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What Is Tube Cleaning?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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Tube cleaning is the removal of contaminants from the inside of tubes used in heating and cooling systems, chemical processes, food production and other activities. Machinery is available for this task, and it is possible to hire a specialty firm to perform tube cleaning services. It is critical for the smooth functioning of many systems and might be a part of routine maintenance or required servicing activities, depending on what kind of system is serviced by the tubes. With food and pharmaceutical production, for example, sterile conditions are critical, so tube cleaning is not optional.

Some forms of tube cleaning require the company to take the system offline. The technicians will take the time while the system is down to thoroughly clean all the tubes and inspect the system for signs of problems and various issues that might arise. Other tube cleaning can be accomplished while the system is live. For example, at a power company, a cooling tower might have a cleaning cycle that allows for chemical removal of detritus inside the tube while the tower is still operational.

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Mechanical means of tube cleaning can involve brushes, water jets and other scrubbing tools. It also is possible to use chemicals, which might be necessary in cases where materials firmly adhere to the edges of the tube. The cleaning can remove byproducts of combustion, algae, bacteria, food residue and other materials that build up along a tube over the course of its use. In heating and cooling systems, for instance, certain algae and bacteria can thrive and might eventually foul the tubes so that they can no longer be used.

Fouling — the buildup of deposits on the inside of tubes — can cause serious problems. In the production of food and pharmaceuticals, fouling might introduce contaminants that ruin entire lots and pose a public safety risk. In the production of chemicals and other products that might not need to meet strict safety standards for sale, the fouling can still ruin products or cause them to perform abnormally. Fouling also can block tubes entirely, shutting down a system until the issue can be resolved.

Specialty tube cleaning services can work in environments such as nuclear power plants, biological research labs and other facilities where fouling might include potentially dangerous materials. Special training is required for these settings, to reduce the risk of injury and illness for workers who clean the tubes. Other services offer more generic cleaning in environments where no special safety training is necessary.

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