How Vacuums Add to the Cleanroom

Cleanroom maintenance requires meticulous and devoted attention to detail. There is a constant effort to prevent airborne, fluid, and/or transfer particulates. Many cleanrooms rely solely on the most basic regulatory cleaning methods like wipe-down and dusting. Would using an industrial vacuum make a difference?

In Controlled Environments’ “Cleanroom Maintenance: Sanitation via Filtration,” author Rob Decker writes, “While companies cannot absolutely omit all potential sources for unwanted matter, they can mitigate risk by investing in reliable, efficient cleaning equipment. Portable industrial vacuums easily remove and dispose of contaminants with minimal risk to users.”

Let’s review some of Decker’s main points that lead him to this conclusion.

First we should know a few things about the vacuums themselves. The vacuums on the market today are quite sophisticated. They use HEPA or ULPA filters, and some also have a graduated filtration system. This is a series of progressively finer filters to ensure the entrapment and retention of particles in the vacuum. The machines have “upstream” and “downstream” filters installed before and after the motor. The filtration is impressive; Nilfisk writes about its filtration on its website: “These filtration systems… can increase retention efficiencies up to 99.999% of particles, down to and including 0.12 microns in size.” Industrial vacuums are also made of non-particle generating material, often stainless steel, and are designed to be easy to use and clean.

So vacuums collect a significant amount of particulate, making the air and equipment cleaner while keeping particles safely contained. According to Decker’s article, they also:

  • Protect users from potent compounds – the user does not have to contact wet or dry material
  • Offer flexibility – vacuums can access hard-to-reach spaces as well as easily clean overhead areas and maneuver around equipment.
  • Remove airborne particles – other cleaning methods only remove particles from surfaces, not the air itself. This can help extend the life of the cleanroom filter(s).
  • Removal of dust and other particles is more thorough – not only do they access more areas with ease, vacuums are more reliable to remove what the eyes cannot see.
  • By buying more than one vacuum, facilities can create an even more effective maintenance schedule. Decker says about using multiple vacuums: “…Facilities can streamline cleaning procedures, increase efficiency, and establish proper protocol for maintaining a cleanroom’s integrity.

Surely there are facilities where it would not make sense to buy a vacuum cleaner for the cleanroom(s). In many cases, however, it seems that these industrial vacuums offer superior protection and also an easier means of cleaning for employees. As always, a person should research products before investing. If a cleanroom operator decided to look into buying a vacuum, his options promise to be diverse and impressive. Guidance is always available from the manufacturers as well as colleagues and industry forums.

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