Some three decades ago, screen printers had few options for cleaning solutions besides petrochemicals. Still, many workers were suffering long-term health complications as a result of using chemical cleaners — particularly xylene-based products.
Frank Sliney, co-founder of Franmar Chemicals with his wife, Marilyn, knew about the dangers of xylene: he was selling other cleaning products on the trade show circuit to the screen printing industry at the time.
“Frank has always been a problem solver,” says Scott Sarver, Franmar’s marketing coordinator. And those highly toxic and expensive cleaning solutions troubled him. But Frank had a safer solution in mind using soy ester, which is distilled from soybean oil.
A “green” and renewable product, soy ester excels at cleaning, because it migrates easily through paints and other coatings, asphalt, pine tar and pitch. Soy ester is also low in volatile organic compounds, so it meets stringent guidelines for off-gassing.
Frank developed his own soy-based chemistry to create Franmar’s first product: BEAN-e-doo® — a safer cleaner for the screen printing industry. It was quickly adopted as the go-to product to help protect workers’ health while also being a more affordable option to previous chemical cleaners.
And, soy ester’s ability to migrate through other materials helped Frank happen upon Franmar’s second product breakthrough in those early days: paint remover. It came as a happy accident, actually.
“It’s really sort of a funny story how Franmar’s (product) line began its expansion,” Sarver recalls. “Frank had left a bottle of Plastisol Ink Remover (formerly BEAN-e-doo) on top of the refrigerator in his house … When they returned from vacation, the ink remover had migrated through the packaging, dripped down the side of the fridge, and removed the paint!”
That regrettable discovery led to three outcomes: the company developed better packaging to contain the cleaner, Franmar began to develop paint strippers and, so the story goes, Marilyn got a new fridge.
Over the years since, Franmar has developed a line of more than 70 commercial and consumer cleaning products, all based on soy ester chemistry. They’re intended to be safe, effective and affordable — three tenets of Franmar’s corporate mission.
“From the initial offerings to screen printers and then coatings removal, (we’ve) expanded our products into concrete form releases, automotive parts and tool cleaners, mastic removal and surface cleaners,” Sarver says.
You may use some of the company’s BLUE BEAR product line around your home or shop already. But in case you don’t, here are a few products worth knowing about.
BLUE BEAR Paint & Urethane Stripper: Sarver admits that while stripping household paint or urethane-based finishes is rarely easy or fun, what makes BLUE BEAR superior to other paint removers is how effectively it works — in spite of the fact that it’s also safe to use. And, it doesn’t have to be fussed with once it’s applied. “Just set it and forget it,” Sarver recommends. “Place a coating of Paint & Urethane Stripper on your project and let it work. If you check it and all the layers aren’t loose, let it work longer. Our stripper never stops working unless it dries out.”
When applied, the stripper doesn’t introduce strong odors or caustic chemicals, either, so it can be used safely indoors without special ventilation or protective gear. So, it’s very DIY friendly. “You could strip your dining table in your house in the morning and eat on it that evening without any concerns,” Sarver assures.
BLUE BEAR Lead Based Paint Stripper: Stripping paint from old woodwork and furniture is a common homeowner project. But removing paint that was made prior to 1978 can release lead dust into the air or leach into the stripped waste material. Ingesting lead is a problematic health hazard, especially for children. Most paint strippers will remove lead-based paint, but they can’t reduce the danger of lead poisoning.
Franmar’s BLUE BEAR product provides a better solution. “Our Lead Based Paint Stripper is one of a kind,” Sarver says. “It’s a complete system for removing the paint and eliminating the hazard of lead in the paint.”
Here’s how it works differently. Just prior to application, the consumer mixes a lead stabilization powder in with the stripper. The additive bonds with lead particles in the paint and creates lead sulfide, which Sarver says can’t be ingested to cause bodily harm. Instead, in the event the paint is taken internally, the lead sulfide will pass from the human body without issue.
Franmar holds a patent on its proprietary Lead Based Paint Stripper and, Sarver adds, “We are the only paint stripper in the marketplace that offers this (additive) technology.”
BLUE BEAR Brush & Sprayer, Saw Blade & Drill Bit Cleaners: Cleaning brushes or air sprayer equipment is a necessary part of the finishing process. Many of us turn to chemical solvents, like paint or lacquer thinner, to get the job done. But those options can be harmful with prolonged exposure. BLUE BEAR Brush & Sprayer Cleaner offers a safe, soy-based alternative. Sarver says it not only will clean fresh paint from brushes and sprayers, but it also will dissolve old paint residue and restore neglected brushes to useable condition again.
Likewise, maybe you turn to strong chemicals such as oven cleaner or brake cleaner to remove built-up deposits on your saw blades or router bits. Those are not only harmful to you, but they also can be damaging to carbide. BLUE BEAR Blade & Bit Cleaner works without toxic chemicals. Just submerge a router bit, drill bit or saw blade into the solution, and let the cleaner penetrate the gunk to do its work. “A quick scrub with a brush will have your tools looking like new in no time,” Sarver adds.
Bit & Blade Cleaner also has no water in its formulation, so it won’t rust steel cutters. And as long as the cleaner remains fluid, it can be used to clean bits and blades over and over again.
Sarver says that even after more than three decades of soy-based product development, Franmar always has something new in the works at its Bloomington, Illinois, facility where BLUE BEAR products are developed and packaged. Still, the company’s mission stays the same.
“Franmar’s drive for safe, effective and affordable products has always been about providing solutions that will allow people to ply their trade without being exposed to chemicals that have the possibility of negatively affecting their lives … Being safe and effective is what sets us apart. It’s not just working smarter, it’s working smarter and safer.”
Learn more about Franmar’s soy-based cleaning products by clicking here.