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How to Improve the Safety of Cleaning Processes in the Rail Industry

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Historically, surface cleaning processes in the rail industry have always involved using corrosive cleaners. Many of these cleaners - be it cleaning solvents, brake cleaners or thinners - contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You can tell if something contains VOCs because they have that distinctive strong, chemical odour that emanates as soon as the spray can or tin is opened, or the parts washer is switched on.

VOCs are organic compounds that have a high vapour pressure at room temperature. That means they change quickly from being a liquid to a vapour - and that’s also why you can smell their distinctive odour so quickly. This ‘quick change’ is why they are ‘volatile’. Many VOCs evaporate so quickly that it is impossible not to inhale them, unless using high level PPE, air filtration or high-powered extraction systems.

It’s undeniable that many VOC-containing chemicals are great cleaners. The solvent has the effect of ‘dissolving’ many contaminates immediately on contact, breaking it down into smaller particles and carrying it into the solution and away from the surface. However, this great cleaning comes at a price. VOCs are a huge health hazard. They have been proven to cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and even skin problems such as dermatitis. At higher concentrations they can also cause irritation of the lungs as well as damage to the liver, kidney or central nervous system. Some VOCs are even suspected of causing cancer. Read the Material Safety Data Sheet of any VOC containing cleaner – you will find these potential hazards listed.

When high quantities of VOCs are present in indoor environments they pose the biggest risk and they can have a marked effect on the users working in such environments - paint-shops, workshops, tooling areas.

BIO-CIRCLE systems and liquids have been specially formulated to eliminate and minimise the use of VOCs without compromising on cleaning efficacy or performance. Our unique combination of equipment, chemistry, biotechnology and service are designed to change the way that we all clean. Our customers in the rail industry have replaced all their surface preparation and cleaning processes with VOC-free or low-VOC liquids and water-based parts washers, with brilliant results.

Here are a couple of snapshots:

1. Freight maintenance service provider replaces corrosive cleaner with CB 100 Alu & HTW. Huge increase in safety and an 800% increase in the service life of the cleaner!


BIO-CIRCLE SYSTEM/ LIQUIDS USED: CB 100 Alu in HTW at 55 degrees. Previously a corrosive cleaner was used at 65 degrees in an automatic parts washer (from another manufacturer). It had a service life of just 14 days before it needed replacing.

CUSTOMER REQUIREMENT: An improved cleaning process that has a reduced waste chain (especially in disposal), is more energy efficient and safe for personnel.

THE RESULT: Increased service life to18 weeks! Plus more energy efficient cleaning with a reduction in temperature by 10 degrees. Removed a step in the cleaning process.

2. Customer achieves more efficient & safe clean with UNO X


EXISTING CLEANING PROCESS: Corrosive cleaner sprayed onto bogies in a small enclosed cabin

THE PROBLEM WITH THIS: Issues for employee health and safety. The corrosive cleaner entirely covered the operator’s protective clothing by the end of the clean. Also potential respiratory risks.

BIO-CIRCLE CLEANING PROCESS; Replaced corrosive cleaner with 100% UNO X in an industrial sprayer.

THE RESULT: Much more efficient clean - the bogies only need to be sprayed once with UNO X. Huge reduction in health risk to the operator, along with a reduced environmental impact. UNO X is VOC reduced, energy efficient and less hazardous to dispose of once spent.

To optimise your cleaning processes, contact us for a free site survey.

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