We often get asked the question, “Can dry ice blasting remove paint?” This can be a tricky question as the answer is specific to the situation (type of paint, type of surface, how well is the paint adhered, etc.).
Dry ice is a gentle medium and in some applications it is not successful at removing paint with just dry ice alone. Depending on the type of paint and primer, even aggressive dry ice blasting can be too slow or too gentle.
Traditional methods for removing paint and other types of surface contaminants, such as corrosion and paint, are effective but have negative side effects that can become costly and add time to projects. Sandblasting and other types of media blasting create a significant amount of waste and respirable and environmental dust. Not only does this require extensive cleanup and containment setup, but it is also unhealthy for workers performing the job. These methods leave residue and moisture on the surface being cleaned, which requires a second wash and drying time before re-painting or re-coating can begin.
Adding an abrasive to dry ice blasting boosts its' aggression and effectively removes paint and coatings, while eliminating the issues with traditional methods of removal.
Why dry ice + an abrasive?
When you’re cleaning and preparing a surface, you want to be sure you can remove 100% of the surface contaminants and old paint/coating before applying a new coat – and you want to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Dry ice blasting + an abrasive:
- Significantly reduces waste and dust generated by traditional methods
- Does not leave residual media on the surface being cleaned
- Does not require drying time (no water used in cleaning process)
- Provides a more environmentally friendly and worker safe cleaning method
Benefits of dry ice + an abrasive
1) Eliminates pre- and post-cleaning processes
With the need for containment setup and waste cleanup, methods such as sand, vapor, or slurry blasting are time-consuming and labor-intensive. These methods create a tremendous amount of secondary waste, which means containment must be setup before cleaning begins and when the cleaning ends the secondary waste must be collected and disposed of.
In the case of a stripping coating and corrosion from a tank with slurry blasting, containment is setup for water runoff and other waste, which adds time and resources to the project. When the stripping process is complete, workers must wait for the surface to completely dry before applying a new coat.
Additionally, in saltwater environments soluble solids and chloride accumulates on surfaces, which results in an added pre-wash step that must first be removed before the stripping even begins.
Dry ice + an abrasive limits the amount of time and resources needed for a project by eliminating the need for containment, waste cleanup, drying time, and any post-wash steps. This leads to a considerable amount of hours saved per project.
Also, in the case of saltwater environments, the cleaning can be completed in one step. Dry ice + an abrasive eliminates pre-washing because the media removes soluble solids and chlorides simultaneously while stripping the paint from the surface.
2) Reduces dust levels and waste
As most people know – sandblasting and other traditional types of media blasting generate significant dust and waste. Respirable dust is harmful to the operator, surrounding workforce, the public, and the environment. OSHA has strengthened its standards to encourage initiatives that limit dust exposure. This is one of the reasons for the excessive containment setup required before cleaning with garnet, crushed glass, coal slag, and other blasting methods.
Wet blasting, such as slurry blasting and vapor blasting, uses water with an abrasive to capture dust molecules and keep them from going airborne. While this is effective at reducing dust levels, the method still creates a considerable amount of waste. As well, water as a medium slows down the abrasive particle velocity, which thereby, limits productivity.
Dry ice blasting mixed with an abrasive seeks the best of both worlds. As the dry ice impacts the surface and sublimates from a solid to a gas, that gas suppresses the dust from going airborne due to the fact CO2 gas is heavier than air.
The reduced dust levels also leads to increased operator visibility, which makes it easier for the operator to effectively clean.
3) Safer for employees and the environment – Meet OSHA guidelines
A 97% reduction in dust levels means that the operators and surrounding workforce are not exposed to unhealthy levels of respirable and nuisance dust. Dry ice + abrasive easily meets OSHA guidelines for dust levels.
Dry ice + abrasive is also a more environmentally friendly option compared to alternatives. The solution requires significantly less media input than alternative paint and corrosion stripping solutions. The Cold Jet dry ice + abrasive solution uses 100-150 pounds of media per hour, as opposed to 600 pounds or more per hour from traditional options. This means that less media and dust is being dispersed into the surround environment.
4) Extensive time and costs savings
The dry ice + abrasive mixture eliminates the need for pre- and post-washing, containment setup, and waste collection. It also cleans faster than many wet abrasive options. This results in a major reduction in project time.
The solution also leaves the surface completely dry and free of residue, which eliminates hours of drying time and allows you to apply a new coat of paint or coating immediately following the cleaning process.
When should you use dry ice + abrasive?
1) Heavy or pitted corrosion
If the corrosion is pitted in the metal, dry ice alone won’t be enough to remove that corrosion for proper coating adhesion. With dry ice + abrasive, you can meet requirements for a surface standard prior to the new coating. It will give you a near white metal finish by removing a small layer of the metal and exposing a new metal surface profile.
This is a major advancement for dry ice technology since dry ice blasting has always been non-profile, but by adding an abrasive you can create a profile of 1-5 mL.
2) If dry ice blasting alone just isn’t working
Certain types of paint, corrosion, or coatings simply can’t be removed with the non-abrasive touch of dry ice alone. Depending on the many factors of the surface, dry ice + abrasive is usually best for industrial applications such as structural steel of ships, tanks, infrastructure, tanks and pipelines.
Cold Jet’s dry ice + abrasive solution: The E-CO2 150
The E-CO2 150 combines a Cold Jet dry ice blasting machine (PLT 60, Aero 80 or C100) with a custom 1.5 cubic feet pressurized abrasive pot. The system has been developed specifically to feed Cold Jet’s proprietary mix of dry ice and an abrasive medium. The custom blast pot enables users to experience accurate dosing of abrasive material, self-regulating capabilities and integration of applicator control mechanisms to ensure dry ice and the abrasive feed together simultaneously when the trigger is pulled.
The proprietary solution has been 3rd party verified to reduce dust levels by up to 97%; thereby, making it safer for the operator, surrounding workforce, and adjacent environment.
The E-CO2 150 also offers a stronger degree of versatility, allowing for non-destructive cleaning with just dry ice and also more aggressive cleaning with Cold Jet’s propriety abrasive mix while remaining environmentally responsible. You can feel confident in knowing that once you pull up to a job that you’ll be able to tackle it with the E-CO2 150.