Reducing parts washer waste is of critical importance for today's chemical supply companies. We've broken down the most frequently asked questions on the topic according to the EPA.
What is a parts washer?
Parts washers are commonly used in manufacturing or maintenance operations to clean parts or components. Parts washers include cold cleaning units, vapor degreasers and conveyorized degreasers.
What types of cleaning chemicals are used in parts washers?
Solvents: Solvents clean by dissolving away dirt. Solvents include petroleum-based solvents such as mineral spirits, stoddard solvent, and petroleum naptha, and organic solvents such as trichloroethane, trichlorethylene, benzene, and xylenes.
Aqueous Cleaners: Aqueous cleaners are pH-neutral or alkaline water-based solutions that break down and remove dirt from part surfaces. Aqueous solutions are designed to be safe on the part being cleaned in both hard or soft water — e.g., aluminum, steel, or other metals. The most commonly used methods of cleaning are immersion cleaning, spray cleaning, and ultrasonic cleaning. Although most aqueous cleaners are nonflammable and nontoxic when purchased, they can qualify as hazardous waste after extended use because they may contain toxic metals from the parts and equipment cleaned in the parts washer. Spent aqueous cleaners can also be hazardous for corrosivity if the pH is less than 2 or greater than 12.5.
Why are parts washers a concern?
Parts washers use cleaning solutions that eventually become spent and must be properly removed according to Illinois special waste protocol. Instead of disposing of this waste, solvent recyclers exist to turn spent contaminated solvent into a clean solvent.
Where Can I Find More Information on Parts Washer Hazardous Waste?
A material safety data sheet (MSDS) presents some of the information necessary to make a hazard classification and determine the proper disposal method for most commercial products and chemicals. You can also download this hazardous waste identification infographic to determine if your solvent waste qualifies as hazardous.
Is my spent parts washer cleaning solution a hazardous waste?
Spent parts washer cleaning solution is hazardous if one or more of the following applies:
- Flashpoint of less than 140ºF
- Contains solvents on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hazardous waste list
- pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5
- Contains toxic metals or organic chemicals above regulatory limits
Spent parts washer solvents are almost always a hazardous waste. Most commonly used solvents have flashpoints below 140ºF, making them highly ignitable. A spent solvent can also be a hazardous waste listed on the Illinois EPA hazardous waste list, which means that it contains organic solvents that have been identified as being hazardous by the Illinois EPA. The wastes include solvents such as tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, and benzene. Spent solvents are also usually hazardous because they contain toxic metals such as chromium and lead from parts and equipment cleaned in the parts washer.
Are my other parts washer wastes hazardous?
Both solvent and aqueous parts washers generate sludge, which is usually hazardous because it contains toxic metals and solvents from the parts cleaned. Rags used to wipe parts off after being washed are also hazardous if they contain toxic metals at concentrations exceeding regulatory limits or listed hazardous solvents.
Many parts washers use filters that must be periodically changed. You need to determine if your used filters are hazardous by using the same process you used to determine if your solvent is hazardous. The skimmed oil may contain hazardous waste. However, you may still be able to manage it as used oil.