Cleaning Polyurethane Foam On Concrete

Tough Polyurethane Stains: Vapor Abrasive Blasting Does the Trick 

As a field representative for a manufacturer of pressurized surface cleaning equipment, I often encounter challenging cleanup situations on concrete and brick surfaces. One of the more stubborn materials is polyurethane foam, which has gained wide acceptance as an insulation and concrete-repair solution. The high-density foam expands to fill voids and lift sunken concrete, but when spilled onto unintended areas, it can be particularly challenging to remove. Its chemical properties make it difficult to scrape, sand, or remove with chemicals, and its brownish color does not generally blend well with concrete surfaces. 

Using Graco’s EcoQuip 2 Vapor Abrasive® blasting equipment, I’ve found a highly effective solution to handling polyurethane foam spills. Vapor Abrasive blasting systems combine water and abrasive media in a pot under pressure, then inject the mixture into an airstream, providing a precisely controlled system to treat stains resistant to other measures. Because the water is pressurized instead of air, as with wet or dry blasting systems, the operator can set the blast pressure to approximately 40 psi and remove stains without damaging the concrete substrate. Vapor Abrasive blasting also uses little water, hence the name vapor, which avoids slurry messes that accompany wet blasting operations.

On a recent demonstration project in Panama City, Florida, polyurethane foam had leaked onto a concrete pad over a 4-by-20-foot area at SprayPolyParts, a distributor of spray foam equipment and products.  Removal by other methods had proven ineffective. Using a Graco EcoQuip 2 EQp, we removed the stains in less than an hour with vapor blasting.

Before abrasive blasting

After abrasive blasting

Type of Abrasive Media Used

On this project, we used a 40/70 crushed glass abrasive, with approximately 60 pounds of media. The 40/70 represents a blended grit size, with a combination of coarse and fine crushed glass. As a demonstration, I treated a small area, then handed the blast hose to the owner of the company who had no experience in abrasive blasting, but he completed the pad with ease.

The abrasive media residual required no special cleanup, as crushed glass is a non-toxic material. Because a gravel area surrounded the concrete pad, the residual could simply be washed into the adjacent gravel. The crushed glass media has a sand-like texture and does not contain sharp shards of glass.

Beyond Cleaning Polyurethane Stains

Vapor Abrasive blasting can address a variety of removal and restoration situations. For example, on bridges and parking ramps, Vapor Abrasive blasting can remove paint and coatings without damaging the substrate. A wide range of pressures and abrasive media can be used, providing flexibility for numerous applications. The adjustable settings also improve efficiency. Traditional wet blasting equipment is typically on or off, which can decrease production and over-use water and media. Vapor Abrasive blasting uses such little water that often no containment is necessary. Remaining particles and residue can be swept up, leaving virtually no sign of the spill and treatment process.

Although thorough cleaning and minimal dust generation make Vapor Abrasive blasting a natural fit for cleaning up polyurethane foam spills, the Vapor Abrasive blasting equipment has many other uses that make it beneficial to cleaning, prepping surfaces and removing coatings and stains. The environmental and efficiency gains make it an attractive option to public and private agencies facing a wide variety of tough cleanup tasks.

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