Cleanrooms offer the highly specialized environment needed for certain manufacturing, assembly, medical and other industrial applications. While they were historically only used by NASA or in circuit board production, cleanrooms have become much more common in a variety of industries, including aerospace, pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, nutraceuticals and medical devices.
Cleanrooms are usually built to exacting specifications that consider air flow, air pressure, temperature, equipment and fixtures. With all this said, maintaining a cleanroom is often the bigger challenge.
The greatest threat to cleanrooms is airborne particles that cause contamination. Common contaminants are skin particles, fibers, dust, grease bacteria, viruses, metals, fungi, ions and film. While cleanroom processes and procedures are usually established to regulate the environment, contamination can often come from secondary factors that aren’t always considered or have the potential to be overlooked.
Here are 8 everyday ways to help keep your cleanroom clean:
Tip #1: Maintain the Right Temperature and Humidity
Most cleanrooms require a relatively humidity level ranging from 30% - 40% RH with an air temperature of 21°C (or 69.8°F) + 2°C. This is the ideal environment to avoid many negative repercussions such as bacteria growth, corrosion and static electricity. It also is ideal for employee comfort, which is important. If employees sweat or shiver, they release more particles into the environment.
Tip #2: Use Cleanroom-Compliant Office Supplies
Some of the most overlooked sources of contamination are common office supplies, such as mouse pads, notebooks, sticky notes, paper, pens and ID badge holders. You can purchase cleanroom-friendly versions of most supplies. It’s important that these materials remain in your cleanroom. Even moving a pen from an office environment to a cleanroom can cause contamination. It’s also best not to post anything on the walls in cleanrooms, such as sticky notes which can shed particles.
Tip #3: Consider Supply Packaging
While the materials you regularly use in your cleanroom may be compliant, the packaging isn’t always. For example, if you order nitrile cleaning gloves that are cleanroom-compliant, the cardboard box that dispenses them probably isn’t, because it could release particulate into the air. Same goes for other cleanroom materials you stock.
Tip #4: Have the Right Cleaning Materials
Wipes, swabs and other cleaning supplies should be rated for cleanroom use for your specific ISO Class. Simply using a paper towel or the wrong type of cloth can quickly compromise a cleanroom. And be sure cleaning equipment such as brooms and mops meet the requirements too. You’ll want to keep these supplies in your cleanroom and not use them elsewhere in the facility.
Tip #5: Limit Unnecessary Talk
Each spoken word spoken emits particles of saliva. Even though those in cleanrooms often wear masks, they aren’t always 100% effective. By speaking 100 fewer words, such as during brief conversation, you can avoid emitting approximately 250 extra particles. While talking is often necessary to perform tasks, avoiding unnecessary speaking can help avoid possible contamination.
Tip #6: Avoid Outside Personal Products
While procedures often cover standards for personal hygiene, it’s important that cleanroom workers avoid make-up, perfume and jewelry which are potential contaminants. Items that are often commonplace in the workplace, such as food, beverages, candy or gum should not be brought into the cleanroom.
Tip #7: Consider What to Do about Smoking
It’s best to have any smoking areas at least 100 feet from your cleanroom entrances. And some cleanroom documentation requires that employees take a complete shower after smoking and before entering the cleanroom due to the potential of contamination from smoking.
Tip #8: Don Protective Gear from Top to Bottom
Because gravity pulls particulates downward, it’s best to dress in protective gear from top to bottom. This will help prevent contaminants from falling onto clean areas of the garment.
Most contaminants or particles found in cleanrooms come from the people who enter it. But with the proper precautions that consider everyday objects and behavior, you can help protect your critical cleanroom environment.