Dry Ice Blasting vs. Other Methods
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Dry Ice Blasting vs. Other Methods

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Dry Ice Blasting vs. Other Methods

By Jessie West | November 28 2023

Dry ice blasting leverages the power of carbon dioxide (CO2) pellets, which are propelled at a supersonic speed towards a surface to eliminate contaminants. It eradicates dirt, grime and unwanted coatings without causing damage to the underlying surface. 

Unlike many alternative cleaning methods, dry ice pellets sublimate upon impact and do not create any secondary waste. This waste reduction minimizes cleanup efforts and contributes to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly cleaning option.

The dry ice blasting process employs reclaimed carbon dioxide, making it a sustainable, green, and a closed-loop system. It doesn’t introduce harmful chemicals or solvents into the environment or produce greenhouse gasses. The eco-friendly approach aligns perfectly with the demands of modern businesses striving for sustainability.

Dry Ice Blasting Cleaning

Carbon dioxide (CO2) pellets, when propelled at high speeds, undergo a fascinating transformation — they sublimate or turn into gas upon contact with the surface being cleaned. The cleaning process begins with the creation of dry ice pellets. Liquid CO2 is stored under high pressure and then transferred to a pelletizer, where rapid expansion and an extrusion die convert it into granules of dry ice. These granules are then propelled through a blasting nozzle using compressed air at astonishing speeds, ranging from 75 to 1,000 feet per second. When these dry ice pellets impact the substrate, a kinetic effect is created, which works most efficiently when the substrate is at room temperature.

This temperature differential between the room temperature substrate and the dry ice initiates temperature differentials within the layers of the contaminant. These differences lead to micro-cracks forming within the layers, disrupting the bond between the contaminant and the substrate.

As the dry ice granules impact the substrate, the temperature difference between the surface and the dry ice, coupled with energy dissipation, causes the dry ice pellets to expand by a staggering 700 times their size. This expansion generates high pressure between the surface and the contaminant particles, effectively lifting the broken contaminant layer from the substrate.


Abrasive Blasting

Each of the following methods has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Areas that we will be investigating include the efficiency and environmental responsibility of the process, as well as its impact on workplace safety. 


Dry Ice Blasting vs. Soda Blasting

Soda blasting is similar to dry ice, as it is a nonabrasive method. The process involves using compressed air to propel baking soda particles at the surface. It is suitable for use on delicate surfaces, such as wood, plastics and thin materials. 

Baking soda is nontoxic and biodegradable, making it fairly eco-friendly and safe for workers. However, it leaves a residue behind on the surface, requiring additional cleaning. 

The compound is also moisture-sensitive, making it difficult to work in humid or moist conditions. Added moisture causes the baking soda to clog the equipment. 


Dry Ice Blasting vs. Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is widely used for cleaning surfaces using a high-pressure stream of water. It is effective for removing loose dirt, dust, mold and mildew from various surfaces. It is a good tool for routine maintenance tasks, such as cleaning driveways, decks and exterior walls. 

However, pressure washing does have limitations when it comes to more demanding industrial cleaning tasks. Here are a few things to consider when looking at pressure washing vs. dry ice blasting:

  • Abrasive: The high-pressure water stream can be abrasive, potentially causing damage to delicate surfaces or forcing water into cracks and crevices, leading to structural damage over time.
  • Ineffective for tough contaminants: Pressure washing may struggle to remove deeply embedded or stubborn contaminants like heavy rust, graffiti or certain types of paint.
  • Preparation and cleanup: Before pressure washing, surfaces must be prepared by removing loose debris. Additionally, cleanup is often necessary after pressure washing, which may include managing wastewater and runoff.


Dry Ice Blasting vs. Sandblasting

Sandblasting involves using highly abrasive materials, usually sand or grid, at high speeds to remove unwanted coatings or contaminants from surfaces. The process is used in industries looking to remove challenging areas such as heavy paint, rust and corrosion. Another use is for the preparation of a protective coating. Construction industries also use it on metals, concrete and masonry. 

Sandblasting can cause damage to the surface of delicate materials or those with intricate designs. Unlike dry ice blasting, sandblasting has a significant amount of abrasive waste. Dry ice blasting is also environmentally friendly, which is an advantage that sandblasting doesn’t have. The blast of silica sand poses a health risk as it releases harmful silica dust, making it a health and safety concern for workers. 

Dry Ice Blasting vs. Chemical Cleaning

Chemical cleaning effectively removes oil, grease and other stubborn contaminants that are difficult to clean with other methods. The approach uses chemicals, solvents and cleaning agents to break down these contaminants, usually in equipment and machinery. The use of chemicals makes it versatile and easy to use on delicate surfaces and hard-to-reach spaces.

However, there are some disadvantages when comparing it to other cleaning methods. 

  • Toxicity: Many chemical cleaning agents are toxic and can pose serious health risks to workers. Workers need to ensure they use proper handling, protective gear and safety protocols. Businesses must adhere to strict regulations and environmental guidelines, increasing their use and disposal complexity.
  • Environmental impact: Using and disposing of chemical cleaning agents can have a significant environmental impact, especially if they contain hazardous components. Clean-up is often time-consuming, leading to longer equipment downtime, which may not be feasible in some industries with strict production schedules.
  • Incompatibility: Certain materials and equipment may not be compatible with specific cleaning chemicals, risking damage or adverse reactions.


Why Should You Choose Dry Ice Blasting? 

Using dry ice eliminates the need for aqueous or chemical solutions when preparing a surface for painting or applying coatings. Since the surface is completely dry, coatings and paint can be applied immediately after cleaning. The advantages of this process result in reduced project turnaround times and increased productivity. 

Dry ice blasting is a safe, clean method for employees. There are no harmful substances or particles, chemicals or anything left for disposal.

What Industries Can It Serve?

All types of industries and sectors. Here are just a few:

  • Manufacturing: Dry ice blasting is used to clean manufacturing equipment, remove residues from molds and prepare surfaces for painting and coating in the manufacturing industry. It can efficiently clean conveyor belts, robotic arms and production machinery.
  • Automotive: In the automotive sector, dry ice blasting is utilized to clean engine components, remove paint and graffiti from vehicles and prepare surfaces for painting or coating. It’s particularly effective for restoring classic cars without damaging their delicate finishes.
  • Food and beverage: Dry ice blasting can safely clean food processing equipment, conveyor belts, ovens and packaging machinery without using chemicals that could contaminate food.
  • Aerospace: Dry ice blasting can clean aircraft engines, remove carbon deposits and maintain critical aerospace components. 
  • Medical and pharmaceutical: Cleanrooms and equipment must meet cleanliness standards in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Dry ice blasting helps clean and sterilize surfaces and equipment without introducing harmful chemicals.
  • Marine and shipbuilding: Dry ice blasting maintains and cleans ships and marine equipment. It can remove rust, barnacles and coatings, preparing surfaces for repainting or recoating.


How Can EAI Help You?

At Environmental Alternatives, Inc., a commitment to excellence and innovation has been at the forefront since 1989. EAI provides groundbreaking solutions for the most challenging nuclear decontamination and industrial cleaning tasks. Our dedicated project managers and technicians are renowned for their expertise, ensuring your cleaning needs are met with precision and efficiency.

What sets EAI apart is our dedication to quality. In-house production of high-quality dry ice with Mobile Support Trailers ensures you receive the finest dry ice on-site. Unlike delivered dry ice services that may compromise pellet density during transport, we maintain the integrity of the dry ice, allowing for a more effective clean. Contact us to find out more.