University of Minnesota
Minnesota Technical Assistance Program


MnTAP Pilots 23 EPA VOC Reduction Projects

Industrial cleaners and degreasers contain volatile organic compounds, which contribute to smog and air pollution, as well as hazardous air pollutants known to cause a variety of health issues in the people who work with them. Small degreasing operations, such as those carried out in automotive and industrial cleaning, are estimated to add 14% of all industrial VOC air pollution in Minnesota.

MnTAP is working to improve Minnesota’s air quality and reduce employee health risk, with grant support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One effort is helping businesses reduce solvents used for degreasing while maintaining effectiveness without increasing costs. To accomplish this, the project team evaluated VOC emissions levels and human and environmental risk factors in the products being used in select facilities, investigated alternatives that would decrease those factors, and tested the new products within the facilities for effectiveness and employee satisfaction. In return for being part of the project, MnTAP supplied a trial amount of the chosen alternative product to encourage continued use and adoption.

What’s in this stuff?

Many common products used in automotive and industrial degreasing operations also contain hazardous air pollutants, chemicals that can cause cancer, respiratory, eye and skin sensitivities and reproductive deficiencies, to name a few issues. Xylene, toluene, ethyl benzene or methanol are some of the most common hazardous air pollutants found in industrial cleaners and degreasers and should be avoided.

How to choose the best product?

Choosing safer industrial cleaning products isn’t easy. Ingredients lists are often incomplete or so small they are illegible. If you can find the list of ingredients, comparing their VOC and HAPs can be complicated, requiring knowledge of chemistry or toxicity. What’s more, ingredients strong enough to clean greasy industrial parts still carry some measure of toxicity, no matter how low their VOC emissions. So how do you choose?

In this special issue on degreasing, we illustrate some success stories, list greener products we’ve tested and provide a tear-off tip sheet on what to look for when evaluating your current product or looking for a safer one.

  • 2015 results - pg 2
  • Ongoing projects - pg 3
  • Degreasing: Finding safer products that work - pgs 4 - 7
    • Staff snapshot: Degreasing Busters - pg 4
    • Water-based cleaners wipe away VOCs - pg 4
    • Better brake cleaner, refillable sprayers offer grand savings at Grandview - pg 5
    • Alternative degreaser saves money, reduces waste - pg 5
    • Clearing the cloud of consumer confusion - pg 6
    • Resources - pg 6
    • What to look for when buying cleaners & degreasers - pg 7
  • Intern program - pg 8
Download PDF
Past Issues

 Twitter Facebook LinkedIn MN Materials Exchange