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Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

January, 2005

Cleaning Spray Booth Filters

Q. Congrats on your site. I come across it from time to time when trawling the web for various things. Should stop a while and pay more attention. You obviously have vast experience in the field.

My company is the largest yacht painting contractor in Australia. It grew from a one-man (me) band over 30 years or so & as a result we still carry a few 'backyard' traits in our corporate DNA.

Anyhow, we maintain a (self-built) tunnel booth for painting small parts off the yachts. It's a simple cross-draft set-up (It WAS properly engineered incidentally) with intake filter in one end. The other day I happened to notice an employee using high pressure air from the outside to clean the intake filters. My first thought was "this can't be right" and my second was "how come we don't have a procedure for this". Then I thought "How WOULD one clean these filters?" and finally "CAN they be cleaned?" I cannot find any useful reference to this subject anywhere. The filter panels are a thick nonwoven fabric and since the booth runs day & night in an industrial location they do collect a fair bit of dust.

Do you have any suggestions as to how (& IF) they can be cleaned and how often this should be carried out? It's somewhat easier with exhaust filters to determine that they are 'loading up' but less so with intake filter.

Needless to say, I made a point of going to check the parts painted in the booth right after the aforementioned 'cleaning' and found them unacceptably dust contaminated (particularly as they are off a 200' motoryacht worth $100M !).

Any input would be gratefully received.

A. Nice to hear from you all the way from the Southern Hemisphere.

Frankly, I have not seen anyone clean spray booth filters, with the exception of the inexpensive expanded polystyrene filters that are intended to be reused. With the latter you can scrub them clean with a bristle brush, but they are so brittle that they can break quite easily.

For all other filters I have never seen a reference to anyone cleaning them. They are almost always disposed of. To cut the cost of filters, we usually recommend purchasing a two- or three-stage system. The first stage has a more open mesh and captures the larger particles, while the smaller ones are captured by the second stage panel or pocket filter. If you purchase a third stage, it will capture the really small particles <10 microns.

Because stages two and three are expensive (stage three is very much more expensive then the second stage), the goal is to replace the first stage frequently. Stage two is replaced less frequently and the third stage is replaced every 6 months or so, depending on its loading.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph

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