A Deep Dive into the Practicalities of Blast Cleaning

If you’ve never worked with a blast cleaning provider before, you’ve probably got a lot of questions; and here at SBL, we often get asked what to expect from blast cleaning projects.

In the below FAQ, we’ll look at the practicalities of blast cleaning: what it’s used for, what the process looks like, what customers can expect, safety concerns, and – most importantly – how to get your blast cleaning show on the road!

Want more info about how abrasive cleaning works and the different blast media we use? Check out our complete guide to blast cleaning and media.

When are blast cleaning services generally required?

There are a number of situations where an individual or business may require blast cleaning services. In our experience, classic vehicle restoration is one of the most popular purposes – removing paint, rust, or general grime from vehicle components, frames, and bodywork. This can include cars, campervans, motorcycles, trailers, planes, and gyrocopters.

We also play a large part in building projects and restoration too, cleaning away paint, varnish, graffiti, environmental staining, and fire damage from brickwork, stonework, and wooden/metal beams.

We get asked to clean engineering components as well – both at our facility and on site.

What health and safety concerns does abrasive cleaning present?

Our main health and safety concerns during blast cleaning are the noise caused by the compressor, inhalation of the resulting dust and spent media, and the intense air pressure expelled by the compressor (which can easily burn skin). It’s for these reasons that our operatives always wear ear defenders, air-fed breathing apparatus, protective all-over suits, and heavy duty gloves.

When working on-site, we generally request that the property and surrounding area is vacated. This is so we don’t put anyone at any unnecessary risk, especially of dust inhalation or hearing damage. It’s for these reasons that we try to complete work on “movable” objects at our Wolverhampton facility if at all possible.

The pipes to our machinery are all fitted with “deadman” handles so that all air pressure is stopped immediately should something happen to our operative. All of our equipment is regularly tested and maintained with safety as our highest priority.

Do any of your blasting methods present ecological issues?

None of the abrasives we use are particularly hazardous. As long as spent media is disposed of in sealed containers to save it blowing around, they can all be disposed of in a normal skip. The only exception to this rule is where we’ve removed a lead-based paint – in this case we will collect the spent media and paint remnants in sealed containers and send them to a specialist disposal facility.

There is one minor issue with soda however – due to its slight alkalinity it can kill plant life.

Please also be aware that we refuse to work near fish ponds unless they are safely covered over so the water isn’t affected.

Though ThermaTech® uses nothing but pressurised steam (which isn’t harmful apart from the intense heat), some ThermaTech® projects require the use of chemical strippers and primers which are potentially hazardous. We only use these chemicals if absolutely necessary for the project and always clean up any potentially toxic remains for disposal at our facility.

What happens when an item gets blast cleaned at SBL’s Wolverhampton facility?

It all starts with an enquiry by the client. We generally ask for photographs of the item in question so we can provide a quote and a timescale. Our team will establish what work is needed; talking everything through with the client and answering any questions they may have. Be aware that there may be situations where we will need to see the item in person before we agree anything.

We then ask the client to send the item to us before work is scheduled to start. Smaller items like internal vehicle components can usually be sent to us by courier or tracked post, but larger items like an entire vehicle shell will need to be loaded on a trailer and brought to us for work to begin.

After the item is received, it is carefully catalogued and stored. Items are always kept safe and dry – they won’t go outside again until it’s time for the client to collect.

When the time comes to clean the item, it is moved to our specialist cleaning booth. Our operative(s) will don their safety equipment, load the blast media into the machines, secure the item within the booth, and blast away! If we encounter any problem areas – say thick areas of filler – we will notify the customer to ask them how they’d like to proceed. We will also take photographs to give them a good working understanding of the issue. We may also take “before, during, and after” photographs for our website.

Once all of the work is complete, we notify the customer that the item is ready to collect, and off it goes!

What happens when SBL are asked to clean on-site (e.g, building restoration projects)?

When the customer places an enquiry with us, we will discuss the required clean in detail with the customer and usually ask for photographs of the areas/structures in question. We will most likely arrange a site visit beforehand to assess the situation in person and to possibly clean a test patch to establish the best course of action. We’ll then agree a quote and timescale for the work.

We require a parking area of around 9 metres in length – this is to account for our van and for the trailer that houses our compressor. Our standard pipes can reach 30 metres from this point – we can switch these out for 60m pipes, but we’ll need to know in advance if those are needed.

old van with tow behind compressor attached

On the day we have agreed to start work, we arrive as close to 8am as traffic permits. We’ll ask the customer to confirm all areas of the building or structure that need cleaning to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

If working inside a building, we ask that all movable items (such as furniture) are removed prior to our arrival. Any features that can’t be removed will be taped up and/or covered with dust sheets. We can also provide adhesive sheeting to protect flooring if needed.

We also generally seal up doorways to reduce the risk of dust/spent media transferring into other rooms. There is always a small risk that dust will escape, but we use extraction equipment and dust sheets to trap it wherever possible.

As you can imagine, different projects come with wildly differing considerations and variables, so we always aim to be as flexible as possible. If this means that the prep takes longer than the actual blasting work, then so be it!

With the area prepped, we start work. Once the project is complete, we sweep and vacuum the area, remove all dust sheets, and take away any spent media – leaving the area as clean as possible. There will still be particles in the air that will settle over the following 48-72 hours, so we advise against “moving back in” to an internal space straight away – and certainly not before a thorough clean.

How can I get the ball rolling on my next blast cleaning project?

Simply reach out to us! Our friendly team will talk you through everything that’s involved and will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the whole process.

So what are you waiting for? Reach out to our friendly team today – we’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call on 0800 774 7632 or email info@sodablastingltd.co.uk.