In a wide range of applications, automation is a strong driver in helping reduce waste and improve efficiency. The cleaning and hygiene field is no exception to this. Recently, the popularity and importance of chemical dosing and dilution (dispensing, in other words) systems in the professional hygiene and cleaning industry has been growing as businesses become more aware of the benefits of these systems.
The Three Ds of Cleaning
Understanding Dispensing, Dilution and Dosing
Chemical dosing and dilution systems offer a cost-effective, accurate, safe and eco-friendly solution to the needs of the industry and can not only save time for the operator, enabling them to concentrate on other duties, but also delivering chemicals accurately, ensuring optimal results and saving wastage of potentially expensive chemicals.
According to Nicole Mathes, Marketing Manager, Brightwell Dispensers, “Diluting chemicals on site reduces packaging and storage costs, as well as transport and shipping expenses. Furthermore, when compared to glug-glug methods, user safety is increased as the handling and management of chemicals is done in a manner that protects the user from exposure to chemicals.” In a market where there can be a particularly high turnover of staff, utilising user-friendly technology and reducing the users’ interaction with the chemicals, has a significant impact in helping to reduce health and safety issues, too.
In fact, one of the greatest benefits of chemical dilution systems lies in their accurate dosing properties. Alistair Blair-Davies, Marketing Director, Hydro Systems Europe, elaborates, “By accurately measuring and controlling the dosage of chemicals, dispensing systems enable users to achieve better and consistent cleaning. Cleaning chemicals have optimum dilution for the best results. Too much chemical is wasteful, and may even have detrimental effects; too little can lead to sub-standard cleaning and may increase the time taken to complete a particular cleaning task.” In high risk areas such as healthcare facilities, misdosing can adversely affect the facility’s ability to combat the spread of infection and bacteria – this is caused when the ratio of chemical concentrate to water is not precisely measured. The automated and controlled nature of dispensing systems takes the guesswork out of dilution and also makes it quicker and easier to prepare solutions, time after time.
Paul Twiss, International Marketing Manager, SEKO SpA, adds, “The right automated dosing or dilution control system reduces the necessity for complicated training regimes and specific communication tools, particularly when operators’ native language may not be the one in which they work, and almost eliminates the possibility of human error.” Proportioning systems also ensure results and reduce chemical handling. Dishwashing and Laundry applications are at the forefront of dispensing technology, using dosing and dilution to help reduce chemical consumption. However, the obvious benefits of accurate and efficient dosing can be seen throughout the cleaning industry.
The market is filled with various types of chemical dispensing systems, and the choice depends on the facility’s daily cleaning requirements. Mathes from Brightwell suggests that before choosing any chemical dispensing format, it is important for the end customer to analyse their business needs and determine the system they would benefit most from. A cost-in-use analysis will, in most instances, show the financial benefits of having a chemical dispensing system. The most basic version is the pelican pump, whereby a pump is screwed to the neck of the chemical container, enabling the dispensing of a specific dose of chemical concentrate. Blair-Davies from Hydro Systems says, “A hand pump dispensing system uses mechanical dosing to deliver accurate doses of concentrated cleaning chemical into any size container. They feature a simple lever action and are ideal for use when a water supply is not available or pressure is inadequate.” Other equipment includes wall-mounted dosing and diluting systems.
In dishwashing, laundry and drain dosing applications, specifically, peristaltic pumps are frequently used due to their ability to dose viscous liquids and their comparatively quiet operation. According to Twiss, “These systems are also generally cheaper, and, as the durability of the tube material continues to improve, peristaltic systems are still the ‘go to’ solution for such application.” However, a peristaltic pump’s effectiveness is limited by the performance of the tube, and consequently the market has looked to develop alternative methods of dosing. Rotary diaphragm and even venturi-based systems have been introduced.
Today, the two most common types of chemical dilution and dispensing systems are manual and venturi systems. The manual system usually doses a single shot of concentrated chemical into a spray bottle, bucket or sink. To operate the system, users just twist and push a button to release one shot of chemical concentrate. The system does not require a water mains connection and is therefore ideal for environments with no water access or fluctuating water pressure. Venturi systems, on the other hand, are connected to water mains and dilute a pre-determined ratio of concentrates into a final ready-to-use solution. Mathes elaborates that the venturi effect relies on the principle that when fluid passes through a constriction, fluid pressure is reduced. This reduction in fluid pressure (water) can be used to suck a fluid (detergent) into the flow. Twiss adds that with the ever increasing restrictions on fats, oil and greases in waste systems, enzyme dosing is now also a growing application. Regular dosing of an effective enzyme reduces unpleasant odours and negates the requirement for expensive and inconvenient cleaning of grease traps. Finally, water-driven proportional injecting is used in fogging systems for food processing applications.
