ESD Swabs in Sensitive Environments

Combat ESD in Sensitive Environments with the Right Swabs

Controlling electrostatic discharge (ESD) is an important aspect of ensuring the quality of electrical components throughout manufacturing processes. By nature, some electronics are more sensitive to static than others, which is why many manufacturing plants have special environments like cleanrooms for keeping static at the lowest possible levels. While it’s equally important to protect electronics against ESD after manufacturing, such as throughout transport and device assembly procedures, controlling the levels in critical manufacturing environments is the first step to keeping your components intact.

The Risks of ESD

While there are many different types of electronics prone to damage from static exposure, hardware is particularly fragile. Network hardware devices, for instance, can become compromised by being exposed to as little as 100 volts of electricity. The damage is permanent and irreversible, thus rendering your equipment unusable and worthless.

Just how much electricity does it take to produce 100 volts? Put it this way: walking across a carpet can create as many as 35,000 volts. Imagine how many volts could be produced on a daily basis with countless employees moving about in your organization! Thus, minimizing ESD in your critical environments through all means possible is essential to preserving the quality of your components.

Of course, there are other types of electronics which could become damaged by ESD during manufacturing, too. The problem lies in the fact that damage isn’t always noticeable until later, during subsequent testing stages. Therefore, the amount of time and money wasted throughout various in production phases can be significant when components become damaged as a result of ESD. Moreover, the consequences of failed electronics can be devastating depending on the application. While damaged network hardware could cripple your company headquarters’ communications for a day or so, a failed airplane component could have a much more serious, and potentially even deadly, impact.

Ways to Prevent ESD

To keep ESD at the lowest possible levels, you likely have an Electrostatic Discharge Protected Area (EPA) somewhere within your manufacturing plant which could range from a basic work station to a full-blown work space. Within this area, all conductive materials should be grounded to prevent transfer of ESD – this includes humans, too. Your printed circuit boards will also have ground planes to give current a return path.

There are a broad range of tactics you can use to prevent ESD levels within your electronic assembly environment. From anti-static mats to ESD strip shoe covers and conducting wrist straps, organizations use a variety of tools to keep static out of critical work areas. Many organizations must also adhere to specific air quality requirements to prevent humidity levels from dipping too low (or conversely, climbing too high), which can also lead to ESD. Keeping components in anti-static containers until the moment they’re ready to be installed is another way to prevent static. Finally, one less-thought of – yet equally important – way you can control ESD is through choosing the proper type of swabs.

Anti-Static Swabs

Puritan ESD Swab 1621-PF ESD
Puritan ESD Swab 1621-PF ESD

Swabs are used throughout electronic assembly for a number of different purposes. Your employees might use them to apply adhesives, or cleaning small, hard-to-reach places. They also come in handy for surface sampling and validation procedures in cleanroom environments.

If your employees use swabs during any stage of the workflow while handling electronics, it’s advisable to provide them with anti-static swabs to further eliminate ESD. Anti-static swabs have all of the benefits of traditional swabs, allowing you to clean fragile machinery and small components, but do not carry the risk of transmitting static to your electronics.

These swabs are unique in the fact that they feature special shaft materials which are inherently static-free. For instance, many of these swabs’ shafts contain carbon, which is known to eradicate any static buildup. Common shaft materials for anti-static swabs are static dissipative polypropylene and wood (wood swabs are generally not safe for cleanrooms but could still be used in Electrostatic Discharge Protected Areas or elsewhere.

Likewise, the tips are also constructed using materials designed specifically to deter and minimize static discharge. You can choose among ESD microfiber swabs, which are non-linting and safe for use in EPAs, or static dissipative foam swabs. There are also knitted polyester tipped swabs and ESD foam-tipped swabs  with anti-static attributes available to meet each environment’s unique needs.

No matter your specific needs, Harmony Business Supplies has the right anti-static swab for you. By choosing swabs designed to keep ESD at bay, you can reduce the risk of compromising your sensitive products and potentially costing your organization countless dollars and time in damages. To browse through our vast array of anti-static swabs and other products created for sensitive cleanroom environments, take a look at our website. Still not sure which swabs are the right choice for your needs? Feel free to get in touch with one of our knowledgeable product specialists for help.

