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 Lab & Safety has everything you need to help control contamination in your company’s cleanroom. Check out our extensive selection of particle-reducing products.