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BunkerScrub is available through Brimstone Paintball: 740-682-6232

Product Testing performed with DraXxus Paintballs

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BunkerScrub
by Bill Mills - Photos by Dawn Mills - July 08

To the chagrin of many in paintball, non-toxic and biodegradable do not mean non-staining, or “no residue.” Manufacturing companies have a balancing act to perform when creating the paint that fills their paintballs.

On the one hand, players want a vibrantly colored fill that leaves a thick, bright mark so that a hit is obvious from a distance and hard to wipe off or hide. On the other hand players and game operators alike need a fill that cleans up with little to no effort from the field and cleans easily from a player's clothing after a game without staining. As simple as this criteria sounds, its conflicting nature creates nothing less than an incredible chemical engineering challenge.

Although composed primarily of water and the thickening agent polyethelene glycol, paintball fill gets its color the same way traditional paints do, from finely ground colored powders known as pigments – they simply lack the element used in paints, which is a binding agent used to hold the pigments together after the paint dries.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to some, almost all paintball fills, have a white pigment – even if their color is not white (with the notable exception of PMI's "Blanding fill" designed specifically not to leave white residue on the Florida National Guard MOUT site.) This is because white is reflective. When mixed with other colored pigments, a strong white pigment gives good reflectivity, and thus brightness to the final color.

The most common white pigment used in paintball fills has a name familiar to anyone who has experience in an art studio working with oils or acrylics – titanium. In that environment “titanium white” is a common paint color name, stemming from the pigment used, titanium dioxide, also known as titania. That bright white does a great job of giving paintball fills vibrant, bright color.

The drawback – moreso to field owners and players, is that titanium dioxide tends to hang around a bit, and imbed itself in the rubbery surface of paintball bunkers. Although considered inert and non-toxic, therefore not an environmental issue – the bright white of titania means that even small amounts of it left behind can be fairly visible – especially on smooth single color surfaces like paintball bunkers.

This is an issue near to the heart of Milt Call. Although mand of today's players don't know his name, they may know his work. Call has many years experience as a field owner. He introduced the now prominent concept of using river-raft materials to build inflatable stand-alone paintball bunkers, and co-produced a tournament series and television program which brought tournament paintball to televisions around the country via the WGN cable television superstation.

As the founder of Ultimate Airball, Call has been no stranger to “field funk” the residue of paint fill, made white by titanium dioxide, that eventually coats paintball bunkers, making their colors look faded. Call looked for a way to beat it, and ended up developing Bunker Scrub, a cleaning agent formulated specifically for the removal of paintball residue.

paintballAccording to Call, BunkerScrub can be used diluted to various strengths with water, much as one would add soap to a bucket of water before washing a car, or when needed it can be used full strength to get rid of stubborn residue.

After getting a sample of BunkerScrub in a gallon jug with pre-production labels, we put this to the test. First we needed a bunker with a case of funk. No problem. The fill was extracted from several dozen paintballs selected from a variety of brands including DraXxus, Empire, Zap and PMI, and mixed together. Surprisingly, although the colors mixed together included green, hot pink and orange, in the resulting blend, a strong orange color was dominant.

paintballAfter smearing the paint on the blue side and white end of an Ultimate Airball can bunker (from our one-bunker photoshoot field) and bringing back memories of kindergarten finger painting, the paint coating was topped off with squirt from an Atomic Ordnance paint grenade. The shells of the paintballs used were soaked in warm water, and once softened to the point that their gelatin was sticky, dumped on top of the bunker. The next step in preparing the test bed was left up to mother nature. Six weeks of Florida summer weather exposed the bunker to everything from unmitigated direct sunlight to torrential downpours with nearby lightning strikes.

On test day, no sign of the gelatin shells were left, and most traces of color were gone from the paintball fill, though a bit of the grenade's pink was still visible where it had run down the bunker's side and was kept shaded. What was left was a white film, thick and flakey in some areas, and smooth in others, giving the blue bunker a faded look, and going mostly unnoticed on the white end. Some of the thick areas could be flicked off with a fingernail, but where it was thin, the white film felt solidly in place – locking into the fine pores and texture of the bunker surface.

Following the instructions on the jug of BunkerScrub, the bunker was first hosed down with water. For testing purposes, the effectiveness of pure BunkerScrub would be compared to diluted BunkerScrub and water alone. The BunkerScrub jug label recommended diluting 10:1 with water for lightly soiled bunkers, 5:1 for medium soiled, 1:1 for heavily soiled, or using it undiluted on extremely soiled bunkers. A solution was prepared at approximately 5:1 dilution. In order to apply similar levels of scrubbing force to each of the test areas, a scrubbing bar was prepared with three scrubbing surfaces. Washcloths were wrapped around and attached to a section of PVC pipe in three places.

A small splash of BunkerScrub was then applied to the right side of the bunker surface, followed by the diluted solution in the middle, and finally water as a control test on the left side. After waiting a few seconds for the liquids to spread, the three areas were wiped with the terry cloth pads of the scrubbing bar.

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With only light pressure, the scrubbing bar was pulled downward to wipe through the test areas. The results were immediately clear. Both the full strength and diluted BunkerScrub had loosened the paint residue to the point that most of it wiped away in the first pass, while there was no visible effect on the water only area. Scrubbing was not even necessary to remove most of the treated residue.

With more vigorous scrubbing applied, most of the residue remained when only water was used, but the sections treated with BunkerScrub returned closer and closer to the original clean bunker appearance – and what looked like a sun-faded bunker was revealed as retaining its strong original blue color.

For additional video, click here.

A straighforward cleaning product developed specifically for removing dried, hazy paint residue from inflatable bunkers, BunkerScrub effectively de-bonded pigment material from the test bunker surface.


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