Dry Ice Detailing
Automotive restoration requires smart tools that give the operator complete control and the versatility to clean the full spectrum of parts found on automobiles.
Dry ice blasting is a non-abrasive and non-corrosive cleaning solution that does not produce secondary waste.
Dry ice is a dry cleaning media and sublimates to a gas upon impact, which eliminates the need for wastewater collection systems and additional cleanup.
BENEFITS OF DRY ICE BLASTING
A versatile cleaning solution that simplifies and improves the automotive restoration process.
Dry ice blasting is strong enough to clean heavy build-up and sensitive enough to clean components without damage or the removal of original features, such as serial numbers and markings.
Dry Ice Cleaning, What Is It Exactly?
I’m not a scientist or chemist. I have a degree in electrical engineering, so I’d like to think I can dissect information about a particular thing that’s new to me and know enough about it to be dangerous. I’m not claiming to be the Dry Ice guy; I’m the guy who uses dry ice and freaking loves it.
The dry ice cleaning process involves propelling pellets at high speeds to a surface – in this case, the undercarriage of a vehicle, engine bay, door jams, interior, wherever. Basically, any part of your car can be dry-iced and done safely. You may be thinking pellets propelled at anything will cause some kind of damage, but that’s not the case here. The dry ice pellets are soft and less dense than other methods of “blast-cleaning,” like if you are using sand or plastic pellets. To give context, I dry-iced my Porsche GT3RS and didn’t flinch.
This method of cleaning is really popular in commercial and manufacturing settings. For example, to clean food processing equipment. We (obsessed car cleaning people) now have access to this chemistry to dial in our vehicles. This process will never replace an electric pressure washer and me washing my car by hand, but the idea of deep cleaning my wheels, brakes, and calipers excites me.
Dry Ice Cleaning ServicesNo Water, No Sand, No Abrasives, No Chemicals! Just Dry Ice and the amazing COOLMASTER® technology!
Engine CompartmentsThorough engine and compartment cleaning. No water, chemicals, or abrasive granulates. Amazing results!
Car InteriorsPrecisely and effectively cleans between the smallest creases your Q-tip won’t reach! Remove chewing gum, stains and dirt.
Automotive IndustryRestoration businesses, Tuners, Machine Shops, Detailer, Paint Shops: Our non-abrasive, deep-clean parts prep process will excellerate your work.
Other IndustriesDry Ice works its magic on plastics, wood, rubber, metal, electronically parts and more.
Automotive restoration is big business, as thousands of companies across the country — and the world — work meticulously to bring old cars back to life. That process often includes replacing original parts, but purists and collectors know that original parts are always best regarding overall value.
There is an alternative, however. As Oscar Goldman said in “The Six Million Dollar Man” intro, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” We can disassemble a vehicle, restore and refurbish its original parts and return it to nearly how it looked when it first rolled off the production line. A new trend in the world of conservation is dry-ice cleaning.
Dry ice? Like the stuff in haunted houses or used to flash freeze whole tunas? Yes, we’re talking about that dry ice. It’s similar to media blasting but perhaps less abrasive, much like vapor blasting.
You may have questions about this new restoration technique. The Drive’s Guides & Gear team is here with the answers.
How Does Dry-Ice Cleaning Work?
Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. If you were to blast the super-cold material — it’s nearly minus-110 degrees F — through a pressurized hose, it can actually clean surfaces. It’s akin to media blasting without abrasive materials such as glass beads or silicone dioxide.
That feeds pressurized dry ice through a hose. The single hose setup allows for consistent pressure, despite hose length. ACT Dry Ice Services in the Philadelphia area gave us an up-close look at how it works.
The reason dry-ice particles work so well as a cleaning agent for restorations is that the carbon-dioxide particles sublimate — meaning it turns from a solid into a gas without first becoming a liquid — when they hit the surface. It’s not the impact of the particles that removes dirt, rust, and other debris. The magic happens when the carbon-dioxide particles turn back into gas. Unlike the chiseling effect from a process such as sandblasting, dry-ice blasting removes the gunk, oil, and decades worth of soot without removing the car’s steel, aluminum, or other metals.
Want more magic? Part of dry-ice cleaning’s attraction is that it won’t take off any paint since material with a strong bond to the surface will remain, while the undesirable bits will be removed.
How Long Does It Take and How Expensive Is It?
