Why the cannabis industry should consider ultrasonic cleaning

Waxy, sticky plant residue can be difficult to remove from tools

The legalization of cannabis in an increasing number of states across the U.S. and countries across the globe is causing cannabis producers to search for improved methods for cleaning glass beakers and extraction tools used in processing. These items have customarily been cleaned manually using scrubbers or brushes with mild detergent. While cleaning them by hand is moderately effective, it requires a good deal of time because of the natural byproduct of cannabis — a waxy, sticky residue.

Thankfully, there is an alternative cleaning technology that is more effective and less time-consuming. Using the power of cavitation, ultrasonic washers remove this wax residue from the tools that are used to extract cannabis oils from the leaves and flowers.

Photo by Gary Delp

What is Ultrasonic Cleaning?

Ultrasonic cleaning technology is created by generators that produce high frequency electricity. This electricity is then converted into sound waves through a transducer, which makes the waves vibrate.

As the waves travel through water, tiny vacuum bubbles form and repeatedly implode upon any surface they encounter, removing even microscopic dirt particles. These cavitation bubbles reach and clean grooves, cracks and hidden crevices more effectively than alternative methods.

There are many different models and unit sizes of ultrasonic machines, and they can even be customized and retrofitted to meet unique and specific cleaning applications. Ultrasonic cleaning units offer high-quality, precision results with even small, intricate pieces or uniquely shaped or sized parts. They are an excellent way to lower labor costs and increase production efficiency. These units are easy to use and set up — and no training is required. Plus, because they only use EPA-approved, water-based solutions, they reduce the use of toxic solvents and expensive waste removal services.

 

Cleaning cannabis equipment

Cannabis processing equipment must adhere to stringent government standards that require it to be surgically cleaned, thereby removing pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, microbes, residual solvents and other impurities. Ultrasonic cleaners can accomplish this while removing that gummy, waxy residue from electrodes, chromatography prints, metal injectors and inlets. And the process can be completed in a fraction of the time that manual cleaning requires. By depositing energy into the solvent mixture via ultrasound, the process of removing and dissolving contaminants is shortened significantly.

 

Features and Benefits

Labor is usually the most expensive part of the cleaning process. Cannabis producers can realize significant financial savings when they use ultrasonic cleaning systems. In fact, up to 75% in labor costs can be saved by using ultrasound along with a correctly matched, water-based cleaning soap. Additionally, there are fewer instances of employee exposure to hazardous chemicals due to the reduced labor requirements in combination with the nature of the water-based detergents. The reduction in maintenance, labor and time costs all contribute to the short payback period.

Ultrasonic systems also improve quality control by removing the waxy residue from extraction tooling and contaminants from glass beakers more thoroughly. This shortens extraction time and increases yield output. And, because the cavitation process does the work, no manual scrubbing is required, thereby streamlining the cleaning of the cannabis equipment.

Finally, it is an environmentally friendly methodology. Ultrasonic cleaning detergents are far less harsh than those typically used for traditional cleaning methods. The ultrasound waves and resulting tiny bubbles do work that simply cannot be achieved with a scrub brush or solvent circulation. That’s why water-based cleaning soaps are sufficient for ultrasonic parts washers. In addition, manual cleaning can expose workers to highly caustic, chlorinated and fluoridated agents and hydrocarbons that create a health risk to those performing the cleaning. They can also harm the atmosphere. Because ultrasonic cleaning occurs in a contained tank environment, there is less risk to employees and the environment. Ultrasonic cleaning systems use much less energy than other forms of immersion cleaning, and less energy use means less pollution.

Lastly, the ultrasonic process is a much safer cleaning methodology. In fact, many companies are turning to ultrasonic cleaning with its water-based detergents to eliminate the use of toxic solvents in their work environments and reduce the risk of contamination, labor and chemical disposal costs, as well as employee exposure to toxic chemicals. What’s more, a minimal number of parts are handled by workers and no sharp tools are used which also promote a safer work environment.

In this new era where there’s an increasing acceptance of cannabis, producers must look for ways to improve their processes. An ultrasonic system not only enhances the degree to which cannabis production equipment, tools and delivery devices are cleaned, but it is also a safer, less time consuming and less costly method.

 

Frank Pedeflous is the president of Omegasonics, a California-based manufacturer of ultrasonic cleaning systems. For more information on Omegasonics and ultrasonic cleaning technology, visit www.omegasonics.com.

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