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March 7, 2019

The Problem with Silicate with Cleaners


Silicate is a seemingly convenient ingredient that formulators often include in alkaline cleaners.  Unfortunately, once these cleaning products are in use, they can damage the system and halt production.  This article discusses the reasons silicate should not be in your degreasing solutions.

What is a Silicate?

Silicates are anions (meaning that they are negatively charged) and contain silicon and oxygen.  Silicate doesn’t refer to a single chemical compound, but to a family of compounds that share a similar makeup.  The silicate family includes orthosilicates, metasilicates, pyrosilicates, and others, and they often form structures, such as chains or rings, of silicon and oxygen.

What are the Problems with Silicate in Cleaning Applications?

Paint and Coating Adhesion Problems

A cleaner or degreaser might work well enough for removing oils and greases, but down the line, it can cause major problems with adhesion.  One wishes that applying paints and coatings was as easy as picking the color or coating and brushing it on, but paintings and coatings require the perfect surface and interface for proper adhesion.  Any materials that remain on the surface of your material and interfere with adhesion will result in a costly remedial process.  Unfortunately, silicated cleaners cause paint and coatings to be less adhesive to surfaces.  For this reason, NuGenTec has alkaline cleaning and degreasing products that don't contain silicates and cut through the toughest oils and greases.

Silicate Scale Formation

Silicates can form a scale that is difficult to remove. If this scale builds around heating coils, it can have huge economic impacts.  This can cost money for two reasons:
  • Insulating Effect of Silicate Scale
    • The first cause for loss of profits is derived from the insulating effects that occur when silicate scale builds around heating coils.  As scale builds around the heating coils, it takes an increased amount of energy to heat a cleaning bath, which can be costly.  
  • Total Halt of Operations Caused by Silicate Scale
    • If a silicate scale becomes too thick, it will need to be descaled and, for the duration of the descaling operation, the entire process may need to be shut down.  Few things are more costly than a halt to production.


Why Do Some Cleaners Contain Silicate?

Some cleaners and degreasers are formulated using silicate for three reasons:
  • Corrosion Inhibition
    • For aqueous cleaning of metals, corrosion is not only a nuisance, it is a hazard.  If a metal corrodes, its structural integrity suffers. For this reason, a corrosion inhibitor is necessary for alkaline cleaning. Many formulators add silicate as a matter of convenience due to its ability to act as a corrosion inhibitor. NuGenTec has built-in corrosion inhibition packages in its alkaline cleaning products that are free of silicate and won’t form a scale or interfere with painting and coating adhesion.
  • Dispersing Agent
    • Dispersing agents decrease the surface tension of cleaning products.  This allows the cleaning product to access difficult-to-reach areas and perform more efficiently.  NuGenTec has formulated silicate-free surfactant blends, fit perfectly to the surface tension needed for different cleaning operations.
  • Source of Alkalinity
    • Alkaline cleaners are needed to cut through tough grease and oils. Silicate is sometimes used as a source of alkalinity because it is convenient to have a dispersing agent, a corrosion inhibitor and a source of alkalinity in one compound.  This convenience comes at the costs associated with silicate scale, which is why NuGenTec formulates cleaners without silicates.

What is the Alternative to Silicate in Cleaners?

 NuGenTec rethought the purpose of silicates and decided to remove them completely from alkaline cleaning products. In order to remove the silicates, NuGenTec formulated a silicate-free surfactant blend and corrosion-inhibition package to provide better performance than silicated metal cleaners without the drawbacks.  This silicate-free blend has been applied to several NuGenTec products, including AquaKlean EF105.

NuGenTec: Redefining Chemistry

If you are seeking healthier, more environmentally responsible, and less costly alternatives for your industrial processes, contact NuGenTec today. Click here for more information on our silicate-free, mildly alkaline, AquaKlean EF105 metal cleaners.