What are the Different Types of Degreasing Chemicals?

Tess C. Taylor

During many routine manufacturing and industrial processes, or when there are accidental spills, it’s very common for grease and oil to get on surfaces. When this occurs, degreasing chemicals can be used to remove oily substances. There are many different types of degreasing chemicals that can be used, such as degreasing sprays, powders, detergents, and foams, as well as vapor degreasing solvents and steam-delivered degreasers.

Degreasing chemicals can be used to help clean up oil spills.
Degreasing chemicals can be used to help clean up oil spills.

The most common degreasing chemicals for manufacturing and industrial use are detergent-based products that use a combination of chemical concentrates suspended in a liquid or powder base. Each type of degreasing product is designed to clean a specific type of grease, oil, or dirt. Degreasing chemicals of this type may be used for a one-time clean up job or for routine care of equipment and machinery in factories.

Chemical degreasers might be used in a laboratory setting.
Chemical degreasers might be used in a laboratory setting.

When a grease or oil spill becomes combustible or harmful to the environment, foam degreasing chemicals are often necessary. These are made by by oxygenizing the chemical through a system that combines the chemicals with air particles. The foam is easy to manipulate and quickly stifles the grease or oils that can catch fire and need to be quickly contained. Foams can also be disbursed on difficult surfaces such as waterways to contain oil and grease spills and keep them at the surface for skimming.

Degreasing chemical detergents are commonly used in manufacturing facilities.
Degreasing chemical detergents are commonly used in manufacturing facilities.

Another type of chemical degreasing compound is used specifically for cleaning up thick oils and greases, such as those found in manufacturing plants. These are the degreasing chemicals known as vapor solvents. These thin liquid chemicals are sprayed or poured onto surfaces and react with the grease to break it down and vaporize it. This requires oxygen to start the chemical process and ventilation to maintain safe air quality while in use.

Degreasing chemicals may be used in detergents.
Degreasing chemicals may be used in detergents.

A lesser version of the vapor degreasing chemicals widely available for industrial and personal use delivers the cleaning product in a steamed or heated fashion. These chemicals are usually suspended in a semi-oily substance and, when stream is added, dissolve grease and break it down so it can be wiped away. There are also steam grease-dissolving chemicals that are water-based or plant-oil based. These lift grease and oils off of surfaces.

Some household cleaning products contain degreasers, particularly those designed to clean kitchen appliances.
Some household cleaning products contain degreasers, particularly those designed to clean kitchen appliances.

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