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Thread: Eliminating plastic smell and taste

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Eliminating plastic smell and taste

    I hope that this information comes in useful.

    Plastic containers and tubing are great, but nobody wants the plastic smell or taste in their products. Itís easy to get rid of them from newly manufactured products.

    Soft plastics, unlike rigid plastics (like polycarbonate, Lexan, Nalgene, etc) all outgas compounds like aromatic hydrocarbons, aldehydes, and ketones. All soft plastics contain BPA, which is a chemical that mimics estrogen and is an endocrine disrupter. Plastics labeled as ďBPA FreeĒ are all rigid plastics, and will shatter upon hard impact. What we use for tubing and food-safe containers still contains BPA. Keep that in mind. BPA is a hot topic right now, but itís not necessarily the only hazardous chemical in plastics.

    Your worst enemy is heat. Plastic products are quite stable in low temperatures, but the warmer it gets, the more chemicals it will release. Keep all plastic containers cool and in the shade year round, and get tubing that is light colored and UV protected so that they stay cooler.

    Outgassed chemicals from new soft plastics can be quite strong. Think of that new car smell. That smell comes from plastics. If you have ever tried to clean the inside of your car or truckís windshield, the film that seems almost impossible to remove from the glass is actually the outgassed vapors from your plastic dashboard. Now, imagine that same film on the inside of your plastic containers and tubing. It wonít go away on its own, and it will continue to appear over the lifetime of the plastic product.

    At a bare minimum, rinsing soft plastics with plain water is ok, but the oxidation potential of plain water is insufficient and can take weeks to have any effect on getting rid of chemical surface film without a surfactant or stripping agent such as soap or alcohol.

    Soap has its purpose, but it can leave a residue that doesnít come off some soft plastics easily without high pressure or abrasive action. Soap residue can accumulate on the interior walls of tubing, and flushing a dozen cotton balls through it under pressure is effective, but just very time consuming. Large containers can be pressure washed without too much trouble, but here are some other methods if you want to avoid using soap to get rid of the chemicals that leave a plastic taste or smell.

    Top on my list is ethyl alcohol, but itís expensive, so methyl alcohol in the form of rubbing alcohol works great. With the alcohol method, fill any plastic tubing, fittings, or containers with diluted rubbing alcohol (isopropanol). The alcohol will dissolve chemicals that don't dissolve well in water. The longer your alcohol solution is in contact with the plastic surface, the better it will remove the aromatics. An hour is the bare minimum, and thereís no real benefit beyond a week.

    Next best is an overnight to 3 day flush of hydrogen peroxide followed by a few hours of soaking with a baking soda solution.

    For tubing, itís best to circulate the fluids using a pump. For large containers, just fill them and let them sit for a day or two.

    Either method will require a carbon rinse, which absorbs any residual ketones and neutralizes the other products used to ďstripĒ the plastic of residual chemicals from the manufacturing process.

    The final treatment is the most important step. You can always use just plain water, but including carbon works wonders.
    I prefer rinsing with a solution containing solid carbon. I flush tubing or fill containers with water containing pre-washed hardwood charcoal or the rock-like activated carbon chips found in aquarium supply stores. A little goes a long way. One pound of charcoal is sufficient for 100 gallons of water.

    Pre-washed charcoal is the key. You donít want charcoal powder getting into the cleaning water, because itís chemical nature will be to stick to plastic, and itís very hard to remove. Rinse charcoal with agitation and keep changing the water until your water remains clear before putting it into a container to soak or into the water flushed through tubing. Charcoal dust is non-toxic and could even residually reduce the load of chemicals released from plastic into your liquids over time, but it really looks terrible.

    When in use, minimize heat, and minimize the amount of time fluids remain in contact with your plastic tubing and containers.
    When not in use, just keep plastic equipment cool and sheltered, and when itís time to put it all back into production, give yourself plenty of time to give these items a good soaking and rinse with plenty of fresh water.

  2. #2
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    With apologies upfront, I'm going to have to disagree with much of what you've written. Unfortunately it is not as simple as all "soft" plastics contain BPA and not all "hard" plastics are BPA free. Both rigid and semi-rigid polyethylene (in maple tubing) as well as nylon (most opaque spouts and fittings) contain no BPA and, as long as food-grade virgin polymer is used in the process, these are all food-grade according to the FDA. Polycarbonate (a very rigid plastic) on the other hand, used in many (not all) of the clear maple spouts, does contain BPA. Many highly clear hard plastics (like baby bottles and sports water bottles) formerly contained BPA. Many of those products have been reformulated though, so it's impossible to tell by looking at them alone (unless you look at the code on the bottom -- 1,2,3,4,5,6 generally have no BPA, 7 "may" contain BPA, 3 will very rarely have some). PVC, which can be either hard or soft, typically contains some BPA, which is used as a polymerization inhibitor (so more in soft PVC, less or none in hard PVC).

