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Tech Reference: Choosing the Right Cleaning Wipe

Towels, cloths, and pads (all generally referred to as wipes) differ according to their absorbency, abrasiveness, durability, and the amount of lint they leave behind. Some wipes are ideal for cleaning the exteriors of copiers, printers, and facsimile machines, but not the sensitive lenses, mirrors, and photoreceptors inside these machines, while others are much better suited for cleaning these more sensitive surfaces. Still other wipes are specially designed for picking up toner, dust, and other small particles. In other words, no single wipe is best for every cleaning job.

It is extremely important to know what to look for – and what to avoid – when purchasing wipes for a specific task, because using a wipe for the wrong application can cause parts damage and even machine performance problems, increasing service expenses and the risk of end-user customer dissatisfaction. While wipe preferences vary widely among service technicians, here are some general characteristics to look for when selecting wipes for office equipment exteriors, and also for the lenses, mirrors, and photoreceptors inside these machines, as well as toner spills.

Office Equipment Exteriors

When cleaning copier exteriors, service technicians typically clean the platen glass first, and then use the same wipe to clean the other less sensitive surfaces. Most other office equipment exterior surfaces are designed to withstand frequent contact, and a wide range of wipes can be used to successfully clean them. However, some wipes are better suited for these surfaces than others.

Wipes for office equipment exteriors should be highly absorbent to completely remove contaminants and cleaning solution, and also durable enough for reuse. Cellulose-fiber or paper-based wipes work best. Rayon-based wipes are not the best choice for cleaning office equipment exteriors; although their use will not harm office equipment exteriors, wipes based on rayon alone are simply not absorbent enough to best perform this task. However, wipes based on a rayon/polyester blend do work well, because polyester is highly absorbent.

Lenses, Mirrors, and Photoreceptors

Lenses, mirrors, and photoreceptors are especially susceptible to abrasion, so wipes used to clean their surfaces must be extremely nonabrasive. They must also leave behind very little lint (preferably none), and, since absolute cleanliness is critical, should be low-cost for single use. In addition, they must be very extractable; that is, they must have pores large enough to not only lift up contaminants, but also absorb them beneath the outermost surface of the wipe, preventing them from scratching these sensitive surfaces as the wiping continues. Wipes based on synthetic fibers, such as rayon or polyester, are nonabrasive, extractable, and virtually lint-free, and are highly resistant to tearing. These products work best for cleaning lenses, mirrors, and photoreceptors.

Cotton-based wipes are also nonabrasive, extractable, and exhibit low levels of linting, and can also be used to clean lenses and photoreceptors. They should not be used to clean mirrors, however, because they tear easily on sharp edges, which can cause significant linting and “ripped” fibers that are extremely abrasive.

While cotton-based wipes can be used to clean lenses and photoreceptor surfaces, but not mirrors, paper-based wipes should never be used to clean any of these surfaces. They are generally too abrasive, and also tear easily on sharp edges. Cellulose-based wipes should also be avoided when cleaning lenses, mirrors, or photoreceptor surfaces, because they possess relatively small pores, and are not very extractable. Consequently, contaminants tend to remain on the surface of these wipes, and can scratch the surfaces of mirrors, lenses, or photoreceptors as the wipe moves across them.

Toner Spills

Significant toner spills should first be removed with a service vacuum, then wiped clean with specialized dusting fabric. While other types of wipes may pick up some toner, they leave behind toner smudges that are often difficult to remove. When stretched, specialized dusting fabrics release mineral-based oil to the surface of the cloth. The oil attracts toner particles, while the thick fabric fibers form pockets that effectively “capture” them. These wipes are also excellent for cleaning up small amounts of toner or paper dust from paper cassettes, feed areas, and machine covers and panels. However, oil-impregnated wipes should never come into direct contact with the lenses, mirrors, glass, photoreceptors, paper feed components, or CCDs.