Cleaning Without Chemicals

Sometimes the solution is not a solution, but rather steam, gas or a silver bullet.

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

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Bioguard Plastics employs the same (non-colloidal) silver ion technology used in AgIon flooring systems, caulks and sealants in its line of cutting boards for foodservice and food processing facilities. (The name derives from the terms "ion" and "Ag," the latter being the periodic table representation for the element silver.) "It's a slow-release antimicrobial agent that can be embedded in many products," says Massie. "We add it to our cutting board plastic just as you would add color."

The silver ions are held in cubes that resemble zeolite cages. Each cube contains a nanoparticle of silver with many silver ions available for reduction of microorganisms.

"Each time you cut into the surface, you expose more surface area to release silver ions," says Massie.

Visually, the Bioguard cutting boards are discernible from other cutting boards by their silver color. According to Massie, their cost is within 10 percent of comparable high-density plastic cutting boards. The biggest difference comes in the invisible battle the boards wage against dangerous microorganisms such as listeria, salmonella, E. coli and a wide range of yeasts and molds.

"The (microbial) kill is approximately 93 percent within 10 minutes after inoculation depending upon temperature, moisture and the specific target organism," explains Massie. "The key, compared to chemicals and other disinfectants, is that it works 24/7, 365 days a year."

Foodservice operators are quick to recognize the value of the boards. "But the greater potential is in food processing OEM," he adds. "Also in transport, in moving raw materials in a plant, in storage of raw meat and vegetables, and in handling or any process that involves breaking down pork, poultry and other meat or animal protein. Wherever there is a plastic component - like a conveyor or in a knife handle - there is an application for this technology."

The Clene Coat line of coatings and sealants from AgIon Technologies (, Wakefield, Mass., are resilient epoxies thermally compatible with concrete and resistant to bacterial contamination on the surfaces of an industrial environment, explains Joe Geary, AgIon vice president for upgrade solutions.

Its core product is Clene Coat, a top coating for walls and ceilings. But food plants have countless corners that make it easy for bacteria to propagate.

"Half the problem is getting into the irregularities of shapes, floors, corners and intersections," says Geary. "That's why we have flexible caulks for expansion joints and intersections between floor and wall and wall panels. Water and organic matter in a food plant invite mold problems. Normally, caulk will harbor mold. But our caulk is a mold-resistant epoxy."

Other products in the line include a quarter-inch "trowelable" caulk to protect the underlying concrete slab; Clene Coat SL, a self-leveling coating; and Clene Seal, a light-duty sealant that protects against moisture migration while preventing bacterial growth.

"The unique theme of this product family is the antimicrobial activity of the technology," says Geary. "Ionic silver is the active ingredient, and it works against the broad spectrum of bacteria found in a food facility. We build it into the system to resist microbial growth 24 hours a day, seven days a week."


How to find the most effective cleaning method for your plant

The "food industry" is an amalgam of many food segments with varying sanitation needs. Take any given cleaning or sanitation method - whether or not it employs chemicals - and you will find a number of options to select from.

How do you pick the one best suited to your operation? Consider first the three reasons for cleaning and sanitation in a food plant:

  • Product safety -

  • Product quality -

  • Compliance with government regulations -
Plants that cannot meet required sanitation levels can be fined, closed or both.Bacteria can cause premature spoilage and reduce shelf life.
    Food products must be free from hazardous bacteria or other matter.

"Plant management should consider five elements when deciding on proper sanitation measures," says Roger Tippett, senior product development program leader for Ecolab (, the St. Paul, Minn.-based provider of plant cleaning and sanitation solutions.

  • The nature of the soil:

  • The surface to be cleaned:

  • Water supply:

  • Method of application:

  • Environmental concerns:
Will the cleaning process or discharge have an impact on worker safety, wastewater or air emissions? This includes manual, spray, foam and mechanical or clean-in place (CIP) applications. Know the quality of your water, its hardness, trace elements, etc. Some chemicals or cleaning methods may corrode the surface of your equipment or work area.
    What type of material or residue is found on your lines and facility?

Once a type of cleaning system is selected, four key application parameters come into play:

  • Time:

  • Temperature:

  • Concentration:

  • Mechanical action or force required in application:
This covers such factors as brushing or scraping action of a device or spray head as well as the pressure of a spray stream. Know at what concentrations a given cleaning agent must be used to be effective on the range of soils in your operation. Some soils may require that you apply the cleaning agent at higher temperatures - say, at or above the melting point of a fat.
    How much time will a cleaning agent require to react with the soil to effect removal?

Understanding the nature of your cleaning and sanitation challenge and the factors determining its effectiveness sets the table for effective cleaning, notes Tippett. Ecolab has developed a PLC-driven on-site formulation system, named Quadexx, which can make up to 217 formulations thereby allowing processors to pick the custom cleaning solutions they need. "No one shoe fits all," he says.


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