Save Water, Recycle Your Cleanskin

There is an industry wide push to limit the environmental impact of wine production and conserve water where possible.  One easy innovation that all elements of wine production can implement is re-using cleaning solutions.
Simple right.  Cleaning solutions are re-used.  This saves; water, chemical and time (as the solution is already mixed).  The best part is that re-using cleaning chemical is cheap and can be implemented easily at any winery.  The GWRDC outlined in its report that re-cycling and re-using chemical saves on water and also limits the amount of salt put into the environment (GWRDC, Operational Guidelines 2011).
The boffin’s at AIRD have put together some answers to common questions regarding how to recycle cleaning solutions.
What sort of cleaning products can be re-cycled?
As a general rule alkali cleaning products can be re-used (however we would always recommend checking with the manufacturer first).  The benefit of re-using cleaning chemicals also means that you exhaust all the pH from your alkali products.  This is important because it means less salt will end up in your waste water (read more here) and you’ll be saving water.
When is it ok to re-use Cleaning Solutions?
Whenever the acid levels and soil level in the vessel to be cleaned is low.  Traditionally finished wine and wines with light tartrate loading don’t need a lot of cleaning action in order to remove surface soils.  Often in these cases all that is required is to remove colour or films.  The very light acid level (precipitated tartar) means that a high pH isn’t required.  
The following are often areas where cleaning solutions can be recycled:

  • Bottling lines
  • Wine Tankers
  • Finished Wines
  • Wines with Light Tartar levels

For AIRD products if the pH of the solution is above 9 then the solution is able to be re-used.
How are other wineries recycling cleaning chemical?
A few labels on Intermediate Bulk Container (IBCs) can go a long way to ensure that effective cleaning solution is exhausted prior to pumping into the waste water stream.  IBCs have been found to be effective because they are easily transported to where they are needed in the winery, or they can be placed in a warmer part of the winery (ie out in the sun) to maximise the effectiveness of the chemical solution.
Having small amounts of cleaning product is a really cheap and effective way to manage your solutions.  Being able to visibly see the quality of the solution is a good control measure also as a solution with too much soil and acid in it will need to be dumped.
Will a spent solution mean a greater bacterial loading on tanks or vessels?
The microbiological loading in tanks won’t significantly change from cleaning agents.  This is because the action of cleaning is the process of removing solids and soils from the surface.
Although microbes, yeast and bacteria don’t persist as freely in alkali environments (and often cleaning agents are alkali) a cleaning agent on it’s own will not necessarily impact the microbiological load.
Sanitation is what is required to reduce the microbiological loading on a surface (after it has been cleaned).  A good rule of thumb is cleaning agents will address all that can be seen, sanitation will address everything that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Read more about sanitation here.
Will a higher pH mean that my surfaces are cleaner?
No.  High pH doesn’t mean that your surfaces will be cleaner.  The pH doesn’t equate to cleanliness and unfortunately pH alone will not sanitise either.
The reason that high pH products are used in wine production is to remove the tartaric acid which forms during the wine making process.  However on surfaces that have very low levels of tartar the high pH can be a hindrance as it can cause protein char (or protein staining) which can form biofilms enabling microbes, yeast and bacteria to persist even in high pH environments (read more about biofilms here).
The pH is important regarding removing tartrates and there will become a point where the cleaning solution is “spent”, for AIRD products this is usually around a pH of 9.
If I have a higher pH does this mean that the solution will last longer and be more efficient?
No.  Increasing the pH of a cleaning chemical to be re-cycled doesn’t mean that the solution is going to be more effective.  In fact it is important not to overdose the cleaning product either.  If a cleaning agent is over dosed, there can be issues with solubility and it also means that there will be increased salt in the waste water stream (due to more chemical).  An increased dosage doesn't make the cleaning solution more effective either.  This is due to the water having a carrying capacity.  With a higher concentration of cleaning agent the water in the solution has a reduced capacity to dissolve acids and water plays an important role in carrying soils and solids from the tank.

The high pH is only useful to remove tartrates.  The cleaning product has other ingredients such as surfactants, chelates and wetting agents which are all important to wash solids and soils in order to clean the surface.  It is important to check the manufacturers guidelines about recommended dosages for a cleaning product.
Does water quality impact the dosing I should use for my cleaning solution?
Yes.  Make sure that you are dosing your chemical appropriately following the manufacturers instructions.  Water quality and temperature both impact upon the effectiveness of the cleaning agents that are being used (read more here).  Water that is higher minerals (calcium or sodium) will need more cleaning agent.  Better quality water will need less.  Likewise hot water won’t require as much cleaning agent as cold in order to achieve the same result.
Why do I need to check the pH of a solution?
To re-cycle effectively you’ll need to know the pH of the solution that you are using.  Having pH meters or pH test kits readily available means that you’ll be able to quickly assess the effectiveness of the chemical that you’re using.  As a general rule we suggest re-using chemical if the pH of the solution is 9 or greater.
If the pH is 9 is the cleaning solution still working?
Yes.  The pH of a cleaning product is not the only factor needed to clean a surface.  Products that contain high quality chelates, wetting agents and surfactants are built to help remove soils and solids from the surface being cleaned and washed from the tank.  The pH of a solution only becomes important when there is more acid on the surface of the vessel to be cleaned.

Every product in the AIRD cleaning range can be recycled to improve your waste water and make your cleaning spend stretch further.  Now that's cleaning smarter.