Aqueous cleaning is a cleaning process that uses a solution of detergent mixed with water to remove organic and inorganic contaminants from a component. The Detergents used in aqueous cleaning can be made up from complex formulations containing a number of components. The components can each have a specific function. They fall into two, basic categories:
- Formulations that chemically react with organic contaminants, the process converts the contaminants into water-soluble products.
- Formulations that emulsify the organic contaminant with water.
These are broad categories and within them there is a wide range of chemical types, so care has to be taken as it is very important that the chemistries match with the nature of the substrate and the contaminants to be removed from the components to be cleaned.
It is normal to operate aqueous cleaning at an elevated temperature, this is done to increase the rate of chemical reaction. The process can be enhanced further by mechanical action, usually in the form of spraying, either in air or under immersion, and using ultrasonic irradiation of the liquid, or alternatively agitation of the workload within the liquid can also be used.
The type of mechanical action used can depends on the type of detergent, the shape and complexity of the components to be cleaned and the standard of cleanliness required.
Depending on the type of detergent, after the initial wash stage commonly it may be necessary to follow the wash stage by one or more rinses in water, which may be purified.
If dry components are required, it may also be necessary to include a hot-air drying stage.
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