The hot tank of coolers can be descaled using an acid such as phosphoric or citric. Sometimes other internal parts of coolers need to be descaled and disinfected. Scale build up in reservoirs, for example, is usually not severe but can lead to microbiological problems if left. Attachment of micro-organisms and ultimately formation of a biofilm can rapidly cause deep-seated contamination which is not always easy to remove.
It is common practice to use a descaler, accompanied by mechanical action such as brushing, followed by a disinfectant such as hydrogen peroxide. This will remove the scale and destroy the biofilm. In some practices it is considered that one application of acid is sufficient to descale and destroy biofilm. This is not always the case and is very dependent on the strength of acid used. Very strong acids will do the job but these are usually applied diluted.
Diluted acids will remove scale more slowly and much of the acid is used up in this process. In this case biofilm will not be removed. If you want to use acid alone, then either use very strong acid (not recommended from a safety point of view) or use the acid in two steps, one to descale and the other to kill bacteria.
An alternative is to use an acid containing a disinfectant component which can then act as a sanitiser while removing scale. These are available on the market. However, the preferred method is to descale and then disinfect, in two separate steps.
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