The cannabis industry presents many very specialized and potentially difficult cleaning challenges, from the laboratory all the way through sophisticated large-scale commercial manufacturing processes. The sticky resins encountered every step along the process are legend. This paper focuses on the critical cleaning of a wide range of hard surfaces from delicate laboratory glassware, processing tools and irrigation lines, to the extraction vessels and clean-in-place (CIP) manufacturing tanks. We use the term critical cleaning to denote situations where the level of cleaning directly impacts the value of the product or results.
Cleaning in the Cannabis Industry
Critically clean processing equipment is vital, whether it be labware, glassware, instrumentation, trimmers or separation and extraction equipment. As indicated by several regulatory bodies including the FDA1, the potency, purity and quality, essential characteristics of any product, rely on critically clean surfaces. Cleaning for cannabis industry processing is in fact more difficult than cleaning for traditional drug manufacturing. Waxy, resin, oily and sticky residues abound and are highly adherent, difficult to emulsify, in other words, just a plain challenge to remove. Strong solvents and harsh chemicals might be a quick answer. However, this approach can be hazardous to workers, require treatment prior to discharge and therefore have significant associated costs. In addition, solvents such as isopropyl alcohol and ethanol can be difficult to obtain with increased demand for microbial and viral disinfection.
So, the more sensible and more efficient approach is to use detergents that are not only effective, but end-user safe, aqueous, free-rinsing, interfering residue-free, biodegradable and without any added dyes, fragrances, brighteners or softeners. In other words, residue-free cleaning eliminates impurities and thereby maintains the product in its most “natural” state.
Typically, aqueous cleaners are formulated to ensure maximum cleaning performance by using key biodegradable ingredients such as surface-active agents (surfactants) as wetting agents. Surfactants allow the cleaning solution to penetrate crevices while getting under soils to allow for removal. In concert with emulsification, chelation, dispersants, and other cleaning mechanisms, aqueous detergents provide multiple ways to get cannabis and other botanical residues reliably removed from equipment and instruments.
Often dilute solutions of an aqueous cleaner effectively remove even worst-case substances off a variety of hard surfaces, including stainless steel, glass and plastic (which we refer to as substrates). In addition, hard surfaces found in cannabis process equipment, irrigation lines, trimmers and flooring are compatible across a range of pH and temperatures. Thus, allowing for flexibility in detergent selection in terms of pH, cleaning conditions, and cleaning methods.
The ability to choose from a wide range of detergents should not be taken to mean any detergent will suffice. Indeed, achieving critically clean results with a water-based detergent requires a good bit of scientific expertise to match the correct detergent formulation to a specific cleaning challenge and substrate. Alconox Inc. provides the necessary technical support to select the most efficient and safest of our large family of products for any cleaning issue. We have a broad range of tried and true formulations covering a wide range of pH and phosphate content in both powdered or liquid detergents.