Hydrocarbon Solvent Cleaning


Hydrocarbon solvents have many applications. They are petroleum-based substances that dissolve oil and grease. Hydrocarbon solvents include turpentine, kerosene and gasoline. The solvents used in dry cleaning, called white spirits, have a high flash point that reduces flammability. Hydrocarbon solvents cause toxicity concerns because of fumes and the safety of disposal, but they can be cleaned and reused in a complicated filtration system for some time and then recycled using vacuum distillation. Hydrocarbon solvents are an alternative to using perchloroethylene, which is effective but has potential health dangers. You can use hydrocarbon solvents to clean parts.

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • 2 buckets with lids
  • Metal-bristle scrub brush
  • Rags
  • Hydrocarbon solvent
  • Fine sieve or strainer
  • Lay a drop cloth to avoid dripping the grease and dirt that will come off the parts you are cleaning. Work in an area with plenty of ventilation. Modern hydrocarbon solvents are less aromatic but the old types such as turpentine have toxic vapors that you should not expose yourself to in closed conditions.

  • Put on a good pair of rubber gloves before you begin to protect your skin from the solvent. Pour hydrocarbon solvent into the bucket and place the items you want to clean inside to soak for half an hour. The solvents will work at dissolving the accumulated grease and debris from the surface of the items.

  • Remove the dirty objects and scrub them with the brush to loosen the grime and oils on the pieces. Place the items back into the bucket and let them soak for another half hour. Remove them and wipe off the remaining residue with the rags. Let the pieces air dry.

  • Set the sieve up over the other bucket. Pour the used solvent into the sieve to catch the chunks that came off the cleaned items. Discard the solids and place a tight fitting lid on the bucket. You can use the solution a few more times before it becomes laden with oils and is no longer effective.

  • Take spent hydrocarbon solvent to the local waste management hazardous waste disposal site. You will need to call ahead to schedule an appointment in some municipalities and to check that they handle hydrocarbon solvents. They will dispose of the solvent properly.

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