New cleaning products need to be environmentally friendly without losing their cleaning properties. This combination can present challenges; however, the Cleaning Innovation test bed allows researchers to approach their work from a number of perspectives. In brief – here, they know everything about cleaning!
Cleaning is vital in many sectors, including obvious examples such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare and food processing. However, all cleaning has some effect on the environment and many companies are therefore engaged in identifying new processes and cleaning agents that are as environmentally friendly as possible, but at the same equally effective at getting things clean.
“This is where the Cleaning Innovation test bed comes in! We attack cleaning from every possible angle, focusing on both the environment and efficiency,” says Mikael Kjellin, area manager for Cleaning and Laundry at RISE and one of the project managers for Cleaning Innovation, who goes on the describe a number of diverse activities undertaken within the test bed.
“We deal with everything from treating surfaces in grocery stores to prevent dirt from sticking, to conducting time and motion studies on factory personnel to figure out where in the production line dirt may accumulate. Another example is a study to establish welding methods to make pipe cleaning easier, or investigating optimal cleaning processes for pharmaceutical manufacturing.”
New phosphate-free dishwasher detergent
Another important task on which Cleaning Innovation is currently working is the development of a new, phosphate-free dishwasher detergent. Phosphate contains phosphorus, something that, despite being an important plant nutrient, can cause eutrophication and concomitant algal bloom.
“Phosphates have long been banned in washing powder and are now also prohibited in dishwasher detergents. We have therefore joined detergent manufactures in the quest to identify alternatives that can replace phosphates,” explains Mikael Kjellin.
Phosphates are what is known as complexing agents, substances that bind ions and make it easier to dissolve dirt, preventing the re-soiling of washing or washing-up and the build up of limescale. Without phosphates, these ions will instead bind to the detergents that are intended to dissolve dirt, thus impairing their effectiveness. A phosphate-free detergent will also cause more wear to glasses, meaning that they will quite simply not survive as many washes before becoming damaged.
“We have evaluated other possible complexing agents, citric acid for example, although the challenge with this lies in achieving equally good cleaning results as with phosphates,” says Mikael Kjellin.
A unique centre for cleaning technologies
The Cleaning Innovation test bed was opened in 2014 with the support of Vinnova. Birgitta Bergström, who works at RISE Microbiology and Hygiene and is also one of the project managers, explains:
“The advantage of Cleaning Innovation is that we have succeeded in bringing together a wide range of expertise in everything from microbiology and food processing to environmental sciences and hygiene technology. Such a gathering of expertise is unique and there is currently no centre in the cleaning sector working on such a broad front on everything from products, materials and equipment, to services and independent evaluation,” says Birgitta Bergström.