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Just bought my first column! Very exciting, but it's used so it needs a good cleaning as it has quite a bit of build up inside. 

What's the best way to clean/refurb? Just the usual rinse/caustic/rinse/acid/rinse? I've seen some people recommend scrubbing with steel wool - bad/good idea?

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I'd be careful with the caustic...I've heard horror stories about caustic eating copper so have never used it. We use PBW or Raze in place of the caustic in your above cycle. Curious to hear what everyone else is using for their alkaline cleaner.

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Most use PBW as the caustic, which is a detergent, but is strongly alkaline, so it will act as a buffered caustic. Adam is right, you don't want to use a strong or unbuffered caustic. And since the purpose of the caustic is to remove organics, not etch the copper, an alkaline detergent like PBW is a good choice. We do rinse/PBW/rinse/citric acid/rinse, which is pretty common.

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8 minutes ago, bluestar said:

Most use PBW as the caustic, which is a detergent, but is strongly alkaline, so it will act as a buffered caustic. Adam is right, you don't want to use a strong or unbuffered caustic. And since the purpose of the caustic is to remove organics, not etch the copper, an alkaline detergent like PBW is a good choice. We do rinse/PBW/rinse/citric acid/rinse, which is pretty common.

Perfect, thanks. That's really helpful.

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depends how bad it is.  I use PBW when the copper parts are really worse for the wear, but generally use a strong mix of citric acid keeps the copper clean.  If your pot is copper, I'd guess you have to use PBW (we have a stainless pot with copper in the vapor pathway) but like the other's said, be careful with caustic on copper.

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I've also seen some recommend a small amount of citric acid in water and leave it to soak for 5 - 10 minutes. Not as a regular cleaner, but sparingly for deep cleans. Thoughts?

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Agreed. I run about 1#/gallon at 140F and cycle through my plates and head. Normally takes a couple 10 minute cycles (about 25 minutes per area total) Mostly do it in rotating cycles because the CIP pump moves too much gallonage for the return line to keep up. 

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On ‎8‎/‎9‎/‎2017 at 1:36 PM, No13Distilling said:

................. it has quite a bit of build up inside ................. some people recommend scrubbing with steel wool - bad/good idea?

I suggest copper wool scrubbers for copper parts would be much better than steel wool if you really need to go that hard.

Steel wool will probably leave traces of steel that will turn to rust

Stainless scrubbers if the column parts are stainless

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If its real bad you might want to look into getting a "copper-safe" or "copper inhibited" caustic. Loeffler sells it. It is as aggressive as regular caustic but much safer for the copper. Even so, I only use it once every 6 months or so, followed by rinse, strong citric acid, and rinse again.

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