Types of Cleaning Operations

The principal areas of aircraft cabins which may need periodic cleaning are:

  • Aircraft passenger cabin areas (seats, carpets, side panels, headliners, overhead racks, curtains, ash trays, windows, doors, decorative panels of plastic, wood or similar materials).
  • Aircraft flight station areas (similar materials to those found in passenger cabin areas plus instrument panels, control pedestals, glare shields, flooring materials, metallic surfaces of instruments and flight control equipment, electrical cables and contacts, and so forth).
  • Lavatories and buffets (similar materials to those found in passenger cabin areas plus toilet facilities, metal fixtures and trim, trash containers, cabinets, wash and sink basins, mirrors, ovens, and so forth).

Nonflammable Aircraft Cabin Cleaning Agents and Solvents

  • Detergents and soaps. These have widespread application for most aircraft cleaning operations involving fabrics, headliners, rugs, windows, and similar surfaces that are not damageable by water solutions since they are colorfast and nonshrinkable. Care is frequently needed to prevent leaching of water-soluble fire retardant salts which may have been used to treat such materials in order to reduce their flame spread characteristics. Allowing water laced with fire retardant salts to come in contact with the aluminum framework of seats and seat rails can induce corrosion. Be careful to ensure only the necessary amount of water is applied to the seat materials when cleaning.
  • Alkaline cleaners. Most of these agents are water soluble and thus have no fire hazard properties. They can be used on fabrics, headliners, rugs, and similar surfaces in the same manner as detergent and soap solutions with only minor added limitations resulting from their inherent caustic character. This may increase their efficiency as cleaning agents but results in somewhat greater deteriorating effects on certain fabrics and plastics.
  • Acid solutions. A number of proprietary acid solutions are available for use as cleaning agents. They are normally mild solutions designed primarily to remove carbon smut or corrosive stains. As water-based solutions, they have no flash point but may require more careful and judicious use not only to prevent damage to fabrics, plastics, or other surfaces but also to protect the skin and clothing of those using the materials.
  • Deodorizing or disinfecting agents. A number of proprietary agents useful for aircraft cabin deodorizing or disinfecting are nonflammable. Most of these are designed for spray application (aerosol type) and have a nonflammable pressurizing agent, but it is best to check this carefully as some may contain a flammable compressed gas for pressurization.
  • Abrasives. Some proprietary nonflammable mild abrasive materials are available for rejuvenating painted or polished surfaces. They present no fire hazard.
  • Dry cleaning agents. Perchlorethylene and trichlorethylene as used at ambient temperatures are examples of nonflammable dry cleaning agents. These materials do have a toxicity hazard requiring care in their use, and in some locations, due to environmental laws, their use may be prohibited or severely restricted. In the same way, watersoluble agents can be detrimental. Fire retardant treated materials may be adversely affected by the application of these dry cleaning agents.

Flammable and Combustible Agents

  • High flash point solvents. Specially refined petroleum products, first developed as “Stoddard solvent" but now sold under a variety of trade names by different companies, have solvent properties approximating gasoline but have fire hazard properties similar to those of kerosene as commonly used (not heated). Most of these are stable products having a flash point from 100 °F to 140 °F with a comparatively low degree of toxicity.
  • Low flash point solvents. Class I (flash point at below 100 °F) flammable liquids should not be used for aircraft cleaning or refurbishing. Common materials falling into this “class" are acetone, aviation gasoline, methyl ethyl ketone, naphtha, and toluol. In cases where it is absolutely necessary to use a flammable liquid, use high flash point liquids (those having a flash point of 100 °F or more).
  • Mixed liquids. Some commercial solvents are mixtures of liquids with differing rates of evaporation, such as a mixture of one of the various naphthas and a chlorinated material. The different rates of evaporation may present problems from both the toxicity and fire hazard viewpoints. Such mixtures should not be used unless they are stored and handled with full knowledge of these hazards and appropriate precautions taken.

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