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The Five Aerospace Parts Cleaning Mistakes You May Be Making

Last Updated: December 19, 2023

Aerospace manufacturers navigate various regulations regarding the precision cleaning of aircraft components. But it’s for a good reason: this ensures their safe and proper operation within the aircraft itself.

Aerospace parts cleaning is complicated, and it’s crucial to select the right cleaning equipment, cleaning solutions, and methods to remain competitive.

There are plenty of opportunities along the way to make mistakes. Below are the five most common errors and problems we encounter in aerospace parts cleaning operations, along with tips on fixing these issues based on our experience.

Mistake #1: The Wrong Detergent

Not all cleaning solutions are the same. To cut chemical and labor costs, a manufacturer will select a detergent that, while suitable for aerospace parts washers, isn’t explicitly made for the type of cleaning equipment it’s being put in.

The result is a cleaning process that isn’t as good as it could be. That’s not optimal, especially when aircraft manufacturers depend on your cleaning systems to produce a flawless result.

How To Fix

Take the time to understand your cleaning systems and the options available. We recommend choosing chemistries engineered explicitly for that use versus opting for one created for multiple purposes.

There are many cleaning solutions available, and we can help you find the right one that matches your parts, soils, compatibility, and cleanliness requirements.

Mistake #2: Poor Rinse Water Maintenance

The rinse process is often forgotten in parts cleaning as it’s expected that the water is clean. However, this isn’t a given. The most common issue is detergent carryover, which is sometimes unavoidable but can be minimized.

In high-volume applications, this is a safety issue. Even a little detergent carryover can make clean rinse water dirty quickly.

How To Fix

Utilizing an overflow scheme or conductivity to measure water quality will greatly benefit your cleaning process by keeping the rinse water “clean”. The cleanliness of this water used varies based on whether the cleaning is an interim step or final clean, the specific parts and their end use, and cleanliness application.

There are as many considerations for properly rinsing components as there are for cleaning components. For final rinse water, our general guidelines for recommended conductivity are:

  • Ultra-Clean Applications: Less than 50 microsiemens
  • Precision Cleaning: Less than 500 microsiemens
  • Gross Cleaning: Greater than 500 microsiemens

Mistake #3: Poor Soil Removal

Oils, grease, and particulates accumulate in the detergent even in properly operating parts washers. But the trouble begins before saturation, as those oils start to re-deposit on part surfaces. The micelles can only hold so much before they become saturated.

The rinse water may also be the issue. The longer rinse water stays “clean,” the better it removes detergent and soil. We commonly encounter customers that believe their detergent tank is spent, but the rinse water is dirty, thus making it less effective. If this is happening, see the previous section.

How To Fix

We recommend using a coalescing system to help remove non-soluble oils from the detergent. If you’re dealing with particulates, you will also need a filtration system, one that passes the detergent through the filter multiple times. One time isn’t enough.

We also suggest using a fluid movement system to keep the particles in suspension for easier filtration, which also has the added benefit of preventing particulates from settling on the tank floor. Especially with ultrasonic cleaners, this causes degraded cleaning performance.

Brulin aqueous cleaners are a synergistic blend of detergents, inhibitors, and other chemicals and are specifically designed for immersion and ultrasonic degreasing of components. During product development, we ensure every cleaner meets specific concentrations necessary to effectively remove soils and extend detergent life.

Mistake #4: Improper Basket Loads

While volume challenges may make it tempting to run larger basket loads, running too much through your parts cleaning equipment in a single load significantly reduces overall cleaning effectiveness.

Reducing load size allows the chemistry to reach all surfaces of the component. The detergent must be able to get to the oils on the component surface to remove the soil. If it is impeded or blocked, cleaning takes much longer if it happens at all.

How To Fix

Our experts recommend running smaller loads, perhaps half the basket capacity, to improve overall results and reduce cleaning time. Running two baskets, half full will typically take less time to clean than a single basket filled to capacity. The end result will be much better, too.

Baskets should be as open as possible and with as limited surface area as possible. Plan out placement of parts in the basket. There should be enough space on all sides so it is adequately washed and rinsed and placed in such a way that allows the detergent to drain quickly. This minimizes detergent carryover. Adding agitation enables the chemistry to become even more effective.

As component geometries become more intricate, so does the cleaning. Allowing the cleaning solution to readily access all surfaces is key to a great process.

Mistake #5: Process Issues

Industry precision cleaning operations require a rock-solid process to deliver the results aerospace industry clients demand. However, various factors can cause trouble, including new customer parts, a new machining center, etc.

If changes are made without notifying your parts cleaning area, these upstream changes can have significant downstream effects.

How To Fix

The most obvious fix is to keep your communications lines between all parts of your manufacturing process as open as possible. Communicate changes down the line, and make any necessary adjustments before those parts make it to the parts washers.

Other questions to look into when process issues arise:

  • Is the wash temperature correct?
  • Is the detergent concentration in range?
  • Is the wash time correct?
  • Is the part sitting after cleaning for an extended period?
  • If it’s an outside vendor, has their process changed?

The Aerospace Industry Cleans With Brulin

Brulin’s approved and tested parts cleaning solutions provide safer and more effective cleaning for aerospace manufacturing and maintenance facilities. Our cutting-edge chemistries are tailored to your specific needs and the ever-more stringent cleanliness requirements of the aerospace industry.

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