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How to get the most out of food-grade lubricants

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To meet health and safety legislation, the lubrication solutions used in machinery that handles food and drinks must always be entirely nontoxic. To get the desired result, lubricants used are prohibited from containing certain ingredients that are used in other greases, oils, and fluids to enhance their performance characteristics like corrosion and wear resistance. This legal restriction especially applies to H1 category lubricants, which are employed where they may have direct contact with the beverage or food product. H2 category lubricants have fewer restrictions as they do not encounter products.

Ways to get the most from a food-grade lubricant

Restrictions on ingredients limit how effective lubricants are when used on gears, bearings, chain, and other types of machine components, particularly in severe operating conditions that are common in both food processing and food packaging. For instance, in canning operations, one of the key environmental factors is water washdown.

Machines in the food and beverage industry are frequently cleaned with steam or water which dilutes the lubrication used for machine components. This process is called water washdown. To get the best out of the lubricant in use, maintenance personnel can be instructed to avoid the lubricated areas during cleaning.

However, another option is to select either a synthetic or mineral-based lubricant that has good water resistance. Also, it is important to ensure that the selected lubricant also offers good wear resistance, corrosion resistance, shear stability, and oxidation stability (for extended active service life) by checking the lubricant manufacturer’s guide.

For this reason, companies that manufacture machines for food packaging are constantly seeking out new methods of compensating for the shortcomings of a food grade lubricant alongside ways to boost lubricant performance. As a result, acquiring an expert recommendation from the original equipment manufacturer of any machine in use is always advised.

Performance profiles of synthetic food grade lubricants

The latest synthetic food grade lubricants can offer performance levels akin to conventional synthetic solutions. They are renowned for extended life and being safer and cleaner products. They can help operations use fewer lubricants, minimise waste, extend machine life and reduce downtime. This adds up to improved food safety with lower maintenance costs overall which can help effectively counter the fact that synthetics are typically higher priced products.

To maximise use of any lubricant, operators should always consult their OEM’s recommendation and be mindful of specific challenges onsite such as water washdown.

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