Press cleaning can be one frigid pill to swallow

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 22, 2003

When the first container arrived on The Tribune's dock last week, several of us gathered around with a childlike curiosity in our eyes.

"Have you opened it yet?" I asked, looking at Henry "Bo" Elliott, our production manager, and a heck of a nice guy.

"Yeah, it's cool, man," Bo answered.

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The "it" was a strange large plastic tub, a crate, actually, nothing too special about that. But lift the lid and "smoke" started pouring out.

The vapor rising out of the opened container looked a little like something one might see rise up out of a freshly opened grave in a horror film.

Inside was a common substance, just a very, very cold one, minus-110 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. The container was filled with 650 pounds of tiny dry ice pellets.

And, after we all quit staring, those tiny frigid pellets were about to give up their lives for the sake of cleanliness.

You see, we rented this really "cool" machine to clean our printing press. It is called a dry ice blaster. And, as its name implies, it uses high-pressure air to shoot the small dry ice pellets out. It works much like a pressure washer, just without the water.

The frigid pellets strike the dirt, dislodging it from its resting place and slinging it into the air where gravity takes over. Now the coolest part of this whole process - and it's only cool to folks like us who had never heard of this before a few months ago - is that because dry ice is just frozen carbon dioxide, it melts upon impact and leaves no residue. For us that's important because our press contains dozens and dozens of rollers, each with at least two bearings. Pressure washing could leave traces of water down deep in the bearings and could potentially ruin them.

As cool as the process is, it has two downfalls that we can see. First, the thing is loud, really loud. We guess the word "blaster" should have warned us enough, but all of us were more than a little surprised when we first turned on the machine. We apologize to our neighbors who have had to suffer through the loud cleaning sessions.

Second, the thing needs some sort of vacuum attachment to suck up all of the gunk it removes. Instead it sort of randomly scatters it about - on the floor, on the walls and on anyone within 20 feet.

The cleaning is part of what has been a yearlong process of getting things revamped and up to date in our pressroom. Thanks to our excellent pressroom staff, including Elliott, Gary Cochran and Joey Smith. And thanks to Michael Faulkner from our mailroom, who has pitched in on the cleaning, too.

When all of the work is completed, we'll share it with our readers. But don't hold your breathe, we've still got tons of stuff to blast.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to