Soda blast cleaning is a versatile cleaning method with uses for vehicle restoration, premises maintenance, and engineering upkeep. Pairing bicarbonate of soda with blast cleaning provides a thorough, yet gentle clean for a wide range of surfaces. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know
Soda blast cleaning is a gentle, yet reliable method of cleaning metals and stonework – making it indispensable to vehicle restorers, building/site managers, and engineering maintenance alike. Using the surprisingly mild, but powerful cleaning properties of sodium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda) alongside abrasive cleaning techniques can provide a thoroughly clean finish to a vast array of surfaces.
So, let’s take a look at what’s involved.
What is soda blasting?
Soda blasting is a type of abrasive cleaning whereby sodium bicarbonate particles (“soda crystals”) are propelled on to a surface using compressed air. The propulsion of the soda particles causes them break up on impact, striking the surface just enough to remove paint or grime, but providing an otherwise non-damaging clean to a variety of surfaces.
Sodium bicarbonate is not a harsh chemical, and the particles are relatively soft compared to other media blasting methods, making this practice one of the milder forms of abrasive cleaning.
What is soda cleaning used for?
Soda blasting has two main uses that both benefit from its mildly abrasive cleaning properties: automotive restoration and property maintenance.
One of soda’s main benefits in terms of automotive uses is that it does not cause the surface to heat up – making it essential for cleaning large, flat vehicle components (such as bonnets and roofs), and those made of aluminium or carbon fibre; both potentially at risk of heat warping. Contrast this with chemical dipping and other types of media cleaning, which can raise a surface’s temperature significantly. Additionally, because soda is water-soluble, any residue left on essential components such as engine parts can be simply washed away with water – minimising the chance of blocked ports and holes. Soda is best used when the item is being re-painted, because the process doesn’t leave a shine on metal surfaces.
Soda cleaning is also essential for property maintenance; its non-damaging nature makes it ideal for cleaning paint from brickwork, stonework, and hardwood surfaces. Soda’s mild nature means that it can be used to harmlessly clean many Grade II listed buildings, whilst making light work of paintwork and graffiti removal. Soda crystals are environmentally friendly, and can be washed down normal household drains without causing any harm.
What sorts of items do we clean using soda?
We generally get asked to clean items such as engine blocks, gearbox casings, and a wide range of internal and external automotive components. We frequently use soda blasting prior to vapour blasting in order to degrease and/or remove paint before the vapour cleaning process begins.
Soda can also be used to clean both internal and external brick, stone, and hardwood; including statues, wooden beams, and Grade II listed buildings.
Because soda cleaning works well with aluminium, we do occasionally deal with requests to clean various engineering components that need degreasing, paint removal, and general cleaning.
Depending on the nature of your project, we may use a mixture of media cleaning methods to achieve the best possible outcome – regardless of the type of surface being cleaned.
When would you not use soda blasting?
There are some situations when we wouldn’t use soda blasting, usually where it’s not abrasive enough for the task at hand. In terms of automotive cleaning, soda isn’t powerful enough to reliably clean away filler, rust or underseal – glass media cleaning does a far better job of cutting through those kinds of finishes. We generally use a mixture of soda cleaning and other media blasting processes for vehicles; using soda cleaning on detailed areas in need of a gentle clean, and using another process such as vapour or glass media blasting elsewhere to achieve the best possible bare finish.
Soda cleaning is generally a good staple for property cleaning projects, but due to the wide variety of natural stone and other construction materials used over the years, soda may not be ideal for all surfaces. We generally clean a test patch before work proceeds so we can select the best possible cleaning option for your project.
What does the soda cleaning process look like?
Our soda blast cleaning process is fairly simple. If an item has been received for cleaning at our facility in Wolverhampton, we thoroughly check the item, affix it within our purpose-built dust extraction booth and begin the cleaning process, blasting the surface with soda crystals until any grime and/or paintwork comes away.
Soda blasting leaves a layer of residual dust which is blown away in order for our operatives to then check the item for a consistent clean. If there are any stubborn areas that need a more thorough clean, we will repeat the process until the finish is consistent throughout. Soda leaves a thin layer of spent media on the surface of the cleaned item which can help to prevent rusting for as long as possible.
The same general process is carried out when cleaning an item off site (for example a building, statue, or non-land faring vehicle). However, we stipulate that no other persons should be on-site when the cleaning is taking place for health and safety reasons. The soda blasting process causes a lot of dust, and the noise produced by the machinery is above safe levels. All of our operatives therefore wear breathing apparatus and ear defenders during the cleaning process.
Rest assured that we use dust sheets, extractors, and dust management procedures where needed – all of which are standard practice for on-site blast cleaning projects. Following offsite projects, we do clean up to the best of our ability, but dust will settle overnight. This dust will therefore need to be vacuumed/wiped away the following day. Soda can be disposed of in normal drains or in normal waste and skips. We request that a skip be provided for offsite projects.
Due to the safety measures associated with any kind of abrasive blast cleaning, we advise that any item in need of cleaning be transported to our Wolverhampton facility if at all possible.
What can I expect from working with Soda Blasting Ltd?
Upon placing an enquiry with us, we usually ask the customer to email over photographs of the item to assess the compatibility of the item with our processes (especially crucial for property cleaning projects).
In the event of an offsite cleaning project, we will usually arrange a preliminary site visit to assess the surfaces up close and to clean a test patch. If the item is to be cleaned at our Wolverhampton facility, we may ask that the item be sent to us for a similar appraisal prior to the work taking place.
At this point, we estimate how long the project is likely to take and decide which cleaning methods are going to be used. In the case of offsite projects, we will also consider access and safety requirements such as scaffolding, water suppression, and any lead paint removal required.
Pricing for soda blast cleaning projects tends to vary wildly due to the sheer range of possible uses, surfaces, and finishes that can be cleaned. As we often use soda blasting in conjunction with other blast cleaning processes, pricing is generally worked out on a case-by-case basis. We always provide a verbal and written quote for any work.
Some of our cleaning methods may be abrasive – but our team certainly aren’t!
We pride ourselves on being reliable and approachable, and are trusted blast cleaning partners to numerous businesses and individuals throughout the Midlands and beyond, so why not give us a call? Speak to our experts today on 0800 774 7632 to see what we can achieve for you.