How to Store Greases and Grease Guns
So, regardless of where your grease is stored, such as in a tube, keg or grease gun, how do you keep your grease clean? The best practice to maintain a clean grease gun is to hang it horizontally inside a clean, fireproof cabinet with the plunger disengaged from the tube. Grease guns should be stored horizontally to avoid two potential problems.
First, you don’t want to overexert the spring and plunger, as this will cause the grease gun to wear quicker and change the amount of lubricant it exerts on each pump. Secondly, if there is a tube of grease inside the gun and the base oil begins to bleed out of the thickener, you would prefer that base oil be evenly distributed inside the tube. This will help prevent you from just pumping thickener into your machine.
Once a grease gun is no longer working properly or has become too dirty to clean, throw it away immediately. The longer it stays around the plant, the more likely it will be put back into service. Taking pride in the cleanliness of your lubrication equipment is infectious and puts everyone on notice that you take your job seriously and are dedicated to doing what it takes to keep your lubricants clean and ultimately the machines running reliably.
If you purchase grease in kegs, it is critical to keep the lid on the keg at all times when not refilling a grease gun. Kegs should also be stored inside a clean cabinet. When you refill a grease gun, ensure the plunger and outside of the gun are clean. If they are not, you will be introducing more contaminants into the keg.
Finally, if you buy your grease in tubes, be sure to store them vertically with the removable seal on top and preferably inside the original box in which they were delivered. Having the seal on top helps to prevent oil leakage in the event the base oil separates from the thickener. Grease tubes should be stored inside a clean cabinet as well.
Now that you know how to keep grease clean, how can you make certain that it stays cool and dry while in storage? The simplest answer is to store your cabinets inside a climate-controlled room. It is not enough to simply maintain an air temperature of approximately 70 degrees. You also want to limit the amount of moisture in the room. Two of the top oxidation accelerators are water and heat. By controlling these two factors, you can significantly extend the life of your lubricants.
Just like my moving boxes, all greases are not created equal. It is important to mark the date when your greases were received and when they will expire. The expiration date will vary depending on the thickener. For example, lithium grease is often identified as having a 12-month shelf life, while calcium-complex greases may have a shelf life of just six months – and this is under good storage conditions.
Some people may wonder whether they need to label their greases in storage, since the product names are already on the boxes. The answer is yes, you should. The goal of labeling lubricants in your plant is to have everything and everywhere a lubricant is stored, transported or applied be identified with a label that is unique to that specific lubricant.
How to Handle Grease Guns
Grease guns should be treated with care. Although some may be inexpensive in comparison to other equipment, they are still precision instruments. When calculating how much grease to apply, remember that the amount can be reported in either ounces or grams.
The lubrication technician must convert the number of pumps into volume. Just as not all greases are created equal, the same can be said for grease guns. This goes beyond simply the model and manufacturer. Therefore, the volume per pump must be determined for each individual grease gun.
The best way to calibrate a grease gun is to slowly pump 10 strokes of grease onto a postal scale and then divide the total volume by 10. This will yield the average volume per pump of the grease gun. Each grease gun should also be dedicated to a single grease.
This will significantly reduce the amount of cross-contamination. Be sure to place a label on the grease gun with the date it was calibrated and the average volume dispensed per pump. Grease guns should be calibrated before being placed into service and every 12 months after being put into service.
There are many grease gun options on the market. Choose the ones that will work best for your plant and personnel. Regardless of the model you purchase, each grease gun should be labeled to indicate the lubricant to which it is dedicated. If possible, it also is recommended that the grease gun’s barrel be clear. This will allow you to visually check whether the correct grease tube is in the gun before you apply lubricant to your equipment.