What is Trichloroethylene and Why is it Important to Find a Replacement Solvent?
Trichloroethylene, commonly known as TCE, has long been used as an industrial degreasing solvent due to its effectiveness in removing lubricants and other contaminants from metal parts. However, the hazardous nature of TCE has led to increasing concerns regarding its impact on health and the environment. As a result, finding a suitable replacement solvent for TCE has become crucial.
Understanding the Hazards of Trichloroethylene
Also known as trichloroethene, TCE is classified as a hazardous air pollutant (HAP) by the EPA, and prolonged exposure to TCE vapors can pose serious health risks. It is also a known carcinogen, making it imperative to seek safer alternatives.
In 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Final Risk Evaluation for trichloroethylene, which found that 52 out of 54 conditions of use presented an unreasonable risk of injury to human health. In its risk characterization, the EPA found significant risks associated with more than one adverse effect, such as:
- Developmental toxicity
- Reproductive toxicity
- Liver toxicity
- Kidney toxicity
In addition, TCE is a known groundwater contaminant, and causes damage to aquatic organisms.
Why Finding a Trichloroethylene Replacement Solvent is Crucial
In October 2023, the EPA proposed to ban under TSCA Section 6(a) the manufacture (including import), processing and distribution in commerce of TCE for all uses, with longer compliance timeframes for some uses.
With the increasing regulatory scrutiny and emphasis on compliance, the need for a trichloroethylene replacement solvent that can effectively degrease while being less hazardous has become a priority.
Benefits of BestSolv™ HFE Fluids as a TCE Replacement
Effective Degreasing Without the Use of Trichloroethylene
BestSolv™ hydrofluoroether (HFE) engineered fluids such as BestSolv™ Bravo offer excellent solvency, effectively replacing TCE in degreasing applications without compromising on cleaning performance. BestSov™ HFE fluids effectively clean contaminants such as oils, greases, silicones, flux and wax.
Improved Health and Safety in Degreasing Processes
Using BestSolv™ HFE fluids mitigates health risks associated with TCE, enhancing workplace safety and ensuring a healthier environment for workers. BestSolv™ Bravo has an exposure limit of 200 ppm (molar weighted average of the component 8-hour threshold limit values). By comparison, TCE has an exposure limit of 10 ppm.
Lower Auxiliary Costs
The health and safety risks of TCE drive up the costs associated with using trichloroethylene as a parts cleaner or vapor degreasing solvent. The lower cost of TCE is offset by extra costs of managing a hazardous air pollutant, such as:
- Additional ventilation
- More extensive training in safe handling procedures
- Extra personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Time spent on regulatory reporting
Replacing trichloroethylene with BestSolv™ HFE fluids reduces or eliminates these extra costs, as BestSolv™ fluids are not hazardous air pollutants.
Lower Environmental Impact and Regulatory Compliance
BestSolv™ HFE fluids have a lower environmental impact compared to TCE solvent. By choosing BestSolv™ HFE fluids, businesses can align with stringent environmental regulations, contributing to a more sustainable future.
Lower Energy Use in Vapor Degreasers
The boiling point of BestSolv™ HFE fluids is significantly lower than that of TCE. For vapor degreasing applications, this means that less energy is required to heat the solvent to operating temperature.
More Efficient Solvent Cleaning
Because TCE is chemically unstable, it requires stabilizing additives to prevent disintegration when used in vapor degreasers. Even with stabilizers, TCE must be removed and replaced frequently.
BestSolv™ HFE fluids offer chemical stability that allows for ongoing recycling/distillation in vapor degreasers, without frequent refills and without stabilizing additives.
No New Equipment Needed
BestSolv™ HFE fluids are a drop-in trichloroethylene substitute that do not require purchasing new capital equipment. Converting a vapor degreaser from TCE to BestSolv™ HFE fluid is as easy as draining and cleaning the vapor degreaser, and resetting the thermostat settings.
BestSolv™ Bravo vs. Trichloroethylene Comparison
|Hydrofluoroether (HFE) blend with 1,2 trans DCE
|#156-60-5 – trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene
|114°F / 45.5 °C
|188.1 °F / 86.7 °C
|Near azeotrope, very chemically stable for continued recycling in a vapor degreaser
|Chemically unstable, requires stabilizers for use in a vapor degreaser
|Flammable, but does not burn easily
|Vapor Pressure @ 20 °C
|Global Warming Potential (GWP)
|Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)
|Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Designation
|Yes – 1,2 trans DCE is a VOC.
|Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) Designation
|Subject to Annual Reporting Requirements by U.S. EPA (SARA)
|Exposure Guideline: 8-Hour Time-Weighted Average Threshold Limit Value (TLV)
Cleaning Process Experts
When you’re looking for a TCE alternative, look to Best Technology. Learn from our experts about your options for alternatives to trichloroethylene, as well as replacements for other legacy solvents such as n-propyl bromide (nPB) and perchloroethylene.
For expert help with cleaning solvent alternatives, contact our chemical sales department using our web contact form, or call 612-392-2414, ext. 2.