Keeping it Clean

Keep your system running longer with proper cleaning

Cleaning your conveyor belt is essential in the food industry, but did you know proper cleaning can also extend the life of your belt? Dirt and debris can increase the weight of belts and add unnecessary friction, making it harder for mechanisms to pull the belt. So, what should you do to keep your belt running smoothly?

According to Bryan Hobbs, director of Ashworth Factory Service, "Cleanliness for our purposes is not just a function of food safety; it's a function of equipment reliability." Dirt and debris can increase the weight of belts and add unnecessary friction, making it harder for mechanisms to pull the belt. So, what should you do to keep your belt running smoothly?

Initial cleaning

When your stainless steel or plastic conveyor belt arrives, clean it with mild soap and hot water to remove debris from shipping or installation. We like a mixture of 25% mild dish soap and water applied using a garden pump sprayer. Dishwashing soaps include silicon added to minimize water spots and will also lubricate the belt. After washing, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Pay attention to the inside edge of turn curve belts, as oils here can decrease the driving force and lead to high tension. Do not use lubricants on this portion of the belt.

Never use water on a High Carbon Steel band, such as our CB5 baking band. Water combined with high temperatures can warp the band. For initial cleaning, running the belt through the oven will carbonize any oil and debris picked up during transportation and installation.

A caustic wash may be necessary due to health or other safety requirements. We recommend solutions only be used on the belt for as long as required to meet local regulations. Caustics and hard chemicals can soften the belt supports and the drive components, allowing contamination with abrasive particles and leading to belt damage.

In Spiral Applications and long conveyor belts, Hobbs recommends cleaning the support rails of the system with rags or nonabrasive pads attached to the underside of the belt. "If you think about washing your dishes at home, if you put a little elbow grease into it, you get a lot further than spraying water at it," Hobbs said. Be sure to remove the rag before it reaches the sprockets to avoid getting caught.

Lubricate the Belt

Stainless steel and plastic belts can be lubricated using silicone or other food-grade lubricants lightly sprayed on the belt to polish the surface, prevent wear, and minimize surface contact. The lubricant also acts as a film to separate the surfaces and reduce contact. For carbon steel baking bands, oil should be used to prevent rust.

Ashworth Omni-Grid® Hygiene

Run-in the Belt

Certain belts require a "run-in" period of up to 200 hours. This time is necessary to polish the surfaces and will help prevent black spots by smoothing the surface of the belt. During this time, the belt should be washed and relubricated. Generally, we recommend washing and relubricating belts every 48 running hours. 

Keeping the Belt Clean

Regular cleaning is crucial to maintaining your belt. If deposits build up, they become harder and harder to remove. Pay attention to your product and belt to determine debris buildup. For baking bands, increasing the temperature to carbonize debris is a great way to remove buildup from your belt. However, it is crucial to control the temperature of the belt and not submerge it in water after heating, as both can cause the band to warp.

Besides regular cleaning and lubricating, there are a few more tips that will aid in keeping your belt clean. Installing a strong bar magnet at the terminal rolls or the take-up can collect debris. You can add an air knife to blow debris off the belt, which will attach to the bar magnet. However, according to Hobbs, Air knives should not be used on baking bands, as these can cause the belt to warp.

"It's easy to warp a heating baking band," said Hobbs. "We've even had clients open one end of their oven but not the other while cooling, which warped their baking band."

Plastic belts and any belt that rides on plastic should be grounded correctly to help keep them clean. "In these instances," Hobbs said, "the belt will carry a slight static charge from friction, and if this charge cannot dissipate, it will hold debris to the belt."

In spiral applications, periodically washing the walls, floor, ceiling, coils, and fans with mild soap will remove any debris lodged on the enclosed surface from airborne debris. Hobbs explains, "In some applications, such as freezers, cookers, or steamers, you'll have coils that debris will collect on. When the fan kicks on, it can send this debris back onto your belt, so it's important to keep your surfaces clean in these situations."

Lastly, keep belt tension as low as possible in spiral applications to prevent hard rubbing of the metal surfaces. Low belt tension can be obtained by increasing the overdrive or lubricating the rails (never the cage or inside the edge).

The advice in this article is for general purposes. Proper treatment can vary depending on the belt and material used. For more information on keeping your system up and running smoothly, call Ashworth Factory Service at 1-866-204-1414 to talk to the experts.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a conveyor belt; you don't have to figure it out alone. With over 75 years in the conveyor belt industry and a team of professionals dedicated to providing solutions, Ashworth is here to help. As the only major manufacturer of both metal and plastic conveyor belts, we at Ashworth are experts in helping you decide what belt is the best solution for you. Call us today at 1-800-682-4594 or request a quote on our website.

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