That compressed air can be used for cleaning is an old common practice because of its popularity in many workplaces.
However, we have to confirm that it is a hazardous habit. Cleaning clothes and your body with compressed airs mean pose yourself and others to fatal accidents. It is best to stop using compressed air for cleaning.
If it is the last resort, you must take these safety regulations into account:
- Compressed air can be used for cleaning as long as it is less than 30 psi
- There must be an effective chip guarding to protect workers from being blown back of chips or dangerous debris
- Noise generated must not exceed the safety limits
- Make sure that you are wearing personal protective equipment for cleaning task by compressed air
Bese Practices to Use Compressed Air for Cleaning Purposes
For your sake and other people’s safety, you should follow these following practices whenever you use air compressors.
Take training courses on using compressed air tools, hearing safety, and personal protective equipment safety, and related regulations (OSHA, HSE, SUVA, etc.)
- Be aware of potential accidents related to compressed air
- Check manual guide carefully before using any air compressor
- Check and maintain the compressors frequently, following proper requirements
- Check the condition of the nozzle, lines, container (tank or can) before using
- Follow PIS ratings and limitations
- Reduce the pressure to below 30 PSI for cleaning purposes. The less, the better
- Always use chip guarding methods and personal protective equipment
- Never point the blower directly at yourself or other people
- Seek safe alternatives to air compressors to complete the cleaning jobs
What Is Compressed Air?
Based on the consumers’ purposes, compressed air can be squeezed into a can or a tank. It is the gas mixture kept under pressure, which is higher than that of the atmosphere.
Scientifically, the compressed air works as a car engine, in which the pistons put the gasoline mixture down, pressurize it to produces power, and store that power in the tank or can underneath.
Once released, the compressed air can produce a significant force to move small to big things.
For household usages, we can find the compressed air in car tires, pools, inflating toys, birthday balloons, or some pneumatic tools. Portable air compressors are also typical for electrical fixtures and cleaning. For example, the air can remove dust and debris from computer components.
The industrial compressors are many times larger than the home air. They are used for powered tools such as automatic engines, paint sprayers, air guns, drills, sanders, and many more.
Here we focus on the use of air compressors as a cleaning tool.
5 Dangers of Using Compressed Air for Cleaning
Air compressors become more popular thanks to its versatile array of tools and potential energy. And yes, the compressed air can be used for cleaning as long as it is less than 30 PSI. However, you must be really careful.
The compressed air is no longer the standard air that you breathe every day. Without proper operation and safety practices, it can turn into a high-pressure air gun or even an explosive bomb.
The compressors might pose you to the threat of bad injuries or even death, especially when it comes to cleaning clothes or your body off dust in a wrong way. Here are some hazardous accidents of using compressed air for cleaning that you should take into consideration.
Though the air compressor is commonly used to remove the dust and small particles out of appliances like PC, laptop, or TV, be careful not to damage your properties.
If the tool exceeds 30 PSI, it will propel dust and small particles at a significantly high speed. As a result, the objects are broken into various moving parts. They can leak into the keyboard/fans or loosen the cables.
Body Injuries from Moving Dust
The fast-moving particles coming out of the compressors can damage not only your sensitive electronics but also harm your body.
Eyesores are the most common issues. People frequently working with compressed air often feel eyelash or sand in their eyes. As the eyes are susceptible, such small particles can cause impaired vision or even blindness.
Your soft skin is another target. On a high capacity, the nozzle is very hot, which might burn your skin and lead to injuries.
Fatal Risks of Aeroembolism
Unfortunately, compressed air is a common cause of aeroembolism.
For cleaning purposes, you often place the air nozzle directly to your skin. In case the power goes beyond 30 PSI, the airflow is strong to form air bubbles and absorb them into your skin and bloodstream. It causes aeroembolism to occur.
Once getting into your circulation system, dangerous bubbles travel to your lungs, heart, or brain and lead to respiratory problems, heart attack, or stroke.
A study revealed that 70-80% of all hearing loss in the industrial workplaces is due to compressed air.
While OSHA set the maximum permissible noise level of 90 dB, many air compressors give off the noise between 110 dB to 140 dB. Such level can rupture an eardrum at a near distance and high frequency. As a result, you might suffer from a serious hearing problem and even deafness.
Even though manufacturers now introduce many compressors that run quieter than before, the noise generated is still annoying and dangerous. Not to mention, in the workplaces, you have to put up with such the noise for hours.
Sooner or later, your hearing will be affected.
Fire or Explosion Accidents
Last year, a firefighter in Ohio died because of a reported explosion in station due to the compressed air cylinder.
Without proper training of operating and maintaining the compressed air, you can put you and other people (your family or your coworkers) under dangerous circumstances such as fire or explosion.
There are three common causes to avoid:
- Rupture: Too much pressure into the vessel goes beyond the capacity of the container. Thus, it ruptures and explodes.
