Blowing down dairy powder plants – friend or foe?

April 2020

Using compressed air to clean down critical hygiene areas in dairy powder plants seems the logical choice, but is it really the best one?  Dairy powder dust is combustible in certain conditions which creates an explosive atmosphere making the task of removing it more challenging.  Let’s explore some aspects of this task and how we can do it smarter:

Moving vs removing

Cleaning down dairy powder with compressed air is really just shifting the soiling or powder from one surface and depositing it somewhere else – it’s a mover rather than remover.  It can work well when used in conjunction with vacuum units as you can vacuum up what do you have blown away but not just by itself.  You can make their surface that you’re cleaning look very tidy but the dust will simply settle down somewhere else to be shifted at a later stage.

Detail cleaning

Having said that, using compressed air is really the best way of cleaning fine or intricate areas especially around objects like fillers and to do this we need to make sure that we have the vacuum tools following closely so everything that is shifted is actually removed.  This is easier said than done, but what the aim is here is to try and have the vacuum tool on the other side of the dust so that when you’re blowing it you’re blowing it into the tool not away from it.

Need to collect samples?

Customers tell us that we can’t use vacuums for a dairy powder because our RMP says that we need to collect samples of everything that we vacuum up or collect off the equipment.  There’s a simple solution for this – your engineering department can make up a small collector box with inlet and outlet ports and we can help you with the design of this. By using this method, you can sample each different area whether collecting off the floor or off equipment and then get this sent to your lab for testing.

How much time will this take?

This is a good question.  We believe that it takes less time to clean down with compressed air on a daily basis, but if you look at all the ‘spring’ cleaning or extra deep cleaning that’s needed over the course of a season you’ll find that generally it’s not a huge time difference because you clean once properly with vacuuming, whereas with compressed air because there’s a lot of shifting of dust, a deeper clean is needed or other cleaning methods required later on.  There are tools you can use to make the vacuuming of a dairy powder plant quicker such as specific detailed brush tools and small crevice tools which get into the fine areas easier – contact our team for more information on these items.

Which one is the winner then – air or vacuum?

As long as your RMP allows use of compressed air, we believe the winning solution is a combination of both because they both have advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage of air is really the detail cleaning ability mentioned previously, however the vacuum advantage is that it ticks more compliance boxes for your customers and auditors and really it’s a better principle – the removal of dust rather than just moving the dust.

How do we get around the disadvantages then?

With the vacuuming, the first disadvantage is the time taken to clean but as mentioned earlier we believe a good well thought out process will minimise this a lot.  Secondly, the fact of having to clean all the gear once you’ve finished is another disadvantage of vacuuming.  There is quite a bit of automation that can be introduced to minimise this process as well – this is different for every situation so we suggest that you talk to our team about what is best for you.

The disadvantages of using compressed air is firstly the spread of the dust around the facility – we’ve mentioned earlier how to minimise this, but another good tip is to use specialised dry floor mops to remove dust off the floors rather than compressed air.  This is a lot more successful our customers tell us and creates a lot less airborne dust.

Another disadvantage is moisture in the air which causes the powder to become sticky causing real headaches trying to remove the powder.  To ensure this is not the case, make sure that the dryers in your air supply are serviced and maintained regularly. Lastly using compressed air to blow dust around creates more issues around explosive atmospheres which is an obvious safety risk to avoid at all costs.  The ATEX rated vacuum units are designed for this environment, so are a much safer option.

If you would like more information on the best solution for your specific situation please get in contact with us by filling in the form below and we will get in touch to help you scope out the best action plan.

Posted by Dayle Senior