What is Vapour Blasting / Aqua Blasting?

Vapour blasting is an essential metal cleaning and finishing process, but how does it work? What’s involved? What can a customer expect? Let’s take a look.

Vapour blasting (also called aqua blasting, slurry blasting, bead blasting, or wet abrasive blasting) is a great option for those who need engine components cleaned to an impeccable standard, and also left with an attractive and easy to maintain finish. But what exactly does the process involve? How does it work? And what benefits does it provide?

Join us as we answer these frequently asked questions about our aqua blasting process.

What does vapour blasting involve?

We follow an involved 14-step process, but it generally boils down to the following:

  1. When we receive your item, it is washed and any excess grime or paint is removed using soda blasting if required.
  2. The item is then affixed inside our blasting cabinet and blasted with a high-pressure mixture of water and a “slurry” of tiny glass beads.
  3. The item is then checked, and then aqua blasted again to ensure a clean and consistent finish.
  4. We then wash the item to remove any remaining glass particles.
  5. The item is then blown dry, and a layer of oil is applied to protect and seal the finish.

Some examples of materials that work well with vapour blasting are aluminium, titanium, copper, bronze, magnesium, and brass.

How does the process work?

The process itself takes place within a purpose built safety cabinet – ours is around 1 square metre, which is the largest available. Therefore we can only vapour blast items that fit within the cabinet, but this size is more than enough for components such as engines, casings, carburettors, and most fixtures and fittings.

Once the item is secured within the blasting cabinet, our machine uses compressed air to blast the item’s surface with a mixture of water and a slurry of minute glass beads. The glass media mixed with the water at high pressure provides an abrasive element, thoroughly removing all dirt, grit, and paintwork. The depositing of the glass particles at high pressure “peens” the surface, leaving an even, soft satin sheen.

Is your aqua blasting service mobile? Can you come to me?

Because of the size of the cabinet, the associated machinery, and the additional systems involved, aqua blasting cannot be offered as a mobile service. This service is carried out at our Wolverhampton facility, conveniently located centrally to the UK. If you’re unable to get to us, we are more than happy to receive and return items through courier services.

What are the benefits of vapour blasting?

The process provides numerous functional and cosmetic benefits provided the item is suitable:

  • The abrasive nature of the cleaning means it’s scrubbed totally clean by default.
  • Aqua blasting both cleans and finishes, meaning there’s no need to repaint the item afterwards.
  • The process provides an attractive and permanent satin finish that’s easy to keep clean and maintain.

There are no hazardous materials used within the process, just the water and glass beads, making aqua blasting highly eco-friendly

On the topic of eco-friendliness, people may want to know what happens to the beads/how they’re disposed of. If you want me to put this in, please just let me have the info.

When would you not use aqua blasting?

Aqua blasting is not suitable for any metals that rust, because the metal will instantly oxidise and corrode. Because the process itself has to take place inside a specially designed closed cabinet, items larger than this are off-limits.

Items that are not suitable for vapour blasting may be suitable for a different cleaning process such as soda or media blasting – both of which we provide at Soda Blasting Ltd.

Are there any safety concerns for vapour blasting customers?

Because aqua blasting uses glass media, there is a small chance that glass particles may still be present on or inside the component once you receive it back from us. Though we clean all items thoroughly after processing, and lengths are taken to ensure that all glass media is removed, we can offer no guarantees. The danger here is that the particles could get sucked into the engine or other components, potentially causing damage to your vehicle. We therefore advise that customers wash all blast cleaned components before use.

What can a vapour blasting customer expect when working with Soda Blasting Ltd?

Before we begin, we’ll generally ask the customer to bring the item to our unit in Wolverhampton so we can assess the work involved, and provide a price quote and timeframe. We don’t offer fixed pricing because items in need of cleaning are rarely the same. We will often need to clean a small test patch on the item’s surface to assess the amount of work required.

Once we provide a quote, the fee will not change – even if the cleaning takes longer than planned. Once the work is complete, we will then contact the customer for collection.

Why choose Soda Blasting Ltd?

We pride ourselves on being approachable, reliable and efficient. We understand that the components we clean can be very valuable and often hard to come by; and entrusting these items to a third party like ourselves can be quite daunting for our customers. Rest assured that our team carefully treat each client’s belongings as if they were their own. We’re a family run business with years of experience in various methods of blast cleaning, and are trusted by numerous motoring and restoration enthusiasts throughout the UK.

If you have a component you need cleaning and finishing by media blasting experts, get in touch with us today! Call 0800 774 7632 for a friendly chat about what Soda Blasting Ltd can achieve for your next project.

You can find more information, and examples of our work, HERE.

Aqua blasted BMW engine cover