Washing Chemicals in Wash Water Reclamation Systems
Most people now realize that Wash Water Reclamation Systems require the use of
washing chemicals that do not defeat the water cleaning process.
Most chemical companies now offer “Quick Release” products to fulfill the need for a
good soap that is effective at removing grease and road film while being unstable
enough to breakdown in the reclaim process
The purpose of this communiqe is to offer a greater understanding of the compli-
cations arising from the use of an incorrect washing detergent and to help in
locating the “right” detergent that allows for the proper operation of your wash
water recycling systems. It is worth mentioning that all systems discharging to
sanitary sewers through oil/water separators, as well as recycling systems,
would benefit from heeding the advice offered herein.
The oil and grease deposited on the surface of a dirty vehicle must be sufficiently
emulsified to the point that they will flow from the vehicle before the emulsion breaks
down. If an emulsion is too unstable, re-deposition of the oil and grease is possible.
Emulsification occurs when two normally immiscible liquids are successfully mixed.
One of the liquids (oil, in this case) forms tiny droplets that suspend within the other
the other liquid(water, in this case) by means of agitation and a detergent.
The resulting effluent is wash water containing oil that is both mechanically
and chemically emulsified. The mechanically-emulsified oil will separate from the
water when the agitation stops and sufficient quiet time elapses allowing for the
oil to surface. The water and chemically-emulsified oil, on the other hand, will
not separate on their own unless the detergent used is designed to allow it to happen
Our days are numbered that we may continue to allow this permanently emulsified
wastestream to go unchecked out the door of the industrial sector. For some, those
days are already in the past. The local multi-million-dollar sewer plant cannot handle
the oil and greases being sent to them, so it is reasonable to assume that a
$30,000 on-site reclaim system cannot handle it either. It’s simple; before the
waste wash water can be reclaimed by anyone or anything, the emulsion
of oil and water must be broken.
Traditionally, users of detergents have discharged the effluent down the drain
with no thought as to what happened next. Once the user installs an oil/water
separator or full recycling system, the consequences of emulsification are
encountered. Chemical emulsification defeats the oil separating capabilities of
water cleaning systems. returning to the pressure washer operator unimproved.
In the process, the filters and carbon are fouled rendering them ineffective.
Remember, there is much to be gained by improving sewer discharges to avoid
high surcharges caused by excessive oil and grease levels. If wash water is
discharged to the ground, the generator is liable.
The solution to this challenge was once expensive and not readily available.
However, for the past couple of years both price and availability have improved
to the point that these “Quick Release” cleaning agents are almost as common
as traditional soaps.
The use of this new breed of soap is wise regardless of your effluent
disposition method. Quick release can better be said as “unstable emulsifier”,
not as “non-emulsifier”. Beware the vendor peddling a “non-emulsifying’ soap.
Yes, it will work in your wash water reclaim system; no, it will not remove grease
Surfactants (surface-active agents) make water wetter. When water is wetter it
can penetrate the surface of oils and greases more easily and quickly- an
important function, if your goal is to clean a greasy piece of equipment.
Therefore, surfactants are important ingredients in the cleaning chemicals you
buy-the tricky part being to select the type of surfactants that will provide your
system with unstable emulsification.
To make things a little more complicated, there are four types of surfactants
available: cationic, anionic, nonionic, and ampholytic. The manufacturer of your
reclaim system can guide you to the best type of surfactant for your system.
Present day technology offers us hair shampoo with a balanced pH (Ph7).
This is great stuff for your hair, but totally unacceptable for washing industrial
equipment. There are extremely effective industrial grade soaps with high
pH’s (pH12) That work very well on oil and grease while quickly releasing those oils
and greases within a wash water reclaim system. You can have both a high pH and
an unstable emulsifier
The wash water reclaim user can be a wiser chemical buyer with the
following information that will be of assistance in guiding your chemical vendor
to the correct product for your system:
A coupling agent is a critical ingredient in the manufacture of washing
chemicals. When all of the ingredients are blended in the manufacture of
washing chemical, a coupling agent is introduced to maintain the
homogenized condition of the finished product. Without the presence of the
coupling agent, the solution soon separates into layers made up of the
individual components of the aggregate and this dog won’t hunt.
In order to achieve the benefits of “quick release”, clever formulators employ the
use of monoethanolamine as the coupling agent. Monoethanolamine easily
evaporates during the washing process. As the monoethanolamine heads out
of town, the soap begins to break up and the surfactant loses its grip on the
oil and grease. Now, the reclaim system can do its job as separation of the
oily contaminants occurs. This type of unstable emulsifier may allow your
reclaim system to work, but if the breakdown occurs. This type of unstable
emulsifier may allow your reclaim system to work, but if the breakdown
occurs too quickly, the oil and grease could re-deposit on the equipment being
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