Best Practices: Managing Chemicals in Cold Weather
Most chemicals survive cold weather reasonably well but for some it can be a serious problem. In general, a product that freezes experiences some type of separation or crystal formation. Fortunately, these effects can usually be reversed by agitating or warming the product. This process is challenging for gallon-sized or larger containers due to their weight, but it can be done.

Mediclean Disinfectant Spray Plus
(DSP) is a good example of a product that will only experience temporary freeze damage. As it thaws, the liquid will appear cloudy but DSP’s normal transparency returns when allowed to warm up to room temperature.

The active component in Unsmoke™ Unflame will form crystals when the product is frozen. Warming helps dissolve the crystals but removing all of them may require extra time.

Products made from emulsions - such as many types of floor finishes and sealers, fabric protectors and wood polishes - sometimes separate when exposed to cold temperatures. Again, shake, stir or warm the product and if this does not correct the separation, the chemical is probably permanently damaged.

When products freeze, the container typically bursts because liquid expands when frozen, especially water-based substances. This expansion can break through any container regardless of whether it is made from metal or from plastic. If a container breaks and the product is still frozen and uncontaminated, you can place it in a clean bucket to thaw it. Once thawed (and back to normal), you can transfer the product to a clean, properly labeled container.

Of course, the best practice is to prevent chemicals from freezing by storing them in a heated warehouse or storage area. It doesn't have to be a warm room but should be kept above freezing. And don't forget that products left in vehicles can freeze, too!

It's important to remove any residual chemical product from equipment such as spray bottles, dispensers, foggers, etc. This helps prevent damage caused by the liquid freezing and expanding inside the equipment. Diluted products have water added so they freeze more easily than concentrates – that presents a greater risk to equipment. No one wants to get to a job only to discover that equipment is clogged or broken!

Summary
  • Keep products at above-freezing temperatures (32°F/0°C).
  • Inspect chemicals frequently during cold weather for any freezing damage. If a product does freeze, allow it to thaw slowly and stir contents thoroughly before use. Do not use a chemical that has not returned to a normal appearance after being warmed and stirred.
  • Don't leave the chemicals in a vehicle that might be exposed to freezing temperatures. Bring the chemicals indoors, even if it’s just overnight.
  • Keep all application equipment clean, dry and empty during cold weather, especially if it will be stored in an unheated area.