What Is Blast Cleaning?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Blast cleaning is a cleaning technique in which mechanical energy is used for cleaning, with cleaning materials being directed at a surface to clean with a powerful blast of mechanical energy. Air blasting is a very common blast cleaning technique used in many regions of the world, and there are other types of cleaning systems available as well. Some companies offer blast cleaning services, for a fee, and it is also possible to purchase or rent the equipment to perform this type of cleaning independently.

Walnuts shells are often used in blast cleaning.
Walnuts shells are often used in blast cleaning.

In blast cleaning, a variety of cleaning materials can be used, depending on the surface which needs to be cleaned. Some common options are wire clippings, silicon carbide, ice, walnut shells, glass, baking soda, sand, and steel grit. These materials are directed at a surface to be cleaned with the assistance of a jet of air, a rapidly moving wheel, or a similar system. The cleaning device usually provides the ability to adjust the focus and intensity for the purpose of controlling the cleaning very precisely.

Baking soda is among materials sometimes used in blast cleaning.
Baking soda is among materials sometimes used in blast cleaning.

When a surface is blasted with an abrasive material, it is scoured. People can use blast cleaning to remove dirt and other materials, and it can also be used in materials finishing, to remove burrs and other materials which may have been left behind during materials processing. The level of abrasiveness needed depends on the material being cleaned and the reason for the cleaning; a soft stone such as that which might be used in cladding, for example, needs a gentle abrasive, while hard metals can be cleaned with harsher materials.

Iceblast cleaning and sandblasting are two popular and commonly available cleaning options. One advantage of hiring a company to perform blast cleaning is that they have skills and experience and they are more likely to do the job effectively and well. They can also select the method and abrasive which is most appropriate for the conditions, minimizing the risk of damage or other problems. Companies also have access to very high quality cleaning equipment, which may be better than that which can be purchased or rented independently.

However, people who feel confident can do their own blast cleaning. Equipment rental is a good option for most people, as it allows them to access good equipment without requiring a significant outlay of cash. When renting equipment, people should confirm that it is well maintained and ask if there are any specific recommendations or warnings which should be followed while the equipment is in use.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I find it interesting about the environmental regulations and laws associated with blasting for removing purposes, and it seems like people have to get fairly creative with their jobs in order to accomplish their tasks. However, I feel like that there are very few instances in which this can be utilized and most of them would include specific occupations, such as working places outside like on a pipeline.

I have also heard about using sand blasting to blast away paint on pipes, but what can water and ice be used for? Also is it possible to blast certain chemicals to remove something and if so what are they that fit in with environmental regulations and laws.


@cardsfan27 - I imagine that it was not at all a fun job for you, but unfortunately as bad and as tedious as it sounds sandblasting was probably the most effective way in order for you to accomplish your task.

Anytime something like paint needs to be removed a company always has to keep in mind that they need to have environmentally safe methods in order to do so. I feel like the easiest way would be to simply market paint thinner in mass quantity and spray it with a hose. However, this is of course unreasonable and not at all environmentally safe. That is why things like sand must be used in order to accomplish the task and do so in regards to regulations and laws put in place.


I used to work for a oil pipeline and my job entailed me painting the pipes. On occasion when the pipes needed to have some of the paint removed we would sand blast the pipes in order to remove the paint.

This was not at all fun and was a very difficult thing to do. I can honestly say that this was the worst part of my job and I did not feel that it was terribly effective.

I guess it would be too time consuming in order to remove the old paint off of the pipes by hand and there really is not a great way to do it that is environmentally safe. Sandblasting was not at all fun and was very time consuming but I guess we did not have a choice in the matter due to lack of ways to accomplish our task.

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