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Chemical cleaner for copper?

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Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby Bogdan » Thu May 09, 2013 2:31 am

I read somewhere that there is a commercial chemical cleaner for copper that does not erode the copper -
Anyone know the name or source of supply?
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 3:18 am

I've been using unscented dish detergent recently. This is for routine cleaning, not for initial builds. An acid soak brightens things up, but does little if there is greasy shit on the copper, which for me, is the norm. Copper is consumed in the distillation process, in some parts of the still more than others. As hobbyists, I think we have to assume that standard copper thicknesses will last for our intents forever. I suppose there are commercial producers here as well though - this isn't HD after all. If copper is the catalyst that improves spirits, as seems to be common knowledge, then it should be bare copper exposed to the wash/vapour, not it various oxides/carbonates/sulfates (patinas) etc.

One thing I notice through the bubble windows is that the grease from previous distillations is quite hyro/etho-phobic, and that the condensed vapour beads up and does not whet the grease covered copper surfaces. This can't be helping things. Running off fores doesn't seem to clean it off entirely, although the high test running through there at the beginning seems to whet better than the water at the end.....

I would say that a mild detergent wouldn't erode the copper on its own, but it is possible that what it is cleaning off, other than fusel oils, is a corrosion product, and in that case, the copper has already lost some of its bulk material.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby Bogdan » Thu May 09, 2013 5:28 am

Hi Zed
You are correct - A degrease with detergent and a light acid etch will get the copper parts back to doing their chemical scrubbing role but I know there are chemicals which are used in " Clean in place systems" that only attack the build up of oxides and sulphides and leave the copper chemically active. I am not concerned about eating away the copper that much but I dont like using strong the acids that are necessary to pickle the copper quickly.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 3:00 pm

Try some powdered brewers' wash (PBW). You can make a clone with 70% sodium percarbonate (oxyclean free) and 30% sodium metasilicate (imitation TSP, called TSP 90). Use pretty hot water for best performance - 140degF at least. It's a very mild cleaner, but very effective.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby timmyjane » Thu May 09, 2013 5:31 pm

I use citrinox. It has also been recommended to use hot backset.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby Duracell » Fri May 10, 2013 11:53 am

I have a 2" boka noticed my condenser coil wasn't working as good as it used to and my neutral wasn't as neutral as it used to be, so I cleaned my still with a standard solution of StarSan. Soaked the parts overnight and they are as shiny as new. I'm doing a vodka run this weekend, we'll see how it goes.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby jake_leg » Fri May 10, 2013 12:55 pm

Vinegar and citric acid are good because they are non toxic and the copper salts are soluble. Hot concentrated citric will eat scale and tarnish in short order and go blue as it depletes.

For really thick grease (petrolatum flux etc) that I can't reach to scrub I rinse with paint thinners followed by acetone or heads followed by hot soapy water.

I also use homemade PBW from ZZT's recipe and it is very effective for a regular wash.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby New_moonshiner » Mon May 13, 2013 8:30 pm

I discovered this has a effective cleaning effect on copper In my field I use it for cleaning of ice machine coils. few ounces to the gallon seems to work soaked overnight or even a day or two, then SS pad giving it a once over the copper looks New .
http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/NUCALG ... ines-3CFP9
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby brantoken » Tue May 14, 2013 7:19 am

citric acid, works great, I clean my copper mesh with it, I have stainless tubes. In addition, you can passivate stainless , it is used industrially as a more environmentally friendly method. If you add salt you can etch stainless as well. It is handy stuff to have around.
Basically passivation is the same thing as etching you just leave it in longer. So I used citric and salt to etch my stainless tubes as well.
Pretty sure it would speed up the copper cleaning process, I have cleaned my copper mesh with the combination( when I have it mixed up) but I never timed it to notice the difference between citric and citric and salt. Either way it usually clean in 10 to 15 minutes, I usually am working on another part of my set up.

Actually this is why I prefer stainless systems. I can pull my sacrificially material out and clean it easily, look at it and know it it clean. Looking inside tubes/ fittings and structure to check for copper cleanliness sounds like a pain to me. I am lazy what can I say.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby pintoshine » Mon May 20, 2013 9:46 pm

When I am doing decorative work I use Linnox brand water soluble flux to remove the oxide. It is litterally a wipe on/rince off application. Used with 0000 steel wool it makes copper really shiny.
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby jake_leg » Mon May 20, 2013 10:53 pm

@Brantoken citric acid on its own is fine for stainless, but citric + salt = HCl.

From http://www.bssa.org.uk/topics.php?article=30

"The common stainless steel types, 304 and 316 should be considered non-resistant to hydrochloric acid at any concentration and temperature."
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Re: Chemical cleaner for copper?

Postby brantoken » Tue May 21, 2013 6:46 am

Hmm , I guess that is why it etches so well. Interestingly enough I haven't seen a hint of rust on any of my equipment.
I often leave my etched scrubbies in a bucket of clean water sometimes for weeks as well. I am amazed that I haven't seen any problems.
I only add enough salt to get the process started, I wonder if the hcl reacts and is depleted? I etched my stainless condensers as well , no rust as of last check.
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