Photos courtesy of Leafline labs

Regular cleaning and maintenance of hemp extraction equipment is key to ensure optimal performance and yield. Here are four things to consider when developing cleaning and maintenance protocols.

1. Identify key components of your extractor. These likely include extraction and separator vessels, solvent supply tanks, lines and connections, temperature controllers/chillers, and compressor pumps.

Familiarize yourself with each component and how they work together. This knowledge will help you identify unique parts within each component that become dirty or worn during use and will need to be periodically cleaned or replaced. Understanding the system will also aid in troubleshooting any problems that arise.

2. Determine what cleaning/maintenance is needed and when. To keep an extraction system running properly and avoid downtime, determine what cleaning and maintenance needs to be performed and how often. The extractor user manual includes much of this information, including timing recommendations. However, differences in run parameters can impact wear and tear, so closely monitor the equipment and set a schedule based on specific needs.

Regular cleaning is critical. Don’t cut corners—perform all cleaning procedures to meet or exceed manufacturer recommendations. Common cleaning procedures include performing extraction runs without hemp, rinsing separator vessels and connecting lines with ethanol, and checking downstream lines/filters for carryover of hemp extract. Proper cleaning will minimize the occurrence of many common problems including clogged lines/valves, poor separation and low yield. If you use one extractor to run multiple strains, thoroughly clean in between extraction runs to reduce cross-contamination.

Scheduled maintenance is also very important. Maintenance of a CO2 gas compressor pump, for example, should include checking and recording the oil level and running oil pressure weekly. Noise level or vibration changes while running also should be noted, as this could indicate a potential problem. Inspect the pump monthly for loose connections and leaks, and check the belt tension. Changed the oil filter every six months, and replace the diaphragm every 18 months. This will ensure the compressor pump operates reliably.

3. Set a schedule and keep a maintenance log. Create a maintenance calendar for each extraction system you’re running so you know when routine maintenance should be performed. Ensure each extractor has its own logbook, and document all maintenance activities for easy reference.

4. Keep extra parts/consumables on hand. Anticipate and be prepared for maintenance needs for any parts that may become worn or break over time (valves, belts, o-rings) or consumables (filters, oil, coolant). It is advantageous to keep a supply of these materials in house. This allows for quick repairs and minimizes extractor downtime. Keep an inventory log of spare parts and replenish them as needed.

Dr. Rachel Loeber is chief science officer at Minnesota-based LeafLine Labs.