Harmony Business Supplies

Cleanroom Shoe Covers: 3 Factors to Consider

Cleanroom Shoe Covers 3 Factors to Consider

Having the proper cleanroom shoe covers helps limit the number of contaminants entering your environment. Because operators themselves are the leading source of cleanroom contaminants, outfitting them with the proper disposable attire is critical. Not every environment requires the same type of cleanroom shoe covers, however. Ultimately, the best type for your company will depend on a number of different factors.

To decide which type of shoe covers is best for your cleanroom, take a look at the following key considerations:

Necessary Features 

In order to be considered cleanroom compatible, shoe covers must meet some specific requirements. For instance, basic fabric shoe covers might work for open houses and other general applications, but in cleanrooms, they’re liable to release fibers and compromise your environment. Shoe covers made from non-woven materials, however, are better suited for cleanrooms because they reduce particulate release.

Specifically, spunbound polypropylene is the go-to choice for shoe covers to be used in cleanroom settings. In addition to materials, you’ll also want to consider any other features your shoe covers may need, such as conductive strips. Conductive strip shoe covers are designed to reduce static and will help keep even your most static-sensitive cleanroom devices protected. Water and abrasion resistance are additional features you may need to consider, depending on the type of work performed in your environment.

Comfort & Fit

Donning a pair of shoe covers shouldn’t interrupt an operator’s workflow. Thus, you should seek out shoe covers with a slip-on design to make the process as convenient as possible for employees. It’s also helpful to have shoe covers available in a range of sizes, as your operators likely have different shoe sizes.

Additionally, clunkier shoe styles could make it difficult for operators to wear covers that are too small in size, so it’s always wise to keep larger sizes on hand. That being said, shoe covers that are too large (XL and up) for the wearers with smaller feet may leave too much extra fabric and increase the risk of slips or tears. Take a look at the measurements of the covers when placing your order to make an informed decision before purchasing.

Floor Surface

More than likely, your cleanroom likely has a smooth floor. When coupled with the fabric of shoe covers, smooth floors are notorious for causing slips. To keep your operators safe from slips and falls, you may want to consider shoe covers with added traction. In order to reduce slips, these shoe covers are specially designed with small strips on the sole for gripping the floor better than regular covers, or the entire sole is slip resistant.

They are available in a variety of seizes and are just as safe for use in cleanrooms as other options. Made from spunbound polypropylene, skid-free shoe covers are among the most highly sought-after options for cleanroom operators.

 

Harmony Business Supplies has a broad range of affordable cleanroom shoe covers available to meet your company’s unique needs. You can check out our extensive selection of shoe covers as well as additional disposable apparel online.

The 4 Most Common Cleanroom Contaminators

The 4 Most Common Cleanroom Contaminators

Maintaining a cleanroom environment has unique challenges because it’s constantly being exposed to a number of contaminants. To stabilize your company’s particle count, identifying your leading sources of contamination is critical. While these sources may vary from one organization to the next, the most common contaminators tend to be similar across most industries.

Here, we discuss four of the most widespread culprits of contamination in cleanroom environments, along with strategies for combating each source:

Cleanroom Operators: While they’re likely the most highly-trained on reducing contamination, operators actually tend to be the leading source of it in cleanroom environments. Employees can compromise your particle count by neglecting to wear the required disposable apparel to maintain your cleanroom environment. Consider how an operator who just left the building for their lunch break might contaminate an environment by neglecting to wear the proper shoe covers, face masks, or other protective apparel. Frequent reinforcement of procedures, coupled with availability of necessary disposable resources, can help to prevent contamination by operators.

HVAC Systems: Inadequate air volume or velocity can impact your environment, exposing it to a rising number of particles. Even if your cleanroom is stable, it’s possible that HVAC systems working below capacity could be pulling in particles from nearby non-cleanroom environments and contaminating your critical areas. To prevent HVAC-related contamination, make sure you’re following the prescribed maintenance schedule for your HEPA filters. A general rule of thumb to follow is to have your pre-filters replaced at least twice per year.

