Water is the universal solvent in the sense that it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. Not all water is the same, however, and the quality of your water may affect how well your parts washer will work and how clean it will get your parts. Hard water is a nemesis to any parts washer.
What Is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. Specifically, hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium carbonates in solution. The more calcium and magnesium carbonate the water contains, the harder it is. Hard water isn’t just well water. Water from treatment plants can also be hard. This water may be safe to drink, but it may leave behind residue when you clean with it.
In your home, you may notice the signs of hard water when it stains your porcelain sinks or bathtubs or leaves white, chalky residue or spots on the dishes and glasses in your dishwater. The heat from your dishwater will evaporate the water molecules and leave behind the dissolved minerals. Hard water also creates other problems. Because soap may not lather or rinse as easily with hard water, your hair may be limp and your skin dry. Your pipes slowly clog with scale buildup. You may notice poorer water pressure coming from your shower head and your water taps as a result.
Hard water causes the same problems for industrial parts washers. Eighty-five percent of the United States has hard water, and approximately 95% of the solution in your parts washer is water, not aqueous cleaning product. The harder the water in your water supply, the more problems you may notice. The parts you clean may have water spots on them, and you may have calcium build up in your pipes. In your parts washer calcium will deposit on the heating system components. This reduces the efficiency of the machine and will eventually cause these heating components to overheat and require repair or replacement.
When using hard water, parts washers have to work harder and use more energy to do the same work. They require more cleaning detergents too. This is because, instead of increasing alkalinity, the detergents form soap scum. This scum falls out of solution and creates increased maintenance costs.
As you can see, hard water causes a number of issues for parts washers. If you want to have better cleaning results from your parts washers, the water you use for washing and rinsing, as well as makeup water, should have less than 50 ppm hardness. We will discuss various options for treating your hard water to make it more suitable for parts washers in future blog pieces.