What is the Difference Between Sanitary Fittings/Piping and Hygienic Fittings/Piping?

December 19, 2013
Sanitary Tube and Fittings Manufacturers do Not Publish Pressure Ratings

In the US this is Sanitary Piping. In the UK this is Hygienic Piping

In a word, nothing, if you are using the term in respect to the high purity piping used in the biopharmaceutical, food, beverage and dairy business.  The Irish writer George Bernard Shaw is credited with writing “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”. Great, what does that have to do with process piping? We will explain.

In Europe and the UK, the term sanitary piping defines the plumbing used to convey potable water systems as well as waste water generated downstream of those water systems, i.e.  the plumbing used to bring water into your house and the associated waste plumbing.  These systems can be made from carbon steel pipe, PVC pipe or copper tube.   Other English speaking countries such as Australia and New Zeeland also refer to sanitary piping in this way.

The term hygienic piping in these countries refers to the highly polished, stainless steel high purity tubing systems used in process piping in biopharmaceutical, food, beverage and dairy facilities.  All of the different hygienic systems have special connections designed to allow the systems to be cleanable and eliminating bacterial entrapment areas.
3000 miles to the west, in North America, linguistically we take a different approach.  You rarely see the term hygienic piping used.  Instead we use sanitary piping as a dual purpose term.  It refers to both high purity systems as well potable water and waste water systems.  Does it make sense to use the same term in conjunction with the high purity piping systems used in pharmaceutical plants as well as the plumbing in your house downstream of the bathroom?  Not really.  But that is what we do.

There are some difference between European hygienic fittings/piping and the North American sanitary high purity fittings/piping.  But they have a lot of things in common.  They are all either 304 or 316L stainless steel thin wall tubing (refer to our previous blog post on the difference between tube and pipe).  The buttweld connections are designed to be TIG fusion welded together.  They all have interior surface finish finishes polished to precise specifications.  Their mechanical connection systems are designed to yield a crevice free joint that is cleanable and has no areas for bacterial entrapment (refer to our previous blog on European vs.  North American connection systems).

This is Considered Part of a Sanitary Piping System in both the US and in Europe

This is Considered Part of a Sanitary Piping System in both the US and in Europe

It seems to us that the European practice of delineating the terms hygienic piping and sanitary makes more sense than the North American practice of throwing all of these terms for sanitary piping in the same bucket.  But we don’t make the rules, we just play by them.  Either way, if you need help with hygienic, sanitary high purity piping systems, contact us.  We are pretty good at this.  If you need help with sanitary, sanitary waste piping, call a plumber.