- Overheating: During the operation, the airflow from the nozzle is heating up. Sensitive parts of devices might not be heat-resistant and open a flame.
- Oil leak: The compressed air often runs on oil rather than electricity. Oil is natural to catch fire. The oil fire, if occurs, is very hard to put out. In case of a leaky compressor, stop using the tools. Otherwise, you pose your home or workplace at considerable risk.
OSHA Regulations for Cleaning by Compressed Airs
Dangerous as it is, that compressed air can be used for cleaning is confirmed under the OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the United States.
This organization has addressed the standards of Compressed gas and equipment under the 29 CFR 1910, 29 CFR 1915, 1917, 1918, and 29 CFR 1926 provisions.
E, the regulations of using compressed air for cleaning is governed by the 1910.242.b, in which you must follow some keynotes as below:
Compressed Air can be Used for Cleaning as Long as It is Less than 30 psi Dead-ended
To not pierce your skin or let air bubbles enter your bloodstream, the air pressure contacting directly with your skin must never exceed 120 kPa – equivalent to 30 PSI at the nozzle discharge.
PSI (as known as Pounds per Square Inch) is the standard measurement for pressure equal to the pounds of air exerted on 1-sq-inch area.
According to Glasstone and Dolan study on the effects of direct blast pressure on human, an overpressure of 35-45 PSI might result in 1% fatalities while 55-65 PSI could cause 99% fatalities.
As we have mentioned above, the direct contact with air bubbles can lead to burns, eyesores, aeroembolism, and hearing loss.
Don’t get wrong!
Providing that you keep a distance from the blower and wear protective equipment, you can still use the tool at 40-120 PSI or more to operate air guns and other pneumatic devices.
There Must be an Effective Chip Guarding
If you blow off the dust with the air compressor in close quarters, it is your body (face, eyes, skin, etc.) which is subject to the loose chips and particles. You might hurt other people or properties as well.
As its name suggests, the chip guarding protects you and others nearby from being blown back of flying chips and debris.
Chip shield, screens, or barriers are the most common chip guarding methods.
If you are about to use a chip shield, please make sure that it is lightweight not to add cumbersome to the nozzle. Meanwhile, the materials must be durable polycarbonate to protect operators against fast-moving debris.
Noise Generated Must not Exceed the Safety Limits
A rule of thumb: the higher ratings are, the louder the compressor becomes.
Many users trade-off the noise to the working capacity, especially for industrial uses.
However, you should bear in mind that air compressors cause 70-80% of all hearing loss in the industrial workplaces.
OSHA agrees that compressed air can be used for cleaning as long as it is less than 30 PSI. At that point, noise exposure is acceptable.
To be exact, OSHA requires a permissible exposure limit at workplaces is 90 dB over 8 working hours. The recommended level is 85 dB to reduce occupational noise that causes hearing loss.
Whenever the noise level increases by 5 dB, the working time must be cut in half. For example, when the compressor’s noise level comes up to 100 dB, OSHA only allows 2 hours of exposure.
Personal Protective Equipment is Required
You must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize the exposure to hazardous particles, which causes illnesses and injuries.
About using compressed air for learning, OSHA requires items such as safety glasses, earplugs, muffs, workwear, coveralls, gloves, shoes, respirators, hygiene tools, or even full-body suits.
Make sure PPE tools are made of high-quality and durable materials. They must also be safe in construction and design. Moreover, they should fit comfortably not to prevent your daily tasks.
PPE program is required for you to get trained to use that personal protective equipment:
- Know why and when the PPE is necessary
- Learn the selection of materials, constructions, and design
- Master in proper care, maintenance, and disposal of the PPE
Alternative to Compressed Air in Blowing-off job
Though compressed air can be used for cleaning as long as it is less than 30 PSI and you have invested in proper chip guarding method and personal protective equipment, we still do not recommend using compressed air for cleaning.
Better safe than sorry, you should use Wall-mounted JetBlack instead.
To blow the dust off your cloth and body, we recommend the JetBlack – a safe alternative to the air compressor.
The JetBlack often uses less energy than the compressor, so it emits less noise. The air pressure is safe – only 2 to 4 PSI on average. This is powerful enough to remove the dust while still far below the maximum requirement of OSHA.
Even when the blower contacts directly with your skin, it does not pose any hazard.
More excitingly, the mounting design makes it easy to install the tool at the exit or entry so that the workers can quickly access the JetBlack.
According to OSHA, compressed air can be used for cleaning as long as it is less than 30 PSI, and you stick to regulations of noise level and PPE.
However, compressed air for cleaning in at home and in the workplace can result in disastrous accidents. Only when the compressor is the last resort, you had better go for other alternatives, for example, the mounted jet back.
I am a licensed architect who is passionate about all things home improvement industries, I have been doing DIY painting projects and have developed lots of experience around home improvement over the 10 years.