David Pickard from ACT ran me through the basics. David originally worked for Alpheus, a company that makes dry-ice blasters, and he’s been in the business for 25 years. He’s also worked on Yenko Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR convertibles.
Most of his automotive tasks involve heavy degreasing, undercoating, or a combination of the two. The average job takes between five and seven hours, depending on how significant the filth is. He noted that access is key, so a rotisserie car rotator is ideal, but a lift can help you get to the right areas of the vehicle. He once blasted a car on the ground, but he said that it wasn’t a fun experience.
For ACT’s cleaning services, it’s about $250 an hour at the company’s facility and $350 an hour if travel is involved. That means you’re looking at a general range of $1,250-$2,450 for an entire vehicle. Other shops may charge more or less.
Considering the advantage of dry-ice cleaning compared to abrasive-media blasting and seeing some photos of before and after, dry-ice cleaning looks legit.
Where Did Dry-Ice Cleaning Originate?
Dry-ice cleaning came from the aviation industry, and there’s some evidence the United States Navy experimented with it as a degreaser as early as 1954. It wasn’t until 1974, however, when Lockheed Martin filed a patent for “sandblasting with pellets of material capable of sublimation” that we find the real application of dry-ice cleaning.
By the mid- to late 1980s, other commercial industries took to dry ice as a method for cleaning. More patents were filed for a portable cleaning system, and things took off from there. The automotive industry is the latest to get hip to the application.
Alpheus was able to leverage Lockheed’s patent for commercial use. Today, companies such as Cold Jet, which acquired Alpheus, sell commercial-grade equipment that can be used in automotive restoration. Lots of companies now offer the service for your classic-car restoration.
Dry Ice Terms You Should Know
Whether you fancy yourself a potential dry-ice cleaning DIYer or are just in the market for the service, it’s important to know the terminology. You gotta speak that dry-ice lingo! Here are some of the most common terms you might come across.
Abrasive vs. Nonabrasive
Abrasive cleaning, according to Merriam-Webster, is polishing or cleaning a hard surface by rubbing or grinding. That sounds like me on the dance floor in high school. (Ed. Note: Strike two, William. You were warned.) The key bit to understand here is whether the particles are abrasive or not. Abrasive media blasting removes all material, including and can even remove structural material. Nonabrasive methods, such as dry-ice cleaning or vapor blasting, don’t.
This has nothing to do with explosives. This just refers to forcing material (pellets of carbon dioxide, in this case) through a pressurized hose.
The solid form of carbon dioxide, dry ice is regularly produced as one of the byproducts from ethanol production. As gas escapes, it is collected and returned to a solid, only to be blasted back to a gas during the cleaning process. Isn’t science marvelous?
These are the corn-kernel-sized materials that the dry-ice cleaning process uses. They are not available in stores but are more likely sourced for industrial use. Pickard said he has a few sources within 45 minutes of his location in Pennsylvania.
This is the endothermic process where a solid turns into a gas without first becoming liquid. It requires specific temperatures and pressures in order for sublimation to occur.
FAQs About Dry-Ice Cleaning
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Can I buy my own dry-ice-cleaning machine?
A: You certainly can. There are a bunch on eBay. However, you would likely need to have a lot of surface to blast in order to make it worthwhile since the systems aren’t cheap. They run from $5,000 for old and busted to north of $20,000 for the new hotness. Machines are measured in total number of hours used.
Q: What personal protective equipment do I need for dry-ice blasting?
A: As with any type of media blasting, protect your eyes and ears and skin. Add some breathing protection, and you’re good to go.
Q: Is dry ice safe for the environment?
A: Yes. The pellets basically turn to a nontoxic gas when they hit the surface. However, there is some cleanup.
Q: Are there downsides to dry-ice cleaning?
A: It’s messy, but it’s no messier than any other media blasting. Unlike sandblasting, there is no abrasive media to clean up. The dry ice turns back to gas, so you’ll just be cleaning up the dust, grime, and rust bits that come off. Also, it’s quite loud. The system runs at around 150 decibels. Pickard said that onlookers quickly get discouraged from hanging out to watch him work.
From theblasting lab
WHAT IS DRY ICE CLEANING?
The process looks a lot like the pressure washer you’d use to clean your car or rinse down your driveway, But dry ice cleaning cleans using solid carbon dioxide (CO2) as the cleaning abrasive, compressed air stream of grain-size pellets (CO2) fired from a spray nozzle. Dry ice cleaning does not use water or aggressive media like sand or glass.
