Geauga County OSU Extension
The season has come to an end and now you are faced with the arduous task of cleaning up you maple operation. Where do you start and what do you use? For most of the equipment the answer is simple lots of hot water and elbow grease. A good place to start is with the tanks that hold both sap and syrup. Most are stainless steel and area easy to clean with a high pressure washer. Plastic totes and poly tanks have become popular because they are relatively inexpensive but they are harder to clean. We found that a tank washing tip that will fit on your high pressure washer is a valuable tool. This tool allows you to spray to the side and get into areas that you cannot get into with a standard spray tip. We have also found that you do not want to let plastic totes sit around because the bacteria will build quickly. Clean them immediately. Plastic totes, while affordable, will only last about two or three seasons before the plastic is so contaminated with bacterial spores that you have to discard the bottle and replace it. If you keep poly tanks cleaned down they will last for years. However, if you can afford stainless steel tanks they are the way to go.
The evaporator needs to be sugared off and flushed out as soon as possible. I often flush down the pans with clean water and then refill them with permeate from the RO and let them soak. If permeate e is not available use water. I will drain and refill the pans with clean f water and then add the proper amount of pan cleaner and follow the directions on the label. Once the pan cleaner has done the job I will drain the pans and use a high pressure washer to finish off the job. If I do this process correctly I will end up with pans that look like new. Make sure all of your float boxes are clean and the gaskets are replaced if needed. Soak your auto draw off temperature probe and your hydrometer in a 5% vinegar solution to remove all of film. The thermocouple in the auto draw off probe work best when there is no niter on the probe. Make sure your filter press is cleaned thoroughly and the parts are lubricated with a food grade lubricant. One thing I always do is remove all of the extra filters from the sugarhouse and take them into you house and put them in a place that is dry and rodent free. If you use a filter tank make sure the filters are cleaned and dried thoroughly. If moisture is present they will mold. If they do throw them out and start next year with a new one. Never ring out an Orlon filter, your will break down the fabric causing it to filter poorly.
Ro’s need to be soap washed and thoroughly rinsed immediately after the last time you use them. Make sure all of the permeate is drained out. Once you break down the RO make sure to return your membranes to the storage vessels with a cup of permeate in each one. Once you have everything clean I take the membranes back to my dealer to be sent in for cleaning and testing. There is nothing worse than starting a season with a bad membrane that is passing sugar. Make sure your high pressure pump and your feed pump are free and fully drained. . Inspect the membrane housings get them as dry as possible. Many times with the recirculating motors and pumps on the bottom of the membrane towers dampness can cause the pump shafts to seize and seals to deteriorate.The evaporator and the Ro require the use of chemicals that are incompatible. One is phosphoric acid and the other is a basic soap. Keep them separate and out of the reach of children. Be careful when you mix pan cleaner follow the directions on the label.
The most controversial area when it comes to cleaning is the tubing system. Everybody has their own way of dealing with the miles of tubing stretching through the woods. Over the years I cleaned tubing just about every way possible. We have sucked water, pumped water and air, water, air and tubing cleaner, and just plain no cleaning at all. The water and air worked well until we tried to pump up to steep a grade and had a blowout that had enough force to launch a satellite. Sucking water through the lines, left a lot of liquid in the lines that eventually turned to green snot. We have now hit on a method that seems to work. We pull taps with the vacuum on. When we pull the tap we cut off the old spout and use a line plug developed by the Stars Company from Quebec. This seals the drop line and maintains the vacuum on the system. If done properly the sap in the lateral line will not suck back into the drop line. We also use a paint marker to mark the old tap hole. This way we will not put next seasons tap on top of an old tap. Once all of the taps are out we back flush the mainlines with clean water. Now we will close all of the main lines, then go to end of each lateral opening them up long enough to pull air through the lines and keeps vacuum on the system. It also removes 80% of the liquid out of the laterals and the mains. At this point we open the ends of the main line and let air in with the vacuum on. Once the vacuum drops to zero shut off the pump. At some point next fall we will go through and put on new spouts and let the lines air out completely. This system seems excessive but it does work. We had a little green sap at the start of the season but nothing we could not filter out. This could have been avoided by flushing the system in the fall. Here is a word of caution when it comes to using tubing cleaners. They have to be completely flushed from the lines at some point before the next season. Never use Isopropyl alcohol it is illegal in the United States. The Proctor Research Center has a good a fact sheet on this subject and it is worth reading. Also be aware some cleaners attract Mr. Bushy Tail and his friends, this is never a good thing for tubing operators.
Once you have your system cleaned bring in all of the releasers and clean and sanitize them thoroughly. They are made of PVC Plastic that makes a good home for bacteria. Go over the mechanism and use lubricant provided by the manufacture and lubricate all of the moving parts. The last thing is caring for all of your vacuum pumps and transfer pumps. Change the oil or drain out the water on liquid ring pumps. On the new rotary claw pumps change the oil and fog the pump with a pump oil. You need to make sure rust does not build up. Same is true for Rotary Vane pumps which are more maintenance free but putting some oil on the vanes never hurts. All gasoline motors should be drained and the gasoline replaced with Seafoam or a similar product. Never leave gas with ethanol in the tank. Drain the crank case oil and replace it with fresh motor oil and you are ready to go for next season. Make sure you transfer pumps are drained and stored in a place that does not freeze.