Updated: Aug 5, 2019
If you're in a pinch for a quick clean up or you're buying to stock up your aircraft's cleaning chemicals, today we have more choices than ever. Options range from inexpensive household cleaning products to costly specialty products. However, many of these choices are conveniently found at most local car and hardware stores. These may not only be ineffective for cleaning an aircraft, but they may also cause harm to it!
Nonetheless, finding the correct chemicals for cleaning your aircraft shouldn't cause you a headache — careful consideration to identify your aircraft's particular requirements and restrictions is essential.
1. Ammonia-based Window Cleaners
Windscreens are essential for your aircraft, but proper care is needed to ensure you always have clear visibility out of it. Although perfect for household usage, window cleaners are so damaging to aircraft windscreens that they make my number one on the list of chemicals to never use!
With brands guaranteeing streak-free finishes that are cost-effective, it's easy to see why people buy them, but using non-aviation-approved window cleaners can cause "crazing," or micro-sized cracks on the surface of the windscreen. These cracks are not only an eyesore, but they also tend to severely obscure sightlines and may refract light in unpredictable ways. They end up causing more visibility problems that could leave your windscreen damaged beyond repair, consequently resulting in the need to replace it.
2. Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
While not damaging to your aircraft if used correctly, its popularity as a dependable solvent has been under fire within the last decade due to its extremely hazardous effect on people. These effects have been so adverse that, according to the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), members have reported that long-time use of the solvent has resulted in years of chronic headaches, asthma, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, general malaise and fatigue. These health issues, as well as the availability of effective alternatives, make MEK a chemical you should never use on your aircraft.
3. Chlorine Bleach
It's great for keeping the bathroom clean, but this standard product can become a maintenance nightmare if used in your aircraft's lavatory. The main concern about utilising chlorine bleach is the potential to affect and damage the seals and the vacuum system (if equipped) by stripping the protective layers of these items. Furthermore, if chlorine bleach is mixed with your lavatory's "blue juice," you could be filling your cabin with toxic fumes and could be combining two oxidising agents.
4. Dish Soaps
Not many aircraft owners and operators enjoy cleaning the underside of their aircraft since these areas are generally full of grease, oils and dirt as a result of many takeoffs, landings, and taxing events. However, to remove the built-up mess on an aircraft's belly usually only takes a suitable cleaning agent and some elbow grease to remove. Although ideally suited for degreasing last night's pan, these finely scented products make for poor overall degreasers that can leave behind filmy and soapy residues. Also, many of these products now carry anti-bacterial agents, and perfumes meaning they need to be left where they belong, under the kitchen sink and not on an aircraft.
5. Woodcare Products
If the lemony smell doesn't give it away, wood care products should never be used on an aircraft because they can be counterproductive to your cleaning needs.
Although a great way to shine beautiful woods, wood care products make poor aircraft cleaners thanks to the dimethicone "film former" found in most of these products. These "formers," coupled with the preservatives can leave layers of wax that which over time build up and trap the dirt and oils underneath them. Furthermore, if these layers aren't removed, they can leave an aircraft's paint with a hazy look, which of course isn't ideal.
With an array of chemicals now available today, just knowing these top 5 chemicals you should never use on an aircraft eliminates a few you may commonly see.
If you have any questions about this article or want to discuss proper cleaning maintenance for your aircraft, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.