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N-Terpinal Cleaner - Chemical Technical

Posted in How To on December 1, 2006
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Ever since government regulations started restricting the contents of our beloved brake cleaners, hot tank solutions, parts cleaner solvents, and degreasers, it seems like the efficiency of those products went downhill in a big way. OK, so maybe washing our hands in the parts washer or getting stains out of our jeans with brake cleaner (while wearing them) wasn't the best we could do for our bodies, but at least the stuff worked. As a bonus, it generally smelled good too.

While the days of highly efficient-but equally toxic-parts cleaning are gone in the civilized areas of the world, it doesn't mean we're stuck with using grinders, media blasting, or a mound of shop rags to get things clean and rust-free again. Thanks to the working minds at WSI Industries we now have a solvent replacement squeaky clean and save-the-planet friendly, yet it can even remove powdercoating.

N-Terpinal is a reusable, noncaustic, nonacidic, nontoxic, nonhazardous, nonflammable, biodegradable organic chemical that has a neutral pH. It's safe for aluminum, copper, steel, magnesium, brass, and even most plastics. You can use it to remove grease, rust, adhesives, ink, paint, resin, epoxy, and even powder- and electrostatically applied coatings.

N-Terpinal is used to clean out equipment for spray-on bedliners, and in hand wipes. It can be painted over areas cleaned by N-Terpinal.

After cleansing whatever parts and pieces in the N-T' bath, just hose them off with water. Steel and iron will be very prone to rusting afterwards, because the metal will be clean.

This "solvent" doesn't actually dissolve grease or paint; it delaminates it from the part. The difference? You can skim oil, grease, and paint off the top, then filter and reuse the N-Terpinal.

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It's not the price, because $19 to $21 per gallon sure isn't bad compared to what's out there. Rather, it's the heat-related efficiency factor. N-Terpinal needs to be warmed to be fully effective. Every 10 degrees above 70 degrees makes it 100 percent more effective, says WSI's Fred Wellman. To a point, of course. Just as WSI has different versions of N-Terpinal for different uses, the recommended temperature varies too, and it's all explained on WSI's Web site.

Using the versatile RS-75 to remove rust or corrosion on cast iron calls for a dunking at 125 to 145 degrees, for example. Also, this should take place in a stainless steel container. Wellman suggests getting an inexpensive turkey cooker as it includes a basket and thermometer, both of which are handy to have when using N-Terpinal at home or in a shop.

Time is another factor. More like a hot tank than a parts washer, the cleansing takes its sweet time. Figure on about a 30-minute soaking for most projects, and then another 30 if the results aren't satisfactory. Powdercoating calls for an hour at 160 to 180 degrees. Regardless of what you're removing, it'll take much, much longer if you don't heat the fluid, but that still beats grinding and scrubbing it clean.

Yes, it does work as advertisedIf you don't mind explaining to your friends why there's a turkey cooker in your garage, and can find something to do while the N-Terpinal does its thing, this newfangled liquid can indeed be as good or better than the old-style brake and parts cleaner. It's not as quick, but far more multitalented. We still have a stash of old spray cans we'll keep using for those hurried jobs and to kill Black Widow spiders with, while N-Terpinal will be used for general cleaning, including things we'd never thought possible. And, the stuff doesn't smell bad at all.

Our initial trials with N-Terpinal weren't exactly done in accordance with the instructions. We failed to swipe a stainless bowl from the kitchen and used an old, oily frying pan from the garage instead. With record-breaking temperatures in the neighborhood, we also skipped the heating part and simply put the pan with our test objects in the sun. After 30 minutes the N-Terpinal was up to 95 degrees. Not quite the recommended 125-145 degrees Fahrenheit, but well over the 70-degree baseline. At this point paint was still unaffected, but rusty areas had started to get a visible reaction going in the liquid.

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