Rail Industry Focus


Cleaning up the railways

Source: RTM August/September

Jim Knox, director of Gard Chemicals, explains how the company is helping the rail industry ensure they have the best cleaning and maintenance chemical products available to them.

Gard Chemicals is a leading manufacturer of a unique and comprehensive range of industrial chemical cleaners formulated and supplied throughout the rail industry. Still a private UK-based company, Gard Chemicals was established in 1977 in order to develop, formulate and manufacture chemical cleaning and maintenance products.

In working with manufacturers, train-operating companies and contractors, Gard are able to learn and understand what products have been used and which of those are currently on offer within the market from other suppliers. Whilst the chemical market has a very large spread, there is a very limited base of actual formulators and manufacturers which still exist and Gard Chemicals is a key player within this area. Having the capabilities to develop products for particular applications enables us to solve customers’ problems swiftly.

Historically within the rail industry, a large number of hazardous chemicals are used for internal and external cleaning exercises. By way of an example, acid-based cleaners are still in use as a pre-soak before an alkaline wash is used for the external cleaning of vehicle bodies. This is one area/application which we have replaced with a range of pH neutral cleaners, creating numerous benefits for both the units and operators.

Such traditional chemical cleaners and working practices have been challenged head-on by Gard by developing effective cleaners which are now safer for the surfaces which they are to be used upon, the user, and the environment.

Within the range offered, Gard Chemicals now manufactures pH neutral cleaners for exterior and internal cleaning applications and has recently introduced a revolutionary technologically-advanced cleaner which replaces acid-based cleaners (oxalic, hydrochloric, citric, phosphoric etc).

Periodic deep cleaning exercises on carriages are often treated with a typical acid-based cleaner which is a high risk for operators when removing brake dust, heavy soling etc. With the new formulations they have developed a solution which is effective and far safer than the above cleaners.

The full range formulated and manufactured by Gard Chemicals covers the following areas –

  • pH Neutral Cleaners for Automatic / Manual Wash
  • Hand Bash Cleaners
  • Pit Road Degreasers
  • Water Splitting Degreasers
  • Acid Replacement Cleaners
  • Unit Internal Scents

These product groups have been developed to be highly effective, improving efficiencies whilst also providing a safer environment for everyone involved.

Gard Chemicals has already gained numerous industry approvals within TOCs, manufacturers and leasing companies – meeting the tough standards required across the rail industry. It is not just the product which is focused on when gaining approvals either, with all areas of the business being taken into account, including quality, environmental impact, health and safety, and security and technical support. 

Focussed supply chains

Supplies within the UK are made direct from our UK plant or through the end users third party preferred supplier, which is yet another area where the business is focusing on in order to increase the awareness of the range available.

The business already has a global reach, and has appointed approved distributor partners which are all supported by the team within the UK, ensuring that all distributors have undergone full product, technical and field training by Gard so that they can best assist and advise their customers on the correct product(s) to achieve the desired results.

Operator safe

Operator safety is paramount to the company and all products in their range are operator safe when used as per label instructions. Gard Chemicals is registered to OHSAS 18001 Health and Safety Management and operates the Global Harmonised System (GHS) for all labelling and safety data sheets.

Environmentally friendly

All products are formulated using VOC Free/Exempt substances wherever possible and, mindful of current legislation trends, these formulations are under constant review to ensure Gard remains the number one supplier of choice operating within the Environmental Management Systems, under which they are ISO 14001 Registered for the Manufacture and Supply of Maintenance Chemicals. All products are formulated to be environmentally and eco-friendly whenever possible and conform to the latest environmental regulations.


Gard Chemicals has been awarded National and International Accreditations for both Environmental (ISO 14001) and Quality (ISO 9001) Management Systems and Standards, for the Manufacture & Supply of Maintenance Chemicals. These accreditations have enabled them to achieve vendor approvals, accreditations and certifications across the rail industry.

Research and development

Gard is very proud of our dedicated research and development department. It has enabled them as a business to formulate and create new products fully dedicated to the rail industry. The knowledge to create or even adapt existing products to suit the needs of an individual customer or prospect sets them aside in the market.

Internal and external meetings with raw material suppliers are crucial to ensuring they only formulate and manufacture with sustainable raw materials - taking into account throughout the process the environment and current legislation. With ever-changing regulations throughout the industry, it remains imperative that they keep fully up-to-date in order to support their growing customer base.

Gard Chemicals also prides itself on using the latest chemical technology to develop bespoke products to meet exact requirements or to produce products to solve a problem. Also taking into account environmental and regulatory issues, this is a key area of growth for the business.

The products produced are subjected to more and more control as time goes by. As well as control of the chemicals, packaging is increasingly becoming subject to environmental legislation. Correct labelling and production of safety sheets are an essential part of the service offered as well as giving advice on other compliance issues.

  • Technical Service
  • On Site Technical Guidance
  • UK-Based Research and Development
  • Extensive Material Testing
  • On Site Product Evaluation

Gard Chemicals is expanding on their highly knowledgeable and dedicated team which work solely within the rail industry division. The team are experienced in the various areas of chemistry and the differing applications associated with rail industry cleaning and maintenance. We offer a full on-site evaluation service to discuss and assist customers in selecting the product(s) best suited to their own requirements for your location and business.

Fully trained technical staff are available to assist in the development of any new products you may need, including the implementation of cost-saving operations within your company.


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