Is Metal Sandblasting the Right Cleaning Process for Your Next Project?

Feb 17, 2020

Have you considered metal sandblasting for your next metal restoration project? Every good restoration project starts with cleaning and evaluation. The cleaning process is especially important because it gives new sealants, paints, and powder coats an excellent surface to bind to. Ab effective cleaning process should remove; Dirt, Dust, Oil and Grease, Corrosion and Surface Oxidation.

Metal Sandblasting for Metal Refinishing Projects

Cleaning processes can even remove the old sealant or coat that protected older metal parts. It is important that every surface restoration reaches the original metal instead of fixing it to a worn coat of paint or chemicals. ASTM International has fixed standards of cleanliness that industrial parts need to meet for sensitive surface treatments such as electroplating. So, whether you need clean metal components as part of your manufacturing process or to restore your antique car, cleanliness is a must.

How can you tell if a part is really clean? Dirty or gritty surfaces will make water pool on certain areas of a component’s surface (and you can often find greater signs of corrosion at these points). Hydrophobic chemicals like grease and oils will make the water bead up and run across the surface. Satisfactorily clean surfaces can hold a stable sheet of water, even at its specific contact angle. Choose the right method so your metal parts can pass this test before moving on to new surface coatings and treatments.

What Does Abrasive Cleaning Offer That Other Cleaning Methods Do Not?

There are three broad categories of cleaning that all industrial or professional cleaning services use:

  • Mechanical Techniques: abrasive methods like blasting or non-abrasive methods like ultrasound waves
  • Thermal Techniques: reactive heat treatments that use temperatures above 100°C or nonreactive treatments with lower temperature thresholds
  • Chemical Techniques: reactive methods like pickling or electropolishing and non-reactive methods like organic solvents

While each of these categories has its own unique applications, mechanical abrasive cleaners are the best choice for most metal parts and the materials contaminating the surface. Blasting methods propel different types of abrasive media — such as sand, silica pellets, or even dry ice — against the workpiece at high speeds to loosen and fully remove contaminants from the surface. We recommend blasting cleaning because it can effectively remove contaminants from metal surfaces without damaging the underlying metal. Professionals can also quickly reach every inch of the material surface, even corners, and intricate designs.

Blasting services can remove old coatings, burrs, rust, limescale, and mold buildup. It can even remove etching and frosting chemicals from glass surfaces. This is much more effective than chemical cleaning methods that need to be specifically chosen to match the surface contaminants of the workpiece. It also guarantees a quick clean without the risk of modifying or damaging the metal itself through heat, chemical treatments, or impact damage.

However, there are a lot of abrasive cleaning media that you can choose from. Sandblasting is a safe, effective choice. Here is how it performs compared to other abrasion-based cleaning methods:

Sandblasting vs. Pressure Washing

Pressure washing can remove oils and greases from metal surfaces. But it often is not powerful enough to remove all of the contaminants and old paint layers. You need an etching, or more substantially abrasive, medium to remove dirt and rust. Water can also increase the risk of corrosion for metals that are not naturally resistant.

Sandblasting also offers unique benefits that water cannot. One of the most important results of sandblasting is that it gives surfaces a slightly textured profile. This does not damage the metal or ruin detailing. Instead, it makes the surface better able to bind with coats and seals later in the restoration process.

Sandblasting vs. Grinding

Far from being an “either-or” situation, sandblasting and grinding are complimentary services that each have a specific role in pre-treating metal pieces. Grinding processes can remove rubber coatings and parts that are adhered to the metal surface. End-stage polishing processes can also grind metal planes to the right roughness level. Blasting can remove contaminants right against the surface of the metal and, in the event of rust, contaminants pitting the metal deeper than the surface.

Used incorrectly, grinding processes can easily damage the metal surface. Blasting media, on the other hand, can be specifically chosen to match the metal’s softness. Grinding also cannot reach small corners and crevices as effectively as blasting tools.

Sandblasting vs. Dry Ice Blasting

Dry ice is a softer abrasive media than sand. This comparative softness can further minimize the risk of scratches and abrasions for extremely sensitive surfaces. However, the softness comes at a high cost. Dry ice pellets are expensive, and they can be used for only a single application. Sand is inexpensive and can be easily reused without generating waste. Dry ice blasting also creates a concentrated presence of CO2 gas in the work area, which is hazardous without appropriate ventilation. This, in turn, drives the price higher through safety equipment and advanced shop ventilation systems.

Every abrasive and blasting cleaning process has unique attributes and benefits. However, sandblasting can quickly remove contaminants, and old paint can texture the metal surface for longer-lasting surface coats and is cost-effective.

Efficiency and Environmental Impact

Every business needs to keep the costs of secondary and added value services in mind. If your company is processing newly manufactured metal components or refurbishing older constructions as part of a recycling or maintenance contract, staying on-budget has to be a top priority. Sandblasting services can help by providing these key price-related and efficiency advantages:

  • Sandblasting completes multiple pre-treatment steps at once. Sand can abrade contaminants, paint, and rust at the same time without requiring multiple treatments. It can also prepare the surface for future powder coating and painting.
  • Sandblasting media is relatively inexpensive, even if you need a specific grit. Sand particles come in different sizes and levels of hardness to create different grit levels, just like sandpaper. But every grit level is easily available on the market and cost-effective. You can expect significant cost savings if you choose sand over other abrasive media.

Sandblasting is the industry standard for metal cleaning. If you choose a highly specialized service, you have a much more limited pool of suppliers to choose from. Not only is it harder to compare different companies, but you also have less control over your options. With sandblasting services, you prioritize quality and reputation over simple availability.
But the cost is not the only consideration. Being a green company or a brand that regularly prioritizes environmentally sound practices is good for business. City organizations, individual consumers, and popular retail brands prefer to work with manufacturing and maintenance services that protect their business reputation. If you are an individual hobbyist, going green might be just as important to you. Sandblasting is one of the greenest metal cleaning choices available because:

  • Sandblasting does not use caustic or toxic cleaning chemicals.
  • Sandblasting does not require extensive refrigeration or storage methods that use a lot of energy.
  • Sandblasting creates inert waste that can be safely disposed of.
  • Sandblasting uses media that can be reused again and again.

Before you decide on the specific cleaning and pre-treatment methods for your project, plan out the broad steps of your restoration. What kind of environment will the finished product need to withstand? Do you prefer to paint or employ powder coating? Alternatively, do you just want the metal parts to be clean and polished by the end of the project?

Knowing what you expect to see as an end result can help you make the right choices from the start. If you are working with metal parts for a classic car, park and recreation equipment, or residential fencing hardware, protecting the final product with powder coating is an excellent choice. But, to get there, you need a cleaning process that both removes old contaminants and textures the surface for a tight bond.

Having the final product in mind also helps you pick the right partner. Look for services that can offer each individual step in-house. This guarantees you better quality control and insight. It also simplifies the process by reducing delays and transportation steps. Whether you are making decisions on behalf of your company or you are restoring a prized possession, choose a one-stop-shop that gives you the most control over the process and the schedule.

There are a lot of different factors to consider when you are restoring metal. It is important to do research and find the right service and service provider. Use this quick checklist to determine if sandblasting should stay on your list of options.

Metal Sandblasting, Restoration, and Powder Coating

TLC Metal Restoration offers a comprehensive array of cleaning, polishing, metalworking, and powder coating services for Long Island businesses. We serve commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential customers throughout the tri-state area. Contact TLC Metal today to learn more about our metal sandblasting services.