January 06, 2016

The Most Eco-Friendly Blaster - Ice or Sand?

There are always surfaces that need to be cleaned one way or another but sometimes that means going the extra mile and using an abrasive cleaner. When we say this, you probably find yourself thinking of the more typical cleaning methods, involving a bit of elbow grease and perhaps a bucket of soapy water, but sometimes you need to take things to the next level, whether you use sand blasting or ice blasting. IF you haven’t heard of either of these methods, there is a good chance that you’re a bit confused. We are here to talk about the environmental impact of both of these methods, but before we get started, what are they?

Understanding Blast Cleaning

Blast cleaning is designed to clean the toughest of residue build ups, and it is often used on factory equipment. There are three major types of blast cleaning utilized today and these include:

  • Sand Blasting
  • Ice Blasting
  • Glass Blasting

While glass blasting was worth mentioning, today we will be discussing the potential environmental effects of the first two, and discussing whether or not they can actually cause any damage. Essentially, both are responsible for expelling a coarse material at a high rate of speed in an attempt to clean a surface that could not be cleaned by any other means. Sand blasting uses sand, while ice blasting uses ice pellets. So, which one should you use? Which one is more eco-friendly? Let’s start by taking a quick look at the popular art of sand blasting.

Understanding Sand Blasting

When it comes to environmental risks, the thing to focus on with sand blasting is the abrasive material used, and most importantly how it is contained during the cleaning process. Something important to note is that yes, this is called sand, but it is actually steel grits or copper slags. Then again, you could be using powdered coconut, walnut shells, or any number of other materials. Many have moved on to Garnet, which is a crushed stone, great for abrasive blasting. So why are these used in lieu of sand exactly? Well, it was shown, rather conclusively, that the inhalation of sand actually caused a condition known as silicosis, making sand blasting potentially deadly. Changing to these materials made it not only more eco-friendly, but also safer for the workers handling the equipment.

So, finally, we get to the ultimate question, is it possible for the materials used to pose a threat to the environment? Generally the materials used for sand blasting are inert, so allowing them into our natural environment would do nothing, other than simply existing there. This might not sound harmful to you, but consider how many animals have died as a result of something simply ‘existing’ in their natural environment that should not have. One great example would be the great number of birds and sea life affected by plastic bottle holders. One of the most often suggested solutions is to simply lay down a tarp or apron to catch the matter after you have finished your cleaning operation, but as always mistakes can happen, and you might not get all of it initially. Introducing anything unnatural into the environment is a bad idea, even if it is inert, but how does this compare to the ice blasting alternative? Is it better? Is it worse? Let’s find out.

Taking a Look at Ice Blasting

Dry ice blasting is arguably more eco-friendly than it’s sand blasting counterpart. First of all, it uses dry ice pellets (unless you choose the ice block alternative) and these pellets are designed to transform from a liquid to a gas on impact. This gas is responsible for shrinking all of the dirt particles, thereby causing them to loosen and fall, or at least be easily removed. The process does not use any chemicals and does not produce any sort of waste once it is finished doing its job. Additionally it has been approved unanimously by all three environment watchdog groups which include the EPA, USDA, and FDA. Because it is so clean, it can be used around food products, including assembly lines that need a quick and easy alternative to sand blasting.

So when it comes down to it, both of these methods are pretty eco-friendly, but we tend to stick with the one that doesn’t leave any waste behind. With that being the case, we are forced to say that ice blasting is the clear winner, though if you’re interested in picking up after yourself every single time, sand blasting is always a pretty clean option.


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