Here’s what you should know to prolong the life of your plant’s membranes.

Water treatment facilities across a variety of industries are often challenged by membrane cleaning. As membranes become fouled from use, they become less effective. Clean membranes allow for the proper flow of water. Keeping membranes clean is key to maintaining an optimal flux rate, which helps ensure the treatment plant is operating effectively.

Treatment plant operators realize the importance of implementing a regular membrane cleaning regimen, but are often challenged to find the right cleaning products. Ideally, they want to find a cleaner that restores membrane flux, which will prolong the life of the membrane, reduce the cleaning frequency needed, be safe for both the membranes and the environment, and prove easy to use. Using the right membrane cleaner is a good economic decision as it minimizes downtime and prolongs membrane life. Because membranes are extremely expensive, most facilities try to keep them operational for as long as possible.

Many membranes are sensitive to harsh chemicals and extreme pH levels. It is important for treatment plant operators to choose cleaners that will not be harmful to the membranes. Many specialty cleaners with mild pH ranges and safe ingredients are formulated to be effective, nonharmful cleaning agents for membranes.

Related: Keeping Tabs

Another consideration in choosing the proper membrane cleaner is the soil type found in the water being treated. Alkaline cleaners dissolve oils and greases; some also contain chelants that can suspend metals and minerals. Citric acid cleaners are excellent at dissolving scale such as calcium carbonate or iron oxide. Hazardous acid cleaners, such as sulfuric, hydrochloric and phosphoric, will serve the same purpose, but citric acid is much safer and has a broader range of filter compatibilities. A citric acid cleaner that also contains surfactants can go after many oils and greases that might be present in addition to the scale. In the food processing industry, soils can contain proteins and starches, which means enzymatic cleaners might be needed. Most foulants are combinations of various soils, so choosing a formulated cleaning product with multifunctional ingredients is usually best.

Because so many variables can exist in choosing the right cleaning product for each facility, it is important for treatment plant operators to work with cleaner manufacturers that can offer technical guidance and provide a variety of products. When selecting a membrane cleaner, find a company that provides a range of proven products, referrals, free technical support, free product samples and on-site assistance.

For more information about membrane cleaning download our free white paper, “Four Membrane Cleaning Profiles," or contact International Products Corporation at

Related: GE’s advanced wastewater treatment technology installed at membrane bioreactor facility in Utah

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