Supplies: Wipes, gloves, and other cleanroom supplies can either help or hurt you in controlling contaminants. If you’re not using the proper shoe covers, for example, you could actually be increasing ESD risks instead of limiting them. The same goes for the gloves and wipes you select. Make sure that the supplies you choose are intended for use in your cleanroom level. For instance, wipes made from a polyester/cellulose blend are ideal for cleaning spills in controlled environments, and many are available for environments of varying classes. There are contaminant-reducing gloves designed specifically for cleanrooms. Using cleanroom documentation, such as paper and notepads, intended for use in cleanrooms is also helpful for reduce particle generation.

Cleaning Procedures: Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule is imperative in cleanrooms, and without strict adherence to procedures and schedules, your risk for contamination increases substantially. In addition to scheduling airborne particle counts, regular inspections should also be performed on work surfaces and in critical places. Also, while general cleanings should be performed frequently, you should also be following a schedule of deep cleanses to keep particle and bacterial counts down.

From cleanroom pens to wipes and apparel, Harmony Business Supplies has everything you need to help control contamination in your company’s cleanroom. Check out our extensive selection of particle-reducing products.

ESD Shoe Covers 101

ESD Shoe Covers 101
Skid Resistant Conductive Strip Shoe Covers
Shoe Cover with Conductive Strip to prevent ESD

In many industries, electrostatic discharge (ESD) has the potential to contaminate equipment, products, and environments. One of the most effective ways to prevent ESD is to limit the ways in which it’s created. In cleanroom environments, that starts with grounding your employees. To keep operators grounded and to thwart ESD, employers implement ESD shoe covers, also sometimes referred to as conductive strip shoe covers.

Electrostatic sensitive devices can include computer cards, laser diodes, high-precision resistors, MOSFET transistors which are used to make integrated circuits (IC)s, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). When exposed to ESD, these types of devices may be rendered useless, thus draining your company’s resources. As such, controlling ESD is imperative not only for ensuring safe and productive workflows, but also for extending the lifespan of your devices and staying within budget.


Even when floors are properly grounded, wearing ESD shoe covers is still a good idea. You can never have too many grounding methods. Some employees may feel that wearing ESD covers can be a nuisance, but in reality, it’s a necessary compliance step and should be viewed as a compulsory aspect of working in a cleanroom environment.
While there are many types of shoe covers available, only certain materials are considered static-resistant. For instance, polyurethane shoe covers may work well for general purpose applications, including medical and food processing environments, but a conductive strip must be included on conductive shoe covers to provide ESD grounding.
When choosing ESD shoe covers to meet your company’s needs, there are a few considerations to be mindful of:

  • Material: Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re selecting anti-static materials. A non-woven carbon conductive strip can facilitate grounding and prevent ESD. Choosing latex-free options is also advantageous, as the material is a common allergen.
  • Fit: To accommodate wearers of all shoe sizes, a fit of 16” L by 8” W works well. The sturdy strips ensure a snug fit against the shoe to prevent slipping. Not only does this support comfort, it also thwarts ESD effectively.
  • Slip Resistance: There are both regular sole and skid-resistant options available for ESD shoe covers. The skid-free soles are useful in potentially slippery conditions. In cleanroom environments, where surfaces may be more slippery due to their sanitary nature, it may be beneficial to opt for skid-resistant conductive shoe covers to keep your employees safe.

Conductive shoe covers are made from lightweight material to prevent discomfort. In fact, they’re so comfortable that wearers may wind up forgetting they even have them on! In an environment where impurities simply can’t enter the equation, ESD shoe covers are an effective line of defense for keeping your devices safe. They’ll also limit contamination to help keep your cleanrooms and products immaculate.
Both regular sole and skid-resistant conductive shoe covers come in large quantities to last you a long period of time. To browse ESD shoe cover options, visit Harmony Business Supplies online.