Eliminate the Risk of Aerosols




The Dangers of Oil-Based Vacuums Alongside Air Compressors

Posted in Company on February 18, 2020

Two in the series “A Better Understanding of Your Dental Utility Equipment and its Importance,” from the Sales Experts and Product Management teams at Air Techniques – The North American Leader in Dental Air & Vac systems.  

Have you ever wondered if one system could be affecting the other? Machines are self-contained right, so how could one be disturbing the other? The simple answer is yes; your oil-based vacuum can be impairing the function of your air compressor.


Many factors contribute to the oil-based vacuum harming the air compressor. These include how close the two systems are placed beside one another, the plumbing slope, and the seal of the vacuum joints.


The mechanical room of most private practices is usually a small closet or other contained room. Often these rooms are not climate controlled, and so it is recommended to have a heating/air conditioning duct installed within this space.


These confined rooms leave little room to space your air and vacuum systems adequately apart. Compressors compress approximately 12 cubic feet of air for every one cubic foot. This requires them to take-in plenty of ambient air. What’s the harm here? The oil-base vacuum could be expelling oil and oil vapor that you may not see but could be dangerous to your compressor. The oil and oil vapor is sucked directly into the desiccant tower and renders the drying system ineffective.


What are signs that your vacuum is ejecting oil? The most common symptom is oil on the floor near the oil-based system. Other signs to look for include leakage through castings, water in the oil, and the drip rate is not as specified by the manufacturer.


The oil that is then sucked into the desiccant tower will turn the normally chalky white alumina beads to an off-white color similar to that of a weak coffee — contaminating the desiccant beads with the “oil-based vacuum” lubricant.


Activated alumina is a porous adsorbent that works by trapping water molecules within a lattice-like surface. Hitting the desiccant beads with oil is like covering a sponge in plastic wrap, neither will hold water.


What can you do to prevent this contamination of your air compressor and protect the health and safety of your patients, staff, and handpieces? Removing the risk of contaminating the air is the biggest win. Non-lubricated vacuums are a cleaner choice and ultimately provide a healthier alternative than those oil-base models.

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