Regular cleanroom maintenance is essential for preserving the integrity of a controlled environment and minimizing the presence of airborne contaminants.
Regular cleanroom maintenance is essential for preserving the integrity of a controlled environment and minimizing the presence of airborne contaminants. Softwall cleanrooms, in particular, require frequent maintenance due to the flexible nature of the vinyl curtains that make up the walls.
To ensure the effectiveness of a softwall cleanroom, there are several best practices that should be followed during maintenance, which can include:
- Using cleanroom-specific cleaning agents
- Using only non-abrasive cleaning tools
- Cleaning from top down to prevent contamination
- Daily cleaning of floors, walls, and surfaces
- Regular deep cleaning of entire space
- Wiping down surfaces and sweep/mop floors with cleanroom-approved cleaning solutions during daily cleaning
- Moving all equipment during deep cleaning to allow for thorough cleaning of floors and walls
- Wiping down all surfaces and curtains with a disinfectant during deep cleaning
There are some common mistakes to avoid during softwall cleanroom maintenance. These include:
- Using harsh cleaning agents that can damage the vinyl curtains
- Neglecting to clean hard-to-reach areas
- Failing to properly document cleaning procedures and schedules
Cleanrooms are crucial for industries such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, and biotechnology, where even the tiniest particle or microbe can have disastrous consequences.
Methods of Cleanroom Cleaning
There are three primary methods of cleanroom cleaning: dry cleaning, wet cleaning, and gas-phase cleaning. Dry cleaning involves using vacuum cleaners or compressed air to remove dust and debris. Wet cleaning uses cleaning agents and solvents to scrub down surfaces. Gas-phase cleaning involves using chemicals in gas form to eliminate contaminants from surfaces.
Cleaning Agents and Materials
The cleaning agents and materials used in softwall cleanrooms must be non-abrasive and low in particulates. Commonly used cleaning agents include isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, whereas specific microbial-killing agents may be required in certain industries. Closely follow each agent’s recommended contact time to guarantee its effectiveness. Soft cloths, mops, and disposable wipes are also necessary for effective cleaning and should be cleanroom certified to avoid leaving behind debris.
Cleaning Techniques for Softwall Cleanrooms
Before cleaning, it is crucial to disconnect all electrical equipment and remove loose objects to prevent the spread of dust and debris. Softwall cleanrooms should be cleaned from the top down to prevent dirt and dust from falling onto clean surfaces. It is also important to clean in a unidirectional motion rather than circular to prevent the spread of particles. Develop a cleaning protocol to ensure proper cleaning techniques are always followed.
Safety Measures During Cleanroom Cleaning
Cleaning softwall cleanrooms can expose workers to potentially hazardous cleaning agents, which can cause skin irritation and respiratory issues. Thus, it is essential to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, and masks during cleaning. It is also vital to ensure that the cleaning agents used are compatible with the softwall material to prevent damage.
Common types of cleanroom equipment include air showers, laminar flow workstations, high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, pass-through chambers, and ultrasonic cleaners.
- Air showers are designed to remove surface particles from personnel or equipment before entering the cleanroom.
- Laminar flow workstations provide a controlled and sterile environment for sample preparation or medical procedures.
- HEPA filters are used to remove particles from the air, help maintain laminar flow, and are essential components of any cleanroom.
- Pass-through chambers allow for the transfer of materials without contaminating the cleanroom environment.
- Ultrasonic cleaners are used to clean small parts or instruments before they enter the cleanroom.
Regular calibration and inspection will help determine when to replace cleanroom equipment, along with the type of equipment and the industry requirements. Some equipment, such as HEPA filters, may have a predetermined lifespan or require replacement when they no longer meet industry standards. Other equipment may need to be replaced when it no longer functions correctly or cannot be adequately cleaned and disinfected.
Cleanroom sterilization is the process of eliminating or reducing the number of viable microorganisms and particles in the cleanroom environment to an acceptable level. Sterilization is a critical aspect of maintaining a cleanroom environment, particularly in industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotech, and medical devices manufacturing.
- Chemical sterilization involves using chemicals like ethylene oxide, hydrogen peroxide, or peracetic acid to sterilize equipment, surfaces, and materials.
- Radiation sterilization uses gamma rays, X-rays, or electron beams to destroy microorganisms.
- Steam sterilization, also known as autoclaving, uses high-pressure steam to kill microorganisms.
Sterilization best practices for softwall cleanrooms include maintaining strict control over the environment and ensuring that all equipment and materials are appropriately sterilized before entering the cleanroom. Sterilization should be performed in a designated area, and personnel should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Common mistakes to avoid during sterilization include using the wrong sterilization method for the equipment or material being sterilized, improper handling of sterile equipment or materials, and not properly maintaining sterilization equipment. Overloading autoclaves, using expired or damaged PPE, and not following manufacturer instructions for sterilization equipment are also common errors.
Cleanroom contamination, both particle and microbial, can result in product recalls, equipment failures, and compromised research. Particulate contamination refers to the presence of unwanted particles in the cleanroom, such as dust, hair, and fibers, whereas microbial contamination refers to the presence of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the cleanroom environment.
To prevent from contamination and ensure a well-operating cleanroom environment, develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) that includes the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining strict control over the environment, and regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, equipment, and materials. Contamination prevention should start at the design stage of the cleanroom (correct pressure differentials, HEPA filter installation) and continue throughout the operational phase.
The importance of monitoring contamination levels in cleanrooms cannot be overstated. Monitoring is essential to ensure that the cleanroom environment meets established standards and that corrective action can be taken when necessary. Various methods of monitoring contamination levels include air and surface sampling, particle counting, and microbial monitoring.
If you are looking for a softwall cleanroom, the Instant Cleanroom is a revolutionary softwall cleanroom that uses high pressure beams as supports as opposed to flexible, temperamental metal structures. Not only is the inflatable design faster and more convenient than metal frames, the curtains can be easily replaced when they become contaminated or worn down.