Sweeping Tip Clipboard

Clean Hopper Screen With A Blowtorch? Maybe, Maybe Not...

This Tip was sent to us by Gary Wiedeman, owner of Maintenance and More, in Missouri:

Here is a way to clean the screen on your sweeper in about 5 minutes without even getting your hands dirty: I burn the debris with a propane torch that is intended to heat up asphalt (one of those small torches like you find at a hardware store just won't do it).

clean the screen on your sweeper

(Note: As a health safety concern, make sure you move your sweeper outside, or that the area you do the burning in is well ventilated.) The brand name of mine is Red Dragon (500,000 BTU, Model #VT3-30C). The unit cost me just under $100 and is available at propane distributors. It hooks up to a standard propane bottle. (Ed. Note: Please read health safety note below... this may not be as good an idea as it seems.)

clean the screen on your sweeper

I use a 20 gallon tank, but it uses so little propane that even the 5 gallon size would work fine. Since it has a handle that is about 4' long and a hose about 8' long, you don't even need to get into the hopper or lift the propane tank. To do the job, first hose down your screen to rinse away the accumulated dirt. I also always wet down the inside of the hopper to take away any possibility of fire. Then it's just a matter of torching off the screen. The flame on my unit extends out to about 10 -14" and is about 5" wide. I just open up the hopper access door and poke the torch down to the screen. It doesn't take long before virtually everything left on the screen is turned to ash. Then I just wash it off one more time, and that's that. Hair was always difficult to remove before I did the cleaning this way, but now it is no problem at all. You'll find this method to be fast and easy. My only caution is to make sure that no material that might still be in the hopper has gotten hot enough to catch. Other than that, it is definitely a slick and easy way to clean a sweeper screen.

screen cleaner

Editor's Note: If you decide to utilize this Tip, we would like to offer some additional cautions. First, be sure to have your sweeper(s) outside and away from any flammables when you do the burning, and have a fire extinguisher handy. This is very important from a health safety standpoint, as well as one concerning the possibility of fire. And remember that if you get the screen burning too hot you could actually char the paint off the roof of the hopper! If you are at all in doubt about the safety of the procedure, talk to your local fire department for any other pertinent safeguards.


The following was sent from a reader of this Tip. The health safety concern the reader raised is posted below in its entirety:

I am writing to amend the disclaimer at the end of this Tip... I in the past years have used this 'burn-it' method of screen cleaning, until I became aware of a hidden danger involved. While visiting my doctor to have a wart removed via laser surgery, the procedure smelled similar to the 'burn-it' method I had been using on my 'hair-blanket' hopper screens, and I commented as such.

He proceeded to warn me of the possible dangers involved in using this method. He commented that the fumes of burning flesh had been shown to cause doctors using laser surgery to contract lung cancer due to the off-gassing of the burnt flesh. He also 'hipped me' to the fact that burning hair has the same carcinogen content that skin does, as they are both skin cells, and warned me of the dangers of continuing this method of screen burnout without modification...!

The doctor also suggested performing this activity outdoors to dissipate the concentration (ppm) of these potentially deadly gases, or use a vacuum to collect or 'move' these gases to an outside area.

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