Interactive membrane cleaning guidelines




Scale and other foulants in feed water can build up on the surface of desalination membranes, significantly reducing their performance and increasing maintenance costs. While membrane suppliers provide generic guidelines for cleaning and sanitisation, they do not address specialised cleaning chemicals and regimes needed for specific fouling issues, such as fouling caused by metal oxides, scaling salts and colloids. Additionally, these generic guidelines will be for only certain types or brands of membranes. What is needed is a single reference tool to identify a specific fouling problem and the best cleaning method, regardless of the membrane brand or type.


Assess the current range of commercial cleaning products, existing guidelines and cleaning regimes and present them in a format that is accessible, easy to navigate, relevant and up-to-date information on membrane cleaning.


Over 100 patents, 250 research publications, books and technical documents were critically reviewed. Initially it was proposed that a single document would be produced encompassing the compiled guidelines but it was clear that given the amount of available information, an electronic document would be more appropriate. A database of commercial cleaning agents was developed early on as a means of collating information relating to the uses and compositions (if known) of the agents. This database was generated using Microsoft Access but this is not widely used so an alternative was developed in Microsoft Excel. From there, tables of information relating to foulant types and possible remedies were included and several calculators and other tools were added.

More general cleaning information was incorporated and the file presents an interactive, user-friendly approach to a traditional book. In addition, an interactive tool was developed to enable users to quickly identify the type of fouling or problem that may be affecting their membranes and the suggested cleaning remedies. A list of chemical suppliers and cleaning agents is included and searchable. Where appropriate, links to further information is provided such performance data normalisation tools provided free by several membrane providers.

Overall, the final outcome is a set of cleaning guidelines but in a non-conventional and highly interactive format that can be viewed as a “living document” with the ability to be regularly updated and accessed by users in an appropriate format. No similar reference tool exists for membrane users and these guidelines are a collection of the existing body of knowledge regarding membrane fouling issues and cleaning methods. The guidelines will enable membrane users to quickly and effectively identify fouling issues as well as provide them with possible cleaning methods that have been reported to be effective in the literature. The guidelines are available for all interested parties to access.

Future Direction

There is scope to continue the development of the guidelines into a more accessible, live format such as a web-based document. There will also be the need to continue developing the current guidelines by adding new chemicals when they are available and updating/adding to existing information. In addition, it is clear that other chemicals such as anti-scalants and biocides could also be included in a larger searchable database.


Integrated Elements


Total Value: $132,201 (cash and in-kind contributions)

Principal Investigator: Dr Marlene Cran

Title: Development of cleaning guidelines for desalination membrane users

Length: 20 months

Personnel: 4 collaborators contributing 0.6 FTE

Related Project: Green chemicals for effective biofouling removal from and preservation of reverse osmosis membranes

Further Information

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