar and are repelled by water molecules. So soap molecules function as a bridge between water molecules and fat molecules, enabling oils, suspended in solution, to be washed away in a stream of water.

Aqueous parts washers rely on surfactants to clean grease, grime, dirt, oil, and swarf from the parts they are designed to clean. The aqueous process was designed to replace the use of solvents, which can have numerous negative and long-term health consequences, with water-based chemicals. The result is an environmentally friendly cleaning process that does not pose a health risk to workers or give off poisonous fumes or other undesirable byproducts.

Surfactants have been maligned by environmentalists for decades as having too much of a negative impact on water and aquatic animal populations, and yet humans use millions of tons of surfactants annually. Now, as the results of more than 250 studies done over decades have been compiled, the conclusion researchers have reached is that, when used correctly in water that is filtered through proper water treatment facilities, surfactants are safe. This is because they degrade so rapidly once they are used.
This is good news for anyone who likes clean clothes, clean dishes, or clean hair, not to mention cleaned auto parts or machined pieces. If surfactants are safe to use, we can care for and properly maintain any number of things while being, at the same time, environmentally responsible. If only all man-made cleaning products were as benign as surfactants are!

By: Ryan Westphal

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Meeting Tight Cleaning Specifications for Your Parts

The world needs parts washers, and AEC Systems designs cleaning systems for every imaginable sort of part. For parts with simple geometries or less strict cleaning specifications, a standard parts washer with an aqueous solution bath and rinse may be enough. However a more sophisticated cleaning process is often needed for parts with complex geometries and blind holes or corners. Whatever your parts and whatever your cleaning specifications, we can design an environmentally friendly washer that will do the job efficiently, effectively, and with a low waste output.

Cleaning specifications

An off-the-rack parts washer is seldom a robust enough system to clean parts with stringent cleaning specifications. For example, parts that are machined are often coated with swarf as well as residue from the cutting fluids used to make them. If the parts have complex geometries or blind holes, it can be a real challenge to remove swarf from those areas, but they need to be cleaned to move on to the next stage in manufacturing or to be shipped to the customer. If the part needs to be plated or coated, it must be completely clean in order for the plating or coating to adhere to the surface of the part. 

Some of the methods we use to clean more complex parts include immersion, heat, and mechanical actions like high-pressure spraying, agitation, or rotating baskets within a cleaning chamber. Here is a rotating fixture washer we designed for a client whose parts had tight cleaning specifications:

tight cleaning specifications

An industrial carousel washer is also a good choice for parts with a high production rate and stringent cleaning specifications. AEC Systems can design and build a washer that will target any specific area or areas of your part. 

tight cleaning specifications

We always take into consideration our customers’ cleaning specifications as well as their needs in terms of energy, staffing, and waste removal costs. It’s our goal to design a system that will use as little water and energy as possible and will not require frequent change outs of the wash solution. Contact us at AEC Systems  to see what kind of parts washer we can design to meet your needs.






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Getting the Longest Life out of Your Wash Solution

wash solution option By using heat, agitation, and detergent instead of solvents, aqueous cleaners offer an effective and safer cleaning option. The cleaning products aqueous parts washers use do have to be changed out periodically, though, and the aqueous cleaning waste byproducts must be disposed of safely as well. Because it’s costly to dispose of hazardous byproducts, companies that use parts washers want to maximize the lifespan of their wash solution. There are a number of methods we at AEC Systems successfully use to do this. 

Dirt, Grease, and Swarf

The various contaminants that parts washers remove affect the condition of the water bath. The water bath condition is also affected by how much dirt, debris, or grease must be removed, how many parts must be cleaned, and the length of time it’s been used. Cleaners do have a limited lifespan. They can become corrosive over time which is not good for the parts or the washer.

How To Maximize the Life of Your Wash Solution

There are various options that can be added to a washer to help extend the life of the wash solution. These include baghouse filters, magnetic filters, oil skimmers, oil coalescers, and magnetic chip drags or sludge drags. 

wash solution option

Aqueous parts washers will, with enough use, generate sludge, a waste that can contain toxic metals and solvents from the cleaned parts. Adding components like filters and skimmers to the parts washer can be effective at removing sludge and other wastes from the water bath. 

wash solution option

AEC Systems can build and design any of these components into your washer to increase the life of your wash solution. This will decrease the number of times the tank will need to be changed per year. It’s not always easy to predict how long a wash solution will last since this depends on how dirty the parts being cleaned are and how often the washer is used.  

wash solution option

If your company needs a parts cleaning system that will minimize waste byproducts like hazardous sludge, heat, or other wastes, and maximize the life of its wash solution, contact us at AEC Systems. We would be happy to discuss your needs and design a system specific to them. Call us today to get the process started. 


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