The same properties that make a walnut shell tough to crack (but not impenetrable), make it useful in a variety of industrial settings. Primarily, walnut shells are ground into a powder and used in place of sand for cleaning and blasting. Walnut shells can also add some grit to painted surfaces and can filter contaminated water.
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One of the most important uses of walnut shells is to replace sand in blasting media. Walnut shells are safer because there is no risk of silica inhalation. The ground shells are classified as a "soft grit," which means they can be used to strip paint, dirt, grease or other finishes without damaging the surface below.
Generally, walnut shells used in blasting are crushed and ground into a fine powder. Once in powder form, common blasting uses include stripping paint from cars and trucks, cleaning industrial moulds and polishing watches. Walnut grit can also be used to polish away flaws in plastic, rubber and aluminium.
In addition to being blasted at high speed for cleaning, powdered walnut shells can also be used as a tumbling medium. An object needing a finished surface is submerged in walnut shell powder and agitated until polished.
Crushed walnut shells can also be added to paint and other surface coats to increase texture. For example, the non-skid areas around pools, docks and walkways can be created by adding walnut shells to paint.
Ground walnut shells are also used to filter water, primarily by the oil industry. Walnut shell filters remove oily contaminants from water and treat refinery wastewater. They are also used to treat water contaminated by a number of other industrial processes, including steel production, copper refining and ethylene manufacturing.
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