    Methyl alcohol (wood-alcohol) is not the same as isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Neither are food-grade (but ethanol is ). UV inhibitors in tubing have no effect on temperature of the tubing (you're barking up the wrong end of the light spectrum).

    Activated carbon sold in aquarium stores is most likely NOT food-grade. If an inspector saw it in your sugarhouse, you might be in for a lot of questions for a variety of reasons (which I won't go into). The powdered form is an inhalation hazard, and it can be a PITA to rinse out of plastics, especially if there is any static.

    Bottom line is that modern maple tubing is food-grade, and most people don't flush their tubing, and the plastic odor will be largely dissipated after the first run. It may reappear at the start of the next year a little, but after that, it's gone. I certainly would NOT take a food-grade material (like tubing) and soak it or flush it out with non-food-grade materials (non-food grade alcohols and non-food grade activated charcoal). Rinse with water if you like. Better yet, let the first bit of sap run on the ground if you are very concerned about it.
    Last edited by DrTimPerkins; 03-19-2013 at 02:58 PM.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  3. #3
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    I agree with you sir. Where does a mix of bleach and water stand in this arena? Since we use it to clean food prep areas, hospitals and the list goes on and on.
    Tap'em if ya got'em.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burnt sap View Post
    Where does a mix of bleach and water stand in this arena?
    It is acceptable. Copious rinsing is advised after use. Squirrels love it.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  5. #5
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    With all that said...What is the best way to clean out my tubing for storage at the end of the season? I only have 15 taps and I have a hose fitting that I hook onto the hose, pull the taps and flush hot water through it all from the container end to the taps no longer in trees. I was going to pour some bleach into the hose and then hook up the hot water and flush it all for 10 miutes or so.

    Will the bleach harm anything by my maple trees? Would just flushing with plan hot water for 10 minutes be better?

    After the flush I was going to tape off the ends and pull down the tubing and store in a closed container til next year...
    2012- Can't Remember 1st year...
    2013- 41 taps made 13 Gallons of Syrup
    2014- 20 taps made 5.5 Gallons of Syrup
    2015- 43 Taps made 10 Gallons of Syrup
    2016- 43 Taps...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonMcJr View Post
    What is the best way to clean out my tubing for storage at the end of the season?
    Will the bleach harm anything by my maple trees? Would just flushing with plan hot water for 10 minutes be better?
    Very simply, we don't know if cleaning (with anything) does much beyond making you feel good. With that small a system, flushing it with hot water is fine, or with bleach followed by a good rinse. Don't overdo the bleach though. Chlorine is not good for plants, and the squirrels like the taste. Most larger producers do not take tubing down....it stays in place year-round.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the info. Now as an Organic producer of maple syrup is bleach and water still accepted? In the past we just used water and pumped the lines including the droplines and taps.
    Tap'em if ya got'em.

  8. #8
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    So am I correct in taking out my spouts with plastic line, running hot water through them and then storing them in a 45 gallon plastic drum for the season? I can not get all of the water ( condensation ) out of the tubbing. The few main lines I have I leave up blocking both ends.
    Thanks doc
    Homemade 46 by 26 wood boiler with two polished stainless pans
    Home made sugar shack with Caputo Rooftop
    15 gallon pre-heater tank with a circulating copper pipe stack heater.
    two 45 gallon storage tanks with transfer pumps
    150 taps (buckets)
    Arctic Cat Prowler
    Two big reds with bucket holders to collect the sap

    Good wife to assist me

    Getting sweeter one drop at a time.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burnt sap View Post
    ... as an Organic producer of maple syrup is bleach and water still accepted?
    Since there are no national organic standards for maple, it would depend upon your certifying agency. Check their rules.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Asthepotthickens View Post
    So am I correct in taking out my spouts with plastic line, running hot water through them and then storing them in a 45 gallon plastic drum for the season?
    We do not know the best way to clean plastic tubing systems. That way sounds as good as any other.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

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