Dry ice blasting is an innovative technique that is unfamiliar to the general public but is increasingly valued by post-disaster restoration and industrial cleaning services.

In this article, find out everything you need to know about industrial dry ice blasting.

A short overview of dry ice blasting

Dry ice blasting is a non-destructive method that safely cleans surfaces and removes unwanted coatings such as paint or rust. 

In simple terms, the process consists of blasting compressed air and dry ice particles (a solid form of carbon dioxide at a temperature of approximately -78.5°C) with great force onto the surface that requires cleaning, like a “traditional” pressure washer. 

The combination of compressed air and dry ice in the blast stream creates explosive sublimation, because dry ice immediately passes from solid to gas once it hits a surface. The chain reaction enables surfaces to be cleaned in a non-destructive way and leaves no residue except the dislodged dirt and debris.

The 3 effects that make dry ice a powerful cleaning agent

Blasting dry ice particles removes impurities from surfaces in milliseconds. This is due to 3 effects of dry ice blasting.

1 – The impact or kinetic effect

Dry ice particles blast through any layers of paint, rust or dirt, and the force of the impact weakens their hold on the surface.

2 – Thermal shock

The extreme cold of the dry ice particles (-78.5°C) hitting the surface creates a thermal shock between it and the contaminant. This causes the contaminant to shrink and crack, helping dislodge it from the surface. The extreme cold also eliminates microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria from surfaces.

3 – The effect of dry ice particles sublimating

When dry ice particles strike a surface, they instantly turn into a harmless gas that expands 500 times under the contaminant.  The "explosion" releases the contaminant, which usually falls to the ground. 

Equipment needed for dry ice blasting

The basic equipment needed for dry ice blasting is generally the following:

  • A container for the dry ice particles
  • An air compressor
  • A dry ice blasting machine
  • Flexible hoses
  • A nozzle suitable for dry ice blasting

The benefits of dry ice blasting for industrial cleaning companies and their customers

An increasing number of industrial cleaning companies are offering dry ice blasting services because it has many advantages for them and their customers.

Protects equipment

Dry ice blasting is extremely hard on dirt, but gentle on surfaces. 

For example, it will not damage fragile components such as electronic circuitry, sensors, wire networks, etc.

Furthermore, it does not use any water, making it safe for cleaning electric circuits and moisture-sensitive materials.

Safe, eco-friendly cleaning

Dry ice cleaning does not require chemicals such as detergents and solvents, which helps protect the environment and reduces the need for hazardous waste management.

Because the substance being sprayed is non-toxic, it is safe for the person doing the cleaning and can be used to sanitize food preparation surfaces.

Other blast cleaning methods are generally not as eco-friendly. Depending on the abrasive used for industrial cleaning and the location, some or all of the particles may be left to drain into public sewers, lakes, streams, the ocean, or seep into the ground. This problem does not occur with dry ice blasting.

Fast and effective cleaning

Industrial dry ice blasting takes much less time than cleaning a comparable area manually.

Furthermore, since dry ice particles sublimate as they hit surfaces, there is no blast residue to gather up after dry ice blasting. This significantly reduces the amount of time it takes cleaning teams to clear the area.

Applications of dry ice blasting

Due to its advantages, dry ice blasting is particularly suitable for a variety of uses:

Cleaning food processing equipment

Dry ice blasting can be used to clean food processing equipment. It eliminates pathogens in the smallest of crevices without needing to disassemble the equipment.

Disaster clean-up

Dry ice blasting can be used to remove the traces left by disasters such as water damage or fire. It easily takes care of mould and soot.

Restoring works of art and architectural elements

Because dry ice is non-abrasive and does not create secondary waste, dry ice blasting can be used to restore works of art and architectural elements.

Cleaning IT and electronic equipment

Because dry ice blasting uses no water and leaves no residue, it is ideal for cleaning electric and electronic circuits.

Dry ice blasting in summary

In short, dry ice blasting is the projection of fine particles of solid CO2 onto a surface to remove dirt and debris. It may seem fairly simple, but it requires specialized equipment and expertise in order to be 100% effective.