Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Star
October 3, 1996, Vol. 2 No. 12
used with permission

SmartWashers Use Microbes to Clean Without Harming People or Environment

By Rochelle I. Routman

A new breed of parts washers has become a familiar sight at LMASC. The parts washers, called "SmartWashers", use microbes to clean parts.

Microbes first gained national recognition when they were used on the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez in 1989. The microbes in the SmartWasher are closely related to those that helped clean up the Exxon Valdez spill.

Most importantly, they are completely safe to humans and the environment.

Twenty-three SmartWashers have replaced many of the cold cleaners that used chlorinated solvents to remove grease and grime from parts.

Organizations that use the self-heated parts washers, which are made of high density polyethylene, are Maintenance, Transportation, Tooling, Experimental, Research and Development. Future plans include using SmartWashers to clean F-22 engine parts as well.

The washers use a special filter pad that contains dormant microbes, which become active when the filter pad is placed in the parts washer and the parts cleaning solution is added. The solution, a nonflammable, non-hazardous, water-based detergent, is safe for employees and the environment.

As the solution begins circulating, the microbes go to work, attacking and eating oil and grease particles removed from the part. As long as the filter is changed periodically, the system remains effective.

Besides cleaning effectively, the SmartWashers are also a good investment. Because the microbes continuously clean the solution, it never has to be discarded. This is different from the cleaners which they replaced.

The former materials were more costly, and also generated hazardous waste, which was expensive to manage. Using the 23 new units will reduce use of hazardous solvents by more than 900 gallons a year. Also, the company will save more than $80,000 during the first year of use.

The new parts washers are an all-around winner: for the environment, the employees, and the company.