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Article:  Cleaning Without Chemicals
(from FoodProcessing.com Magazine, April 2006)

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

In 1984, an Italian bartender working in a German bar made a “eureka” discovery while washing bar glasses. Knowing that glasses with lipstick stains were difficult to clean, he walked over to the cappuccino machine and noted the remarkable ease with which the steam from the coffee maker removed the stain. That cappuccino machine became the model for the dry — a.k.a. superheated — steam cleaning equipment sold today by Atlanta-based AmeriVap Systems (www.amerivap.com).The system evolved today’s fully developed industrial machines. The Xtreme Steam industrial system is a superheated vapor system that deep cleans and sanitizes with saturated dry steam. The unit’s boiler heats water to 365°F. Steam exits the unit at 265°F at an adjustable pressure of 0 to 150 psi.

Superheated vapor refers to steam created at temperatures far above the boiling point of water. Superheated vapor combines the solvent power of water with high-temperature cleaning capability. The system will kill salmonella, E. coli, botulism and listeria contaminants. System benefits include, among others, reduced need for cleaning chemicals.

“The system heats water to such a high degree that it becomes an extremely hot vapor,” explains Werner Diercks, CEO for AmeriVap. “It cleans everything and won’t damage the equipment.”

Diercks emphasizes the difference between the system and a pressure washer. Xtreme Steam is a dry steam cleaning system. The emitted dry steam contains only five percent moisture, making it safe in sensitive areas of the plant.

“It excels in areas where you can’t use water — sensitive equipment, touch screens, motors, anything electric and sensitive to water,” says Diercks. “It is also effective where you have crevices and hard-to-get-to, tough-to-clean areas.”

The system can be used on scales and sensors, conveyors, wrappers, slicers and dicers, feeders, gaskets, electrical panels, refrigeration systems and more.

To date, bakeries have been among the most avid users of the system, followed closely by meat and poultry processing plants and confectionery processors. Current users of the system include Pepperidge Farm, Quaker Oats, McKee Foods and Nestle.

The raw product in meat operations makes equipment and the adjacent plant area highly susceptible to bacterial contamination. Meat processors employ dry steam with a technique called “tenting” to clean their equipment.

“They throw a tarp over the equipment, fill it with steam, and hold the temperature at 180°F for 15 minutes,” explains Diercks, noting that a Land O’Frost plant in Arkansas is currently using the system. “Everything is heated. [Conditions are so hot that microorganisms are easily killed.] Push steam through drains and listeria is history.”

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