Commercial cleaning involves implementing cleaning routines that are effective in reducing the risk of contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria. And, the safety of cleaning operatives must be taken into careful consideration along with the public. Reaching high standards of health and safety includes how cleaning chemicals are diluted at point-of-use to ensure that cleaning solutions are correctly diluted. Additionally, the secure handling of concentrated chemicals is important as well to enhance operatives’ safety.
Chemical storage options offered by manufactures should include the ability to install chemical cabinets close to the dispenser, or alternatively attach chemical containers to hanging brackets that are off the floor and firmly affixed to the wall. Mathes adds, “We believe that colour-coded labels are the most effective way to help cleaning operatives correctly identify chemical concentrates and determine their application. With an emphasis on user-friendly functionality, an extensive selection of multi-lingual, colour-coded chemical pictograms can be positioned around the dial so that a user can easily identify which chemical to choose for their desired cleaning task.” Built-in backflow prevention systems also prevent the water supply from being contaminated - a potentially significant hazard that local water regulations understandably outlaw in most jurisdictions. Blair-Davies informs, “Durable components and seals must be able to withstand attack and degradation by chemical concentrates. These help to keep the systems functioning properly and safely throughout a long service life and without the need for regular maintenance.”
The idea of green cleaning and sustainability has positioned itself as an important force within the professional hygiene and cleaning industry. Dosing system manufacturers are well aware of the ever increasing demands for eco-friendly technology and their obligations to help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the cleaning and hygiene market. Accurate monitoring, diluting chemicals at the point-of-use, sourcing water locally, and precise dosing measurements minimise transport costs, reduce carbon emissions and minimise chemical wastage, hence providing cost-in-use benefits. Furthermore, the same spray bottle can be re-used multiple times, which helps cut down on waste packaging.
Twiss informs, “Overdosing chemicals can not only cause additional waste but where water must be treated before disposal, additional chemicals such as defoamers and pH neutralising chemicals must be added creating further waste and additional expense.” He continues, “Reducing energy consumption through advancements in pump technology and developing non-electrical methods of dosing are also factors, but there are also the considerations of providing low maintenance and reliable equipment to help reduce the number of service calls. This can be further enhanced by the development of remote communication and monitoring to save unnecessary visits to site.” Along with emphasis on energy saving, there is also the growing requirement to reduce water usage, especially now as many applications have metered water supplies, which can impact on overall costs.
Introducing smart technology
In an ultra-competitive market there is always constant demand to provide new and innovative products. This has huge implications for the cleaning and hygiene market and has been welcomed by the engineer, chemical supplier and end user alike. New technologies offer exciting opportunities for chemical dosing and dilution systems. For example, Brightwell Dispensers’ patented dilution pin technology eliminates the need for metering tips, and the wheel design allows users to select up to 13 distinct dilution ratios per chemical. Additionally, the popularity of smart phones, tablets and related technologies means that real-time status monitoring, data capture, maintenance logs, usage reports and statistical data analysis are likely to feature as important attributes within future product ranges.
Apart from this, companies are using sophisticated software to provide a range of additional benefits. Blair-Davies says, “In laundry applications in particular, intelligent units can provide a record to prove delivery of the required chemical and validation of the wash temperature - features, which are increasingly required for laundry in healthcare and food manufacturing. As laundry washers have also become more sophisticated in their controls, adjusting their operation to economise on water for part-loads, dispensers like the Electrolux ED (efficient dosing) system can also control chemical dosing to match washing load and water use.”
The popularity of chemical dosing and dilution systems will continue to grow as these systems are the safe, eco-friendly and cost-effective solution in today’s commercial cleaning and hygiene environment. Depending on business requirements, environment and installation space, a customers’ need will vary, and as businesses will continue to look at cost-savings, they will also continue to look into flexible, customisable and innovative dosing and dilution systems. Twiss finds, “As costs continue to fall for this type of technology, it is inevitable that in the future this facility will be available to a whole new range of products where it was previously cost prohibitive. Advancements in pump design and proof of dosing are also key development features for future products.”
Blair-Davies adds, “Smart dispensing systems will continue to revolutionise the world of professional cleaning as part of the broader revolution arising from the Internet of Things. By ‘talking’ both to chemical suppliers and end customers, internet-enabled dispensing systems will provide better data and validation of correct, precisely controlled and efficient dosing.”
Having said that, it is amazing how far chemical dispensing systems have come – not to mention how easily they have adapted to the green and smart technologies that are taking the industry by storm!