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How clean is your data centre?

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

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In this article, Nathan Williamson, owner of DELOTAS, a cleaning company specialising in data centre, clean room & HVAC cleaning, as well as air particle validation, outlines the importance of regular (and thorough) data centre cleaning to avoid contamination.

UPS, servers, hard drives and other sensitive electronic equipment failures are on the increase in sites where stringent airborne contamination policies are not in place.

Data centres, from initial build to refit are complex environments. Critical engineering infrastructure upgrades, equipment change-out, or even simply opening doors or even simply entering a white space, provide opportunities to introduce contaminants. These contaminants affect electronic equipment, corroding contacts and reducing capabilities to failure point, which can result in costly outages.


Data centres are affected by contamination in two ways: Gaseous and Particulate Matter (PM). Data centre contamination can be dispersed by airflow, gravity diffusion, and electrostatic attraction, eventually settling on important IT equipment.

ASHRAE recommends that data centres are cleaned a minimum of once a year, but depending on what systems are in place, it may have to be more frequent to ensure the recommended particle levels stipulated in ISO14644 are met.

HVAC systems

This is the most common source of contamination. As air is brought into the data centre, it will draw in and circulate external contaminants no matter how good your system is. Such contaminants include, fossil fuels from vehicles (a major contributor to data centre contamination), generated electricity, sand, sea salt, pollen, artificial fibre, dust and dirt caught in winds.


Entering a data centre can bring in contaminants through doors, packaging, clothes, shoes, and the shedding of dead skin. Such contaminates include lint, dirt, dust, and skin cells.


Plaster walls can degrade over time and metal floors can degrade creating zinc whiskers, increasing contamination of the data centre.

High availability data centre facilities require cleaning and contaminant removal with no downtime. Utilising a specialist data centre cleaning company helps to maintain a clean and efficient data centre facility; ensuring the ISO14644 standards are met.


What should I look for in a cleaning company?

  • A data centre specialist cleaning company must comply to ISO14644 standards.
  • Strict procedures should be in place to ensure that their operatives and equipment do not bring contamination into the data centre.
  • Operatives are trained and are experienced in contamination prevention and removal.
  • Regular training and evaluation of staff performance and practice and should be available to the client.
  • All operatives are dressed correctly, wearing designated work wear which must be anti-static compliant.
  • Equipment and materials must be anti-static compliant and suitable for that sata centre use, i.e hepa/ulpa filtration for vacuum cleaners, anti-static cleaning products, no fluids apart from floor polish (which should be in a sealed reservoir and can be applied directly to the floor).


Before any cleaning is performed, an onsite risk assessment of the data centre should be completed to establish the amount of contamination that is present. This will pin point sources of contamination, check filtration, confirm operative contamination, prevention procedures and schedule future cleaning.

Following this an Air Particle reading should be performed informing the client of the amount and size of air particles in the data centre. The decontamination should take place and following this another Air Particle reading should be performed, which will establish the performance of the clean and its effectiveness. This also provides certification that the clean is to ISO14644 standards, which is becoming more essential as IT suppliers are increasingly using insufficient contamination protection as a reason to void equipment warranties. After a data centre clean, the client should also be provided with contamination prevention recommendations.

The benefits of a regular data centre clean

  • Better air circulation reducing power consumption.
  • Reduces the risk of critical equipment failure.
  • Reduction of capital equipment cost.
  • Data centre resilience.
  • Helps maintain hardware reliability.
  • Compliance with equipment warranties
  • Removes dust build-up and dust contamination.
  • Reduces static discharge.
  • Energy cost savings.
  • Improved customer confidence.


Data centre contamination cannot be avoided. With many of the locations essential for bandwidth and latency requirements usually within highly populated areas with heightened pollution levels, or industrial parks where neighbouring businesses may generate pollutants, ensuring your data centre is thoroughly and regularly cleaned by a specialist, is the only real way to avoid the costly downtime contaminated equipment can cause.


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