January 04, 2016

Commercial Sand Blasters vs. Commercial Ice Blasters

Ice BlasterThere are some cleaning jobs that will require a bit more effort on your part than a bit of elbow grease, unfortunately, and such jobs might even call for an abrasive material. As much as we all love the wet sponge and soap bucket technique, there are simply cases where it won’t get the job done. This is where highly abrasive cleaners come into play, and we are speaking, of course, of the typical sandblasting or ice blasting equipment. You need to choose between these, but figuring out which one is right for you? That can be a bit of a challenge. For this reason, we have put together a comparison of commercial ice blasters and commercial sand blasters to help you decide which of these would be best in a given situation.

What is a Commercial Sandblaster?

The first thing you need to know is that while there are several different sand blasters out there for you to choose from, they all work on the same principal.

The Principal: All sandblasters utilize finely ground silica sand which is ‘blasted’, for lack of a better term, toward a dirty surface. This process can clean a surface of rust, paint, or other materials that have adhered to the surface.

The Process: Sandblasters work using a pressurized gun encased by a ceramic barrel that keeps it from eroding over time.

Now that we know the principal and the process, let’s discuss the three different types of sandblasters on the market:

  • Gravity Fed – This model consists of an air compressor, a tank, and a hand-held gun. When the trigger of the attached gun is depressed, the hose is filled with silica sand from the pressurized tank, and when the trigger is pressed, the unit uses gravity to pull the sand through the gun and out of the barrel.
  • Siphon – These are not unlike their gravity-fed counterparts, though in contrast, the sand is held below the nozzle, and is pushed out by air.
  • Pressure – This type requires pressurized air canisters rather than sand. Sand is blasted from the container when the trigger is pulled, and while these are easier to use, they are very expensive.

What is Ice Blasting

With ice blasting, compressed air is used to force CO2 pellets from a tube and through a narrow tip. It looks a lot like pressure washing, but in this case, the ice used is dry. The concept behind it is not so much that it is an abrasive substance (though it is), but more so that the cold forces the dirt molecules to shrink, thereby loosening them and causing them to fall. Additionally, once the pellets hit the surface they immediately change from solid to gas.  That being the case, once it hits the surface, it simply dissolves, meaning there is no cleanup required.

The pellets from an ice blaster are entirely non-toxic and therefore pose no threat to the workplace or people surrounding the cleaned area. In addition to that they meet the stringent guidelines set forth by the EPA, USDA, and FDA.

Following an ice cleaning, there is no additional cleanup required. One of the problems faced by those who use more traditional cleaning methods is being forced to wait for a bit before pushing electrical parts back into service. Because you do not need to wait for chemicals to dry, you can safely use this method on virtually all of your equipment from printing presses, to piping, storage tanks, manufacturing equipment, reactors, heating exchangers, turbines, transformers, boilers, and much more. In fact, ice blasting is being used around the world as an alternative to sand blasting every single day.

To put it simply, industries are switching to dry ice blasting left and right to avoid the typical maintenance period that follows normal blasting. This method, because it is safer and faster is being sued more in the food industry for safe oven cleaning as well as the cleaning of packaging lines. All in all, this is a great replacement for the original cleaning methods which might have been considered toxic, or could have caused harm to the products. Should you give it a try? If you want a faster, easier, and more portable method of cleaning that has no negative side effects, then ice blasting is definitely the route that you want to take.


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