Safety Solvent

Safety solvent, trichloroethane (methyl chloroform), is used for general cleaning and grease removal. It is nonflammable under ordinary circumstances, and is used as a replacement for carbon tetrachloride. The use and safety precautions necessary when using chlorinated solvents must be observed. Prolonged use can cause dermatitis on some persons.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)

MEK is also available as a solvent cleaner for metal surfaces and paint stripper for small areas. This is a very active solvent and metal cleaner, with a flashpoint of about 24 °F. It is toxic when inhaled, and safety precautions must be observed during its use. In most instances, it has been replaced with safer to handle and more environmentally friendly cleaning solvents.


Kerosene is mixed with solvent emulsion type cleaners for softening heavy preservative coatings. It is also used for general solvent cleaning, but its use should be followed by a coating or rinse with some other type of protective agent. Kerosene does not evaporate as rapidly as dry cleaning solvent and generally leaves an appreciable film on cleaned surfaces, which may actually be corrosive. Kerosene films may be removed with safety solvent, water emulsion cleaners, or detergent mixtures.

Cleaning Compound for Oxygen Systems

Cleaning compounds for use in the oxygen system are anhydrous (waterless) ethyl alcohol or isopropyl (anti-icing fluid) alcohol. These may be used to clean accessible components of the oxygen system such as crew masks and lines. Fluids should not be put into tanks or regulators.

Do not use any cleaning compounds which may leave an oily film when cleaning oxygen equipment. Instructions of the manufacturer of the oxygen equipment and cleaning compounds must be followed at all times.

Emulsion Cleaners

Solvent and water emulsion compounds are used in general aircraft cleaning. Solvent emulsions are particularly useful in the removal of heavy deposits, such as carbon, grease, oil, or tar. When used in accordance with instructions, these solvent emulsions do not affect good paint coatings or organic finishes.

Water Emulsion Cleaner

Material available under Specification MIL-C-22543A is a water emulsion cleaning compound intended for use on both painted and unpainted aircraft surfaces. This material is also acceptable for cleaning fluorescent painted surfaces and is safe for use on acrylics. However, these properties will vary with the material available, and a sample application should be checked carefully before general uncontrolled use.

Solvent Emulsion Cleaners

One type of solvent emulsion cleaner is nonphenolic and can be safely used on painted surfaces without softening the base paint. Repeated use may soften acrylic nitrocellulose lacquers. It is effective, however, in softening and lifting heavy preservative coatings. Persistent materials should be given a second or third treatment as necessary.

Another type of solvent emulsion cleaner has a phenolic base that is more effective for heavy duty application, but it also tends to soften paint coatings. It must be used with care around rubber, plastics, or other nonmetallic materials. Wear rubber gloves and goggles for protection when working with phenolic base cleaners.

Soaps and Detergent Cleaners

A number of materials are available for mild cleaning use. In this section, some of the more common materials are discussed.

Cleaning Compound, Aircraft Surfaces

Specification MIL-C-5410 Type I and II materials are used in general cleaning of painted and unpainted aircraft surfaces for the removal of light to medium soils, operational films, oils, or greases. They are safe to use on all surfaces, including fabrics, leather, and transparent plastics. Nonglare (flat) finishes should not be cleaned more than necessary and should never be scrubbed with stiff brushes.

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