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The Chemistry Of Cleaning
You should become familiar with some basic terms of the chemistry of cleaning. A quick look at the pH Chart will show you that things don't really work for us as cleaners unless the pH is at the extreme ends of the chart.
Chlorine - A common nonmetallic element belonging to the halogens; best known as a heavy yellow irritating toxic gas; used to purify water and as a bleaching agent and disinfectant; occurs naturally only as a salt (as in sea water). Chlorine Bleach is a group of strong oxidizing agents commonly found in a 5.75% solution of sodium hypochlorite. Cheap mold and germ killer, but not actually a cleaner.
Oxygenated Bleach - Often seen as Sodium Percarbonate or Disodium Peroxydicarbonate. Considered an environmentally safe product. Outstanding for blood, wine, etc.
Sodium Hydroxide - The most common caustic used to attack oily soils. Must be wet to be effective.
Methylene Chloride - A very common solvent used to remove paints and varnishes. It is non-flammable but very toxic. Available in liquid or gel. Extreme caution should be used when working with this product.
Sodium Hypochlorite - A bleaching and disinfecting agent (see Chlorine above)
Calcium Hypochlorite - This is a type of chlorine bleach. It is often found in deck cleaning products as well as laundry products. It is effective against mold and mildew but not effective against dirt and is most commonly seen as a pool supply chemical. Often leaves a white “haze” when used as a cleaner.
Oxalic Acid - Often referred to as “Wood Bleach,” It is a common neutralizer and brightener for wood. A good iron stain remover as well.
Hydrofluoric Acid - One of the most potent acids that is dangerous to use. Proper safety concerns and procedures should be adhered to. Used in truck washing.
Phosphoric Acid - Phosphoric Acid is characteristically very similar to Oxalic Acid.
Hydrochloric Acid (Muriatic Acid) - Strong acid used for removing and cleaning concrete and mortar. Is used to remove rust and scale and is a common metal cleaner.
Potassium Hydroxide - A strong base, it dissolves readily in water, giving off much heat and forming a strongly alkaline, caustic solution. It is commonly called caustic potash. It closely resembles sodium hydroxide in its chemical properties and has similar uses, e.g.in making soap, in bleaching, and in manufacturing chemicals, but is less widely used because of its higher cost. Used in many truck washes.
Trisodium Phophate(TSP) -Has been used by painters for years and years as a heavy duty degreaser and all purpose cleaner. TSP is formulated for removing grease, soot, and lead paint dust cleanup.
Limonene - a liquid terpene with a lemon odor; found in lemons and oranges and other essential oils. Terpene is an unsaturated hydrocarbon obtained from plants. Used as a solvent or wetting agent. Often found in house wash mixes.
Butoxyethanol - A clear colorless liquid that smells like ether. It has many names including ethylene glycol, monobutyl ether, ethylene glycol butyl ether, ethylene glycol nbutyl ether, Butyl Cellusolve, butyl glycol, and butyl Oxitol. It is used as a solvent in spray lacquers, enamels, varnishes, and latex paints and as an ingredient in paint thinners and strippers, varnish removers, and herbicides. It is also used in liquid soaps, cosmetics, industrial and household cleaners, and dry-cleaning compounds. Found in wood strippers, truck washes, houses washes, and more.
Caustics - AKA Base, Alkaline. Has a pH value greater than 7. These are corrosive and can be dangerous when in contact with human skin.
Detergents - Any type of cleaning agent. There are many types of detergents and come in varying forms.
Emulisifier - A compound that will link grease and water together in order to flush away.
pH -The symbol that is used to determine the degree of acids and alkalines. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A solution or chemical with a pH below 7 is considered acidic and those greater than 7 are considered alkalines.
Surfactant - Briefly defined as a material that can greatly reduce the surface tension of water when used in very low concentrations. Some of the most ubiquitous surfactants are ordinary detergents, commonly forming bubbles.
Solvent - A liquid substance capable of dissolving another substance.
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