Most gasket storage practices are rarely optimal or even satisfactory. What is the best way to store gaskets and how can we improve the way we currently store them?
Although many gaskets or gasket materials from which they are cut can be used safely after storage for many years, ageing will have a distinct effect on the performance of certain types of gaskets or those materials. Primarily, this is a concern with materials which are bonded with elastomers. They in general should not be used after about 5 years from the date of manufacture. If required, they shall be used only after careful inspection. Gaskets or materials with elastomeric binders will inevitably deteriorate over time, and even more quickly at higher ambient temperatures. Degradation is also catalysed by intense sunlight.
Everyone is aware that rubber deteriorates relatively quickly unless it has been formulated to withstand specific environmental conditions to which it will be exposed during its lifetime. It is not recommended gaskets to be stored for an extended period of time. Rubber chemicals used in gasket manufacturing are intended to provide optimal processability during manufacturing and optimal performance in a flange connection.
Binders combine all the components in the gasket. With the manufacturer’s unique mixing process, these components greatly contribute to the material’s flexibility. As the gasket ages naturally, and depending on the way the finished gasket or sheet from witch it is cut was stored, problems such as stretching, distortion, cracking and sticking can occur.
Filler components may arguably be the largest contributor to gasket deterioration. These components come in many forms from many different chemical families and are generally unique to every manufacturer. They are selected and combined to optimize gasket performance and maintain a cost level that the end user can afford. They can often deteriorate quickly in a storage environment because they were designed to work in a more aggressive, pressurized and chemical environment.
Other industrial gasket types (PTFE, semi-metallic and metallic) are not as susceptible to poor storage conditions but can also be affected. High humidity and moisture can also cause metallic components to oxidize.
Optimal Storage Conditions for Gaskets
There are many good reasons why it is important to store gaskets properly. They are one of the most critical components in a piping system and they are faulted in the majority of flange connection failures. To give them a chance to work the way they were designed, they need to be stored in a way that minimizes deterioration.
During storage gaskets should not be subjected to extreme heat or humidity. Store them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, water, oil and chemicals. Rubber sheets used for gaskets should be stored horizontally and when they are on rolls – vertically to avoid tensions and permanent warpage. Avoid hanging gaskets – they may distort. Store soft gaskets horizontally. Ideal storage conditions are: temperature < 25°С, air humidity 50 – 60%, Darkened storage room. Store the gasket in a clean condition (ideally in a plastic bag and wrapped in something opaque like cardboard).
These steps will help ensure the best piping system performance for the longest time possible. When fewer gaskets are wasted due to deterioration from poor storage the result is additional money to combat real problems.