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Is it Time to Replace nPB in Your Cleaning Operations?
April 06, 2021

nPB (n-Propyl Bromide) is widely used as a reliable and effective industrial cleaner since the 1990’s. But now it is under scrutiny by OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists). In 2014, the allowable exposure limit of nPB went from 10 ppm (parts per million) down to just 0.1 PPM. In 2018, the EPA added nPB to its TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) list. In August, 2020 the EPA reported that nPB presents unreasonable risk to human health and should be restricted as a cleaner or degreaser. This report is just the beginning for the EPA. Many experts agree, a complete EPA ban on nPB will likely be here in the U.S. by the end of 2023. nPB is already restricted in Europe as of July 2020. And many other countries are likely to follow soon.

Will the Replacement Still Clean?

Now is the time to replace nPB with better cleaning fluids that are less dangerous for workers and the environment. The good news is MicroCare offers nPB replacements that clean just as well, if not better than nPB inside a modern vapor degreaser. The nPB replacements still provide consistent cleaning quality, cost savings and better throughput. But they are lower toxicity, making them safer for people and the planet. 

The MicroCare nPB replacements are analyzed and tested in our MicroCare Critical Cleaning Lab to ensure the cleaning results are reliable, consistent, and just as good as nPB. In most instances, cleaning efficiencies usually improved, even on hard to remove polar and non-polar soils. Modern nPB replacements are excellent at removing a variety of soils including machining oil, grease, lubricants and polishing pastes. Also, fluxes, adhesives, wax, marking inks and fingerprints.

The MicroCare nPB replacements have a high solvency that dissolves contaminants, yet won’t harm delicate parts materials or substrates. The cleaning strength of a cleaning fluid is measured by its Kb value. Kb values range from very mild to extremely aggressive. A mild, plastic-safe cleaner made with alcohol might have a Kb value of around 10. nPB has an Kb value of 130. This means nPB is strong enough that it might damage soft plastics. On the other hand, most modern nPB replacements feature a Kb value of about 100. This makes them safer to use on a variety of parts.  Especially those made up of mixed materials including ceramic, metal and plastic.

MicroCare nPB Replacements Save Time and Money

MicroCare nPB replacements typically have a lower boiling point and heat of vaporization than nPB. They need less energy to heat the cleaning fluid. This translates to an overall energy cost savings. Plus, the replacement cleaning fluids boil at a lower temperature than nPB. Parts come out of the vapor degreaser completely dry and cool enough to handle. There’s no extra drying step or wasted time waiting for parts to cool down. 

Easier to Maintain

 Except under the most acute circumstances, such as if exposed to a strong acid or base, or exposed to high heat, nPB replacements don’t "turn acid" like nPB. They don’t need chemical stabilizers or scavengers or the weekly acid acceptance tests like nPB. 

Better for the Planet

Some of the MicroCare nPB replacements are made with more environmentally-friendly HFO (Hydrofluoro-olefin) chemistry. They typically have a zero ODP (Ozone Depleting Potential) and a GWP (Global Warming Potential) under 10, making them environmentally-sustainable nPB options.  They are also not considered a HAP (Hazardous Air Pollutant). This usually makes them exempt from state and local HAP testing, documentation and reporting obligations.

Better for Operators

The MicroCare nPB alternatives are also nonflammable. This appeals to OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) officers. Plus, most nPB replacements have an ACGIH long-term exposure limit of about 200 parts per million (with a time-weighted average of 8 hours). That is 2,000 times better than nPB!  Most also have a lighter smell than nPB, making the work area better to be in.

Changing is Easy

In most cases, MicroCare nPB replacements use your existing equipment. After emptying and cleaning the vapor degreaser, the replacement "drops in" to your machinery without a major change to your cleaning process. That means you won’t have to no re-training operators on an entirely new process.

Plan Your Switch Now

A complete nPB ban will most likely happen in the U.S. soon. Start your switch now and replace the nPB in your vapor degreaser with a better alternative. It is safer for your operators and less hazardous to the planet. Plus, by changing now, you won’t be caught short and scrambling for a replacement when a ban surely goes into effect. You can get started by scheduling a consultation with a MicroCare Application Specialist. They can guide you through the entire transition process help you find a replacement fluid that is already field-tested with proven cleaning performance.  

MicroCare chemists can also perform cleaning trials on your parts and soils to verify the new cleaning fluid is the right fit for you - before you make the spend. MicroCare gives ongoing training and support to make your transition away from nPB a healthy success for the planet, your workers and your bottom line. 

To learn more, download our free nPB Replacements eGuide.