Industrial Strength Degreasers: 2024 Professional Guide

Updated January 15, 2024
Barrels of different industrial degreasing solutions in the warehousehe
Understanding an Industrial Degreaser and the Degreasing Process

There are many different types of grease, and as a result, a variety of degreasers. Using the correct type of degreaser for the job is critical. It is equally important to know the kind of grease you are trying to remove. 

The most common types of grease fall into two categories: FOGs and POLs. The first type of grease, FOGs, is an acronym that represents fats, oils, and grease. FOGs exist in kitchens, cafeterias, commissaries, restaurants, food manufacturing, and wastewater. This type of grease is frequently the easier to remove between the two types. They are lighter and softer because they are not hard baked onto the surface. The second type of grease, POLs, are petroleum, oils, and lubricants. These are used in manufacturing, automotive, fleet applications, and virtually anywhere petroleum distillates are used. These are the more difficult types of grease to remove because they are designed with the objective of staying where they are applied, and often become thicker and stickier over time because of their composition, making their level of adhesion to a surface significantly stronger.

It is also important to know that degreasers are made of three distinctly diverse types as well: solvents (petroleum distillates), butyls (water-based solvents) and emulsifiers. Many water-based degreasers combine butyls and emulsifiers to both increase efficiency and decrease soils that have multiple kinds and strengths of FOGs & POLs.

What is the Best Industrial Degreaser for Commercial Level Degreasing ?

Solvent degreasers have the most punch when used on POLs in particular. Solvent degreasers have comparable properties to solvent greases since they are miscible and mix better with the grease solvents in POL’s. Solvent degreasers can be produced at higher viscosities allowing them to dwell longer on vertical surfaces, giving them more time to work. This rule of thumb is most easily demonstrated by considering grease on an engine block of a car, truck, or bus. As the engine heats up, the POLs in it and in the engine compartment, brake fluid, compressor oil, antifreeze, all become more liquified and may drip, spray, or splash onto the engine block. Also, the fumes from the engine cylinders get atomized and removed by the exhaust system, yet debris/remnants do remain and attach to surfaces. When the engine is running, they remain mostly liquified. When the engine cools down they solidify and are often turned into carbons which are even more difficult to degrease. 

Butyls are water-based solvents that are particularly efficient at penetrating both lighter POL’s while also being highly effective at degreasing FOG’s. These types of solvents find the creases, crevasses and fissures in the FOG and penetrate their way to the surface underneath. This action, known as chelating, holds the greases in suspension and will allow it to rinse away with water, either through pressure or with agitation. When using butyls, the grease will break down and begin to look very much like the grease when it was on the surface, a process known as debonding. Butyls can be sprayed but cannot be atomized, unless they are in a foam, due to them causing micron size particles that can cause a respiratory reaction to the user if inhaled. When used as directed, butyls are safe and highly effective degreasing components. 

Emulsifying degreasers utilize surfactants, which are surface active agents, to chemically break down and separate the components in greases, particularly FOGs. There are thousands of surfactants, and it’s the formulator's “secret sauce” as they design products. While there are a lot of surfactants available, most are designed to break down the FOGs, so they are easily rinsed away with water before being picked up in a mop or squeegeed down a floor drain. Emulsifying degreasers have the distinct advantage of being the most dilutable with water and are therefore very economical. Most commercially nationally branded degreasers will fall into the emulsifying degreaser category. As previously mentioned, butyls are a primary component in emulsifying degreasers to speed up the degreasing process. Several types of water based disinfectants are also compatible with emulsifying degreasers as well. When using a disinfecting cleaner, you are very likely to find an emulsifying cleaner in the formula.

How do I use an Industrial Degreaser for Degreasing?

There are fundamental principles on how chemicals work and what tactics and techniques can be utilized to enhance their performance. Industry professionals use a simple acronym to describe the four elements that the user can take advantage of to impact the results of their efforts. By understanding how these factors interact with each other, you can modify each variable and get the best results by creating the most ideal circumstances possible. 

