Trends in clean room/wash-down doors and walls

Fabric panels with ‘lites’ allow vision. Such transparency can mean advantages not only in terms of safety, but also daylighting.

High-speed doors
High-speed doors are also a key component for maintaining cleanliness in the food industry. New food industry-specific variations have been developed that meet USDA and FDA standards for clean-up. They are made of smooth polypropylene (PP), which provides higher resistance to acids and bases and a lower water absorption rate than vinyls and urethanes—making them highly resistant to mold and providing superior wash-down durability.

Other food-specific enhancements include:

  • wash-down-rated sealed drive systems and controls;
  • one-piece ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) polyethylene plastic radial headers; and
  • non-corrosive polycarbonates and UHMW side frames, which stand off from the wall to minimize surface-to-surface contact, and reduce pockets where bacteria can grow.

Fabric curtain walls
Walls of fabric curtain also play a key role in maintaining clean conditions in the food industry, where they are increasingly being used for clean applications related to blending, mixing, powder ingredient, raw ingredient, or other production operations.

This is an ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) polyethylene radial lift design for easy wash-down.

While USDA and FDA do not specify clean room regulations in the food industry, they do provide guidelines based on Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) best practices. Thus, designers should seek out products that specifically cite their compatibility with these protocols. One of the most common uses for industrial fabric curtain walls in the food and beverage industry is for the isolation of production lines so they can be cleaned while other lines nearby continue to run at peak efficiency. Not only do these flexible fabric walls allow plant engineers to easily enclose areas and contain overspray from cleaning, but they can also help reduce the potential for cross contamination during production processes.

Some wash-down curtains are constructed of durable, cleanable, anti-microbial vinyl fabric specifically designed for use in operations where compliance with federal food regulations is paramount. To eliminate the potential for harborage concerns, these wall assemblies with manufactured panels with heat-welded or radio-frequency (RF)-welded seams and air- and water-tight panel-to-panel connections should be employed.

Wash-down fabric curtain walls are typically suspended from existing ceiling structures or roof decks. Stainless steel components and hardware allow the walls to hold up to wet and harsh conditions that occur when production equipment is cleaned as part of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) best practices protocol. Should the ability to open and close the wall be needed, heavy-duty stainless steel track and trolley systems can ensure easy operation and durability in the wash-down environment.

Flexibility and potential cost savings are among the main benefits of curtain walls in any application. Since they are not rigid, they can easily be custom-designed to match a facility’s specific needs or work space—and they can be moved or reconfigured if those needs change. When combined with anti-microbial wash-down features, this flexibility allows plant managers to achieve cleanliness protocols and production goals without the cost, permanence, or space requirements of rigid walls. Used in concert with application-specific high-speed roll-up doors, they can provide designers of clean and wash-down areas a dynamic option for enhancing plant efficiency and product integrity.

Jon Schumacher is the director of marketing for Rite-Hite Doors. He has been with the company for 20 years and is the vice-chair of the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA). Schumacher can be reached via e-mail at

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