Conveyor Belt Cleaners: A Guide

Conveyerbelt

The food processing industry depends on conveyor belts. This critical machinery moves raw materials from trucks to storage, transports stored raw materials to production lines, and moves finished goods to packaging.

Originally, conveyor belts carried coal and other heavy-duty products, but in the early 1900s these handy devices made their way to food processing to transfer food products from one area to another.

Conveyor belt systems for food processing evolved to become more efficient and effective. Wooden and metal conveyor belt systems served their purpose but challenged the food industry, which needed belt conveyors that used a food safe material.

In the 1970s, Intralox designed and patented a plastic conveyor belt to solve food safety concerns. The invention revolutionized the food processing industry. Today modular plastic belt and stainless-steel versions minimize sanitation risks.

Material and design innovations do not eliminate the need for conveyor belt cleaning. The potential to collect disease-causing germs during food processing creates a need for regular conveyor belt cleaning to keep food safe.

There are different methods of belt cleaning. The article shares methods of conveyor belt cleaning and sterilizing to keep conveyor systems free of contaminants.

A little Dirt Can Hurt

First, determine how often to clean a food processing conveyor belt.

  • Belt Soil. The faster soil builds up on conveyor belts, the more often cleaning is necessary. The longer the soil remains on the belt, the harder it is to clean. And contamination will spread to other items if companies leave soil untouched.
  • Material Volume. How much volume the conveyor belt carries also impacts cleaning needs. The higher the material volume, the more contaminated the belt becomes. Cleaning should be more frequent in situations where belts get used a lot.
  • Food Types. The type of food carried on conveyor belts also impacts cleaning needs. Sticky foods are more prone to carrybacks than dry goods.

Hygiene and food safety are the best reasons to clean food processing conveyor belts. However, cleaning also provides mechanical advantages. Regular conveyor belt cleaning also can prevent mistracking, material spillage, carrybacks, and slippage to reduce material loss, unplanned downtime, and increase production time.

Types of Conveyor Belts

Common food-grade conveyor belt types include:

  • Flat Belt Conveyors. Food processing facilities most commonly use food-grade conveyor belts. Their smooth, continuous conveyor belt surfaces are easy to clean, making them ideal for food handling.
  • Wire/Plastic Mesh Conveyors. These conveyor systems use food-grade stainless steel or plastic which can withstand high and low temperatures. Products do not stick as easily to mesh. Depending on the application, mesh belt conveyors come in any length, width, or speed.
  • Trough Belt Conveyors. When moving bulk materials long distances, trough designs keep materials in the center.
  • Roller Conveyors. Food package handling applications use stainless steel or powder-coated carbon steel roller conveyors built for specific applications.

Regardless of the type of conveyor, they still must be kept clean.

Conveyor Belt Cleaning Methods

Manufacturers design food-grade belt conveyors for heavy wash downs to achieve optimum sanitation safely and efficiently. There are three different ways to clean conveyor belts. The type of food conveyor and contamination levels determine which one to use.

SPECIAL NOTE: Removal of conveyor belts is a labor-intensive and lengthy process, which reduces efficiency and raises costs

Manual Cleaning

Manual cleaning is labor and time intensive. But it is one way to keep a conveyor belt clean. The tools needed to clean are a water brush, brush cleaner, roller and wash box.

Facility managers can use manual cleaning to:

  • Sweep and brush out debris and carrybacks
  • Scrape off sticky foods and food fragments with a belt scraper
  • Scrub off stains
  • Rinse off debris
  • Wipe and vacuum to remove residue

This method offers both pros and cons.

Pros

  • Scrubbing by hand with the right tools and equipment can accomplish deep cleaning.

Cons

  • Requires training and experience for best results
  • Can be very time consuming increasing cleaning time and labor costs
  • Loss of production efficiency

Semi-Automatic Cleaning

Food processing plants can automate part of the cleaning process to make the cleaning solution more efficient and safer. Tasks that can be automated include:

  • Dry vacuuming
  • Spraying
  • Rinsing

The main tools needed for semi-automatic cleaning include cleaning brushes and a wash box.This method offers a few benefits and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Faster than manual cleaning
  • Produces reliable, consistent results

Cons

  • Requires training and experience for best results
  • Can be very time consuming increasing time to clean and labor costs
  • Loss of production efficiency

 

Fully Automatic Cleaning

Fully automatic conveyor belt cleaning reduces downtime by using a clean-in-place system to keep things clean.

This method works better than semi-automatic and manual cleaning.

Pros

  • Frees staff to perform other work
  • Produces reliable, consistent results
  • Most cost effective as it reduces time to clean and labor costs
  • Increases production efficiency

Guide to Conveyor Belt Cleaners

For most applications, automated cleaning is the best option. Here, Goodway offers three types of PureBelt conveyor belt cleaners to meet the needs of various conveyor belt systems used in food processing. These food-grade conveyor belt cleaners use low moisture, dry steam to deliver high-quality cleaning and sanitation.

PureBelt™ Portable System 

A fully automated system that cleans mesh-style, plastic modular, or metal conveyor belts using dry steam to remove soils and obliterate fats, oils, mold, and bacteria.

The portable design works well on most mesh conveyor belt systems. Programmable dry steam patterns deliver complete control over cleaning and sanitation.

Dry steam technology uses little water, and dries immediately, reducing the need for water pickup. The ultra-low moisture solution works well in dry clean environments such as bakeries, confectionery plants, and snack plants.

PureBelt™ Fixed Brushless Belt Cleaning System

Cleans flat conveyor belts in place in dry clean environments such as bakeries, snack plants, confectionery plants, and industrial settings. The system removes fats, sugars, oils and more from conveyor belt systems.

The secondary conveyor belt cleaner system attaches to the conveyor belt frame and leverages the power of dry steam to clean conveyor belts continuously. Fixed cleaning systems speed production times, decrease downtime, and increase output.

The system works well for contract manufacturers with multiple products and limited production lines. It improves production line flexibility, reduces changeover times, reduces labor times and water usage. When cleaning is complete, belts are dry and ready for sanitation.

Goodway can customize this system to meet exact conveyor belt configurations and applications. Vacuum extraction options are available for better results.

PureBelt™ Portable Brushless Belt Cleaning System

Cleans flat conveyor belts in dry clean environments such as bakeries, snack plants, confectionery plants, fulfillment centers, pharmaceutical plants, and medical device manufacturing facilities.

This cleaning system combines dry steam with vacuum extraction for quick cleaning and sanitation to remove soils, allergens, mold, glaze, oil over spray, bacteria, fats, grimes and soils. The low-moisture dry solution leaves belts dry and ready for sanitation. Its portable design works well for single or multiple line systems.

Next Steps

Keeping food-grade conveyor belt systems free of debris and contamination keeps food safe and reduces downtime. Goodway PureBelt Conveyor Belt Cleaner Systems come in three different types to accommodate a food processing operation’s unique needs. Call a Goodway Industrial expert to discover the best option for your conveyor belt system and food processing operation.

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