Which Cleaners Can be Used in California?

California has some of the most restrictive air quality regulations in the world. Not only are they different from the rest of the U.S., they vary from city to city within California. It’s a challenge keeping up with it all.

We use several sources of regulatory information. One is the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) which has the challenge to promote and protect public health and the environment through the reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering the effects of such reductions upon the economy of the state. Another good source is a regional regulatory body, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (“SCAQMD”), which has promulgated some of the most restrictive environmental regulations in the nation.

What’s the Problem?

The principle issue the regulators are working on is low-altitude smog. Much of the smog is caused by emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (“VOC”). These chemicals react with sunlight to cause the brown haze for which California is so rightly famous. While car exhausts and power plants are far-and-away the biggest cause of VOC emissions, there is no doubt that organic solvents like IPA alcohol also contribute to the problem. As an industry, we have to do our part to help fix things.

Here’s an important point: under the policies of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, facilities are allowed to use VOC solvents as long as the quantity stays below certain thresholds. If you must use VOC solvents, use them with the TriggerGrip™ dispensing system (#MCC-ESD). This will dramatically reduce solvent consumption and help your facility stay below the emissions thresholds.

The air quality in cities can be very poor, mostly due to VOC emissions in the atmosphere. This photo is Mexico City in 2010.

The air quality in cities can be very poor, mostly due to VOC emissions in the atmosphere. This photo is Mexico City in 2010.

Low VOC Solvents

Probably the best choice for users in California is the new VOC-Free Flux Remover – UltraClean™ (#MCC-VOC). This is a new cleaner is based on a “siloxanes,” a material that is 100% VOC exempt and listed as the #1 Preferred Solvent Choice of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Available exclusively through MicroCare, the solvent has superior toxicity ratings. A medium-strength defluxer, it also is very good on many adhesives and silicone conformal coatings. It is flammable, however, so it must be used with the same caution one would handle isopropyl alcohol.

The No-Clean Flux Remover – VeriClean™ is a another good choice for California. Also based on siloxanes, this cleaner is 93% VOC-exempt, which is excellent (but may no longer be good enough in certain locations). The solvent has superior toxicity ratings and is highly effective on most rosin-based and no-clean fluxes. It is flammable, so it must be used with caution.

Another excellent choice is the Universal Contact Cleaner. This nonflammable cleaner is based on proprietary HFO solvent technologies and is very gentle on the environment — ozone-safe, ultra-low global warming and zero VOCs. It is an excellent, safe and affordable aerosol light degreaser and medium-strength defluxer.

Lastly, for stencil cleaning we recommend the Aqueous Stencil Cleaner. This product replaces alcohol for stencil cleaning, eliminating a huge source of VOC emissions. This cleaner is water-based and with only a very small percentage of organics, so it offers excellent cleaning results with very low VOC emissions. This is a much, much better choice for stencil cleaning than IPA.

Local regulations vary around the globe. Every engineer should become familiar with the regulations which apply in your locality, and select the best solvent within those constraints.