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What You Need to Know About Cleaning Wire Cloth

Previously, the importance of stainless steel wire cloth and wire cloth mesh in the aerospace, automotive, medical, pharmaceutical and food processing industries was discussed. These broad categories represent just a few examples of how extensively wire cloth mesh is used in a wide range of applications. In each case, wire cloth is important for product safety, quality and consistency.

 

Like all equipment, stainless steel wire cloth and mesh must be maintained and cleaned. This is important for product throughput, system sanitation and protecting the wire’s maximum resistance to corrosion. Failure to maintain the integrity and cleanliness of wire cloth mesh may lead to quality, production, regulatory and health issues.

 

Wire cleaning 101

There are several other factors that drive the requirement for regular wire cleaning. More specifically these include:

  • To prevent clogging and reduced production line throughput
  • To inspect for damage or wear
  • To preserve corrosion resistance
  • To prevent bacterial growth
  • To remove accumulation of dirt, grime and surface stains
  • Aesthetic considerations

Stainless steel is strong but not indestructible. It is protected by a thin layer of chromium oxide and contamination reduces this protection over time. Different conditions like high heat, humidity or corrosive chemical exposure may result in surface discoloration and actual wire breakdown over time. These types of conditions often require more frequent inspections and maintenance.

 

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Down to the wire: what to use, and how

In most applications, it is best to remove the wire mesh, wire cloth or test sieve for the most effective wire cleaning. This is where the advantage of dual filter lines is readily apparent, since product flow is redirected to a second line while the first line is cleaned. Mesh should be cleaned horizontally with nylon or brass wire bristles. In general and based on the application, stainless steel wire cloth and mesh are best cleaned with the following methods.

  • Brief submersion in a bath of mild detergent and warm water, followed by a rinse of clean water
  • Gentle scrubbing with soft nylon brushes while in the detergent bath helps remove more stubborn contaminants
  • Commercial cleaners containing phosphates, synthetic detergents and alkalis may be used for heavily contaminated mesh per the manufacturer’s instructions and safety data sheet
  • For even more intensive cleaning, citric, nitric and phosphoric acids may be used
  • After all cleaning methods and chemicals, wire cloth should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water, wiped, blotted or gently blown dry

Hazardous to wire health: what not to use

Although cleaning wire mesh is important to production system health, not ruining it in the process is equally critical. These are just a few of the methods and materials that should not be used during the care and maintenance of stainless steel wire mesh.

  • Hydrochloric or sulfuric acid-based cleaning agents and bleaches cause staining and pitting
  • Hypochlorite bleaches should be diluted and contact time minimized, followed by a thorough rinsing with clean water
  • Concentrated bleaches should not be used on contact screen surfaces
  • Avoid carbon steel brushes or steel wool, these leave particles behind that cause rust

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Summary

Stainless steel wire cloth and mesh plays a critical role across many industries, but must be maintained like any other piece of critical equipment.

  • There are several factors that drive periodic cleaning including safety, quality and sanitation
  • There are many safe and effective methods for wire cleaning and methods to avoid that cause aesthetic or structural damage

Newark Wire Cloth, a recognized leader in the wire cloth industry, manufactures off-the-shelf and custom woven wire cloth for any and every application. It has specialized in the fabrication of test sieves, wire cloth parts and assemblies for the past 105 years. Contact them today to discuss how wire cloth can help improve the quality and efficiency of your next filtration project or application.