What Makes The Blasting Lab Different?
The Blasting lab has spared no expense for our equipment using state-of-the-art, pattened technology equipment that cost a lot! Our Dry Ice cleaning is designed to give the user complete control. Utilizing Cold Jet’s patented Particle Control System™ (PCS), dry ice is cut dry ice into diamond-shaped particles in the exact dimensions chosen by the operator (0.3mm to 3mm and every size in between), allowing the user to fine-tune cleaning parameters for each unique application.
HOW IT WORKS
- Using compressed air, dry ice cut into a diamond shape pellet and is accelerated through a hose and nozzle at a high velocity.
- The cold temperature of the dry ice diamonds creates a thermal shock that helps break the bond between the substrate and the contaminant.
- When the dry ice diamonds hit the surface, it instantaneously changes from a solid to a gas (CO2), and the volume of the dry ice expands 800 times and causes micro gas explosions that pull the contaminant off of the substrate from the inside out.
- The outcome is a clean surface. The process effectively removes residues, contaminants, dirt, oil, paint, grime, and more without damage to the surface and without the use of water.
DRY ICE Cleaning vs Other Blasting?
- The significantly quicker process leads to increased production time and less downtime.
- Clean equipment while online, eliminating the need for cooldown and disassembly.
- Dry ice cleaning does not produce secondary waste streams, residue, or moisture so you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination.
- Dry ice is a soft media that is non-abrasive and will not harm substrates.
- Easily removes heavy buildup such as oil, bitumen, corroding agents, etc.
- Safely remove surface contaminants such as failed coating, corrosion, soluble salts, chloride, etc.
- Dry ice is non-corrosive and is a food-grade media that is safe for commercial use.
- A more efficient process that reduces time, labor, and resources needed.
Abrasive blasting. Unlike dry ice blasting, abrasive blasting is highly toxic and dangerous for the operator. The operator must wear a protective suit with a self-contained breathing apparatus to avoid exposure to the fumes and dust created during blasting.
Soda blasting. This is a variation of abrasive blasting with the same positive toxic, environmental and conductive qualities, but still abrasive and requiring waste disposal.
Pressure washing. Like dry ice blasting, pressure washing is non-abrasive and not harmful to the environment due to emissions or toxins. In contrast, this method is electrically conductive and requires wastewater disposal.
Solvents/chemicals. Cleaning with chemicals and solvents is another common non-abrasive cleaning method with no electrical conductivity issues. However, the process involves toxic substances and extensive waste removal efforts. These methods also pose risks to the environment.
Hand tools. Hand tools are environmentally safe, don’t use toxic materials, require no special waste considerations, and are not electrically conductive. Abrasiveness is a major drawback of hand tools, as are additional labor requirements.
Dry Ice Cleaning Benefits
Changes and advancements in the technology behind dry ice cleaning, this form of cleaning has become an increasingly practical and cost-effective alternative to traditional blast cleaning methods such as pressure washing, sandblasting, and chemical-based cleaning. Dry ice cleaning is faster and more effective leading to reduced downtime and cost. The process is also dry so that water or solvents don’t damage your equipment and is safe for electrical applications. This not only makes it environmentally safe but also doesn’t require any waste cleanup.
From Iceblask work,
Dry Ice Cleaning is the future of Green Cleaning and restoration. We Service vehicles, heavy machines and industrial equipment.
We Revive surfaces to back to its original state without harming the coating, All without the use of water, No harmful Solvents, and no Secondary Waste.
DRY ICE DEEP CLEANING DETAILING SERVICES
Dry Ice car detailing is a unique process by which we clean critical vehicle parts, safely, without the use of water. The deep cleaning nature of dry ice cleaning technology allows us to restore the look of undercarriage parts, brakes and suspension parts.
Dry ice vehicle detailing is revolutionary as it allows for deep cleaning and restoration of stained metals components. Dry ice car detailing is great for cleaning undercarriage and suspension parts to remove corrosion, stains and old grime that tends to collect under there.
The process is safe and reduces further corrosion due to the lack of water. The dry ice detailing system is great for brakes, rotors and wheels. It’s also very effective for restoring classic vehicles as it reduces collateral damage to other parts that can happen using traditional method.
MODERN TECH FOR DEEP VEHICLE DETAILING
After Drop Off
As services and tasks are performed, we will keep you updated on the progress with pictures.
Enjoy your vehicle
Your vehicle will be protected and easier to maintain for years to come.