Because it is made from baking soda, ARMEX™ abrasive media is one of the most environmentally friendly cleaners on the market. It is non-caustic, non-toxic and generally disposable in a traditional waste stream. In fact, many biological processes benefit from the presence of sodium bicarbonate, which can serve as a buffer for both acids and alkalis.

Yet there are some cleaning environments that require additional care to avoid unintended impacts. One is blasting around plant life.

A Special Case

Figure 1: Roses, azaleas and lilacs are particularly susceptible to lasting damage from soda blasting dust.Figure 1: Roses, azaleas and lilacs are particularly susceptible to lasting damage from soda blasting dust.Vegetation such as grass, trees and shrubs present a special case in terms of vulnerability to soda blasting. If the fine particulate dust produced by the blasting isn’t properly contained and lands on plants, it interferes with their ability to perform photosynthesis. That phenomenon, by which an organism turns sunlight into fuel for growth, is critical to plant survival.

On the bright side, however, the impact may not be permanent. Plants that appear discolored following soda blasting may recover in time. The effect varies greatly depending on the type of plant involved. Roses, azaleas and lilacs are particularly susceptible to lasting damage. Grass or tree leaves may turn brown, but subsequently recover within four to six months. Some plants, on the other hand, are completely unaffected.

Minimizing Impact

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For best results when soda blasting near vegetation, take steps to ensure containment. These include covering plants with tarps or plastic and avoiding soil contact with liquid run-off. If contact cannot be avoided, there are steps to minimize damage:

· Soak leaves, branches and soil thoroughly before blasting. Use a sprinkler for four to six hours in the expected area of exposure.

· During blasting, continue to rinse leaves and avoid liquid run-off contact with soil.

· After blasting, address any leftover residue with additional leaf and soil soaking. Of particular importance is flushing bicarb away from plant root structures. Note that the amount of post-blasting soaking needed will depend on the level of exposure; the goal is to reduce sodium ion concentration on leaf surfaces and around roots to less than 0.5% in volume.

Soda blasting remains an ideal cleaning method for a variety of industries, particularly when non-destructive cleaning is required. As with any method, however, there are precautions to take to minimize unwanted results. Contact ARMEX™ for technical assistance and more inform