The basic selection of what cleaner
to use is primarily a determination based upon
the soil to be removed and the surface from
which the soil must be removed. The three basic
types of cleaners (acids, alkalies, and solvents)
are designed to work primarily on certain soils
and upon certain surfaces. Soil Choosing the
right cleaner begins by analyzing, the soil
and matching it to the cleaner best designed
to remove it. Some of the common forms of soil
best removed by one of the basic cleaners are
such as: iron, lime buildup, uric acid stains,
rust, scale, water spots, soap deposits
common forms of soil including dirt, soot, fats,
cooking oils, food stains, baked on grease
grease and oil including machine grease, engine
oils, sludge, paint and varnish
Surface Choosing the right cleaner
also demands an analysis of the surface to be
cleaned. The three basic cleaners are designed
on different surface areas. The surfaces commonly
cleaned by the basic cleaners are as follows:
cement, quarry tile,
Function of a Cleaner’s Components
In order to understand cleaning chemistry, it
is necessary to know the functions or properties
of the components of a cleaner. These are defined
1. Sequestration or Chelation - The removal
or inactivation of water hardness particles
by the formation of a soluble complex.
2. Wetting - The action of water contacting
all surfaces of soil or equipment enhanced through
the use of a surfactant.
3. Penetration - The action of a liquid entering
into porous materials or into crevices, joints
or seams enhanced by the use of a surfactant.
4. Emulsification - The action of breaking fats
and oils into very small particles which are
uniformly mixed with the water used.
5. Deflocculation or Dispersion - The action
of breaking up aggregates of flocs into individual
6. Suspension - The action which holds up insoluble
particles in a solution.
7. Rinsing - The condition of a solution or
suspension which enables it to be flushed from
a surface easily and completely.
8. Saponification - The action of changing insoluble
animal fats and oils into a soluble soap.
How Cleaners Work
By conditioning the water so there is no additional
soil added to surfaces and so that the effectiveness
of the cleaner is not reduced by hardness in
By penetrating the soil or wetting it with the
By dissolving as much of the soil as is possible
by the use of an acid, alkali or solvent.
By dispersion or emulsification of the remaining
By holding the soil in suspension until it is
Factors Affecting Cleaners The
performance of any selected cleaner may be altered
significantly by any one or a combination of
the following factors:
Water Temperature - Although most detergents
are designed to work in hot or cold water, the
performance of a cleaner can be enhanced by
employing warm to hot water. Extremely hot water
should not be used on highly finished floors
or on carpeting.
Time - The length of time a cleaning solution
is allowed to remain on the surface to be cleaned
can affect the performance of that cleaner.
Typically, the longer the contact time of a
solution the better that solution performs.
Never, however, allow a dirty cleaning solution
to dry on a surface before it can be rinsed.
Chemical Strength - The optimum use dilution
varies with different detergents. Also, the
effect of a reduction in dilution is different
with each detergent. It is Important that the
proper dilution be maintained, and that you
understand how this dilution can be changed
for specific applications.
Mechanical Action - The type of agitation used
may have a direct impact on the cleaners ability
to perform and the use dilution employed. Machine
scrubbing, pressure rinsing and abrasive pads
can improve the cleaners ability to break up
soils and reduce the amount of cleaner needed
or the time to complete the job.
Procedures - The skill level of the user can
also affect the choice of cleaner to be used.
A properly trained staff may be able to use
one cleaner in a variety of applications or
more aggressive cleaners for special cleaning
Safety - You should also consider the safety
of employees, equipment and surfaces to be cleaned
in the choice of the cleaner to be used. For
example, strong, acid or alkaline solutions
may require safety precautions and equipment,
as well as care when used on certain surfaces.
Always read the product label and refer to the
Material Safety Data Sheet before using a new
Problem Analysis – When confronted with an unfamiliar
cleaning situation, determine the following:
1. The most predominate soil. 2. The most difficult
soil to remove. 3. The composition of the surface
to be cleaned. 4. The equipment available. 5.
The types of cleaners already in use.
From this information and the
product labels, you can select a range of cleaners
that best meet the conditions. As a general
rule of thumb, select the least aggressive of
the cleaners and test to see if it will remove
the soil. If not, move to the more aggressive
cleaners. Remember that you can improve the
ability of any cleaner by increasing the water,
contact time and a agitation. Also, depending
on the cleaner, increased water temperature
Always dilute and use the product according
to label instructions.
Whichever cleaner you select, observe safety
precautions at all times and see that the staff
is properly trained in the use of the cleaner.
TYPES OF CLEANERS
Glass cleaners contain high levels of solvents
(alcohol, glycol ether, ammonia) and low levels
of non-volatiles. This combination of materials
results in good wetting, good oily soil removal
characteristics and non-streaking properties.
Neutral “Neutral” cleaners are not necessarily
chemically neutral. Typically, they have a use
solution pH in the range of 7-9.5. Neutral products
are light duty cleaners designed for use on
any water washable surface. Floors coated with
a floor finish must be maintained with a neutral
All-Purpose All-purpose cleaners typically are
moderately alkaline products (pH 9-1 1), usually
containing a water miscible solvent (a glycol
ether) for superior oily soil removal properties.
Most spray bottle applications involve either
all purpose or class cleaners. All-purpose cleaners
are generally recommended for any water-washable
surface. However, because of the higher pH and
the solvent content, this type of cleaner should
not be used on a routine basis on floors containing
a floor finish.
All-purpose cleaners are sometimes called “butyl
cleaners”. Technically, butyl cleaners contain
diethylene glycol monobutyl ether (“butyl cellosolve”).
However, cleaners containing any member of the
glycol ether family are often referred to as
Heavy Duty Degreaser Heavy duty degreasers contain
high levels of alkaline builders and/or solvents
which make them suitable for use aggressive
grease/oily soil removal operations. As a typical
example, heavy duty degreasers may be used in
conjunction with autoscrubbers to clean concrete
Acid Cleaners Acid cleaners are routinely used
to remove mineral and soap deposits typically
found in bathrooms. Acid products are also useful
in removing mineral deposits from quarry tile
floors. The use of hydrochloric (muriatic) based
products is normally limited to heavy build-ups
(iron) in toilet bowls. Products based on safer
acids, such as phosphoric, are commonly used
for all other cleaning applications that require