The acronym is TACT; T = Time, A = Action, C = Concentration, and T = Temperature. 

Time refers to dwell time, or how long the product can remain wet on the surface before agitation, rinsing, or reapplication. Commercial advertising has given people the misconception that you can wet a surface and instantly wipe it away leaving a sparkly, shining, debris-free surface. This type of scenario would be found only in the minority of cleaning applications and processes. While it is difficult to assign an exact length of time, trial and error is the best teacher in finding the most efficient time span. A good barometer is often a visual cue. If you wet a greasy surface and see an instant result, give it a little more time because it may only have had the time to react to the top layer of the grease, sludge, or soil. If a surface is covered in a substantial amount of grease, a single application may not be enough to complete the task, and a second or third application is required. 

Action means agitation. Action can come from a mop, brush, water under pressure, scrubbing, or any other means of manual effort. Sometimes, creating agitation to break the surface tension and create creases, crevasses, fissures, and ridges that allow quicker absorption of the product deeper into the soil will speed up the task. Most shops will have an array of tools ranging from paper towels to high pressure hot water for the purpose of agitation. If the tools are available, use them, because it is an easily controlled variable. The level of sophistication of a product’s agitation tool is less important than the recognition that it is one of the key variables that is in control of the user. 

Concentration is synonymous with chemical strength. Some degreasing products are ready-to-use and already formulated at optimum levels without dilution while others are highly concentrated so the user can adjust according to the task. Continental Research runs the full gamut, from ready-to-use solutions to ultra concentrates that you mix into a drum, such as Might Boy MAD - Makes A Drum. In the case of a product such as MAD, you can modify the concentration simply by adding water, creating a novel dilute coupled with a hydro-powered dispenser. Regardless of what product you are using, the concentration will affect the outcome. A basic recommendation is to simply use concentrates because they give you the best concentration and cost control.

Temperature is a typically overlooked usage feature. If grease becomes more liquified with heat, before degreasing the engine compartment, it would be sensible to turn it on for 5 minutes and let the heat do some of the work. Another way to take advantage of the variable of temperature is to let a greasy surface sit in a sunny spot on a warm day before degreasing it. Heat is almost always a positive factor in cleaning or degreasing. Cold on the other hand is usually not a positive factor in cleaning, particularly in degreasing. It is important to never bring surfaces above 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This can cause flashing and fuming, which is never a positive feature.

Industrial Degreaser and Professional Degreasing Safety Procedures

Knowing the regulatory and safety concerns with each type of degreaser or degreasing product is important. Solvents are highly flammable and are very often prepared for ready-to-use strength. Solvents ship under a hazardous placard and will emit an odor. While there are masking agents, low odor and odorless solvents are typically meant for fleet and automotive shops where petroleum odors are already present. Butyls, as previously mentioned, cannot be atomized, or dispersed through misting, because they will cause a respiratory reaction. Emulsifiers, while the most common and the easiest to dilute with water, are the most reactive to the body - particularly the film coating the eyes – which will emulsify from contact with degreasers.

All industrial products, in fact, all chemical products must be shipped with regulatory paperwork called Material Data Sheets or SDSs. Not only is the SDS a shipping requirement by the DOT, but it is also a requirement by OSHA for professional users of the product to have on file in the case there is a spill, contact with skin, inhalation, or other type of accident. Found in this paperwork are all the mandated regulatory information such as health hazards, storage and disposal requirements, and a variety of other compliance guidelines. It is required that these SDSs be included in the packaging slip with each shipment and that the employer maintains the file so that if this information is ever needed, it's easily accessible. Continental Research not only complies, but additionally has ours posted online with regular updates.

For the best industrial degreaser, professionals prefer the Continental brand of degreasing products. We make your job easier - simply Request a Quote or Ask an Expert and you will be working with the best industrial strength degreasers available.
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