Should recycled solvents smell fishy?

by brblog on July 9, 2019

Q: I’ve heard some recycled solvents smell fishy. Is there a way to avoid that?

Bad smelling solvent is an unpleasant problem but it’s easy to avoid.

Waste solvent contains dissolved protein. During the recycling process protein get stuck to the sides of your boiler. Over time it builds up and starts to denature (decompose). It smells a lot like rotten fish.


Don’t worry, it’s easy to avoid.

The boiler is a lot like a cooking pan. When you see that it is dirty, you simply clean it.

Hand Wash

A boiler should always include a port so that you (or your service engineer) can see inside. Just have a quick peak once a year. If the boiler doesn’t look nice and clean, it’s time to give it a quick scrub.

Service Engineer with Boiler

You (or your service engineer) can give the boiler a quick scrub with the cleaning brush that came with the recycler. It takes about the same time that cleaning a cooking pan takes, just a few minutes.

Boiler with Brush

If scrubbing the boiler seems like too much of a chore, you can also soak the boiler overnight with a solution of household oxyclean or similar cleaners that contains sodium percarobate. This also does a great job of removing the protein build up. Just give a quick rinse with used alcohol when you are done and you are ready to recycle again.


What to do.

Choose a recycler boiler that does not have corners and that has the drain at the very, very bottom of the boiler.

Funnel Comparison

As you can imagine, corners are a difficult place to clean and residue will build up there first. If the drain isn’t well placed, the boiler won’t drain completely, leading to even more build up. Choose a boiler design that looks like a cylinder. It will stay clean longer and be easier to service.

Choose a recycler that lets you see inside the boiler. You don’t need to see inside often but once a year you will want to see what is going on inside.

What not to do!

Never use bleach to clean a boiler. Stainless steel boilers are not compatible with bleach. It can damage the metal.

Don’t use strong acids or bases for cleaning. Nobody wants to handle corrosive chemicals and it is completely unnecessary.

Don’t use additives to cover up a bad smell. Stop the smell at the source. Restore your boiler to its original clean state.

Additives to Cover Bad Smell

Posted in Histology Solvent Recycling, solvent recovery, Solvent Recycling

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