Sanitary Ball Valves: The Complete Guide

George Packard

Vice President of Marketing

Read Full Bio

What Is a Sanitary Ball Valve?

A sanitary ball valve enables on/off control and full, unencumbered flow of media. With a full bore design, sanitary ball valves minimize fluid pressure drop, since the bore (port) through the valve is the same diameter as the connecting pipe.

This design is ideal for handling viscous liquids, liquids containing particles and processing systems with mandated hygiene standards. Also called hygienic ball valves for this reason, sanitary ball valves are required for applications in which the media flowing through the valve is prone to spoil in a short amount of time, such as in dairy processing. They are not, however, required for all consumable food or beverage applications.

These valves are deemed sanitary because:

  • The full-bore design reduces crevices and cavities that may trap media and allow bacterial growth
  • They most often feature tri-clamp fittings, which help prevent external contamination
  • Their seats and cavity fillers are made from FDA approved hygienic elastomers (such as Teflon) to limit media entrapment
  • They feature polished, and therefore aseptic, surfaces

Sanitary ball valves are typically made of high-quality stainless steel. However, if installed to control media with more relaxed hygiene requirements, sanitary ball valves can be made from copper, iron, metal alloys, PVC or glass-reinforced nylon. Plastic sanitary ball valves are often approved for low-pressure or low-temperature applications. These valves can be supplied in manual or automatic operation.

When selecting sanitary ball valves, it is also important to consider how the valve will be cleaned. Tri-clamp connections are a common feature in sanitary applications, since they allow the valve to be easily removed from service for cleaning. Many valve manufacturers now offer ball valves that allow for CIP (clean-in-place). These valves feature a purge port through which steam or a cleaning agent can be introduced to clean the valve without removing it from service.

A four-part diagram demonstrating the three distinct parts that comprise a tri-clamp valve connection: two ferrule ends, a seal and a clamp.

What Are Sanitary Ball Valves Used For?

Sanitary ball valves can be found in the following process industries:

  • Food
  • Beverage
  • Dairy
  • Cosmetics
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Biochemical
  • Medical

Sanitary ball valves are designed to minimize contamination in highly sterile settings, or those that require sensitive or gentle product treatment. Even when handling viscous, abrasive, semi-solid or particle-heavy media, sanitary ball valves — if installed correctly — guarantee the ultimate in hygienic processing.

Certain CIP sanitary valves allow for pigging. Pigging is the process of cleaning or clearing a pipeline of obstructions, in which a pig (a large, round or cylindrical scraper that matches the inside diameter of the pipe) is pushed through a pipe, scraping the walls of any sediment buildup and moving media along. Since sanitary ball valves maintain the same diameter as the rest of the pipe, they do not pose any barrier to pigging.

A cutaway depicting a pipeline pig inside a pipe.

What Should You Look For in a Sanitary Valve Manufacturer?

When selecting sanitary ball valves for your process system, quality should be top-of-mind. Working directly with a reputable manufacturer, rather than a distributor, means that your source can speak directly to their sanitary guarantee.

Manufacturers will also be able to supply or recommend replacement parts, and will be the best source for maintenance guidance.

All Gemini ball valves come standard with a pressure relief vent in the ball which helps mitigate changes in temperature and pressure within the valve. This makes our stock products a good fit for a large variety of industrial applications. However, this prevents our valves from earning a sanitary rating, since the vent risks media entrapment. If a customer comes to us with a significant volume order, we will first bring their application to our engineering team to see if we can offer a custom solution. We are also always happy to point you in the right direction if our products are not a good match for your application.

If you have any questions or are seeking guidance for sanitary ball valves, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We manufacture all of our products in our New Hampshire facility, and can work with you to customize any product to your specifications.

George Packard

Vice President of Marketing

George Packard, Vice President of Marketing at Gemini Valve, has been involved in Technical Sales and Marketing in the valve industry for over 10 years. George’s varied experience includes communicating with clients to troubleshoot critical applications, and working alongside top engineers in the industry to promote the latest innovations in automated ball valve design.

We’ll help you find the exact parts you need

Our team can tell you the exact parts you need based on the application.

Talk to a Specialist