Understanding the chemical properties of your cleaning supplies sounds like a blast from the past to your high school Chem lab days; intimidating, confusing, and maybe a little boring, but it doesn’t have to be! Being conscious of the pH scale and its importance in your cleaning process is easier than you’d think. The scale itself utilizes a range of numerical rankings that determines if a substance is acidic, neutral, or alkaline (basic). The pH or potential of Hydrogen is a logarithmic scale ranging from 0 to 14, 0 being extremely acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 being more alkaline. There are products that fall into each category for a variety of cleaning options for different soils in your facility.
No matter the kind of mess you’re dealing with, it’s recommended to start each cleaning job with a true neutral agent, either a neutral cleaner or pure water, and then work your way to either end of the pH scale depending on how aggressive you need to be. Consider the kind of mess you’re dealing with when determining what cleaning product to use. If you’re cleaning up a soil with acidic properties such as tomato juice, coffee, vinegar – you’ll want to use an alkaline cleaner. Strong acid cleaners, while being more abrasive, are typically reserved for cleaning toilet bowls.
A large portion of cleaning supplies fall into the Alkaline category with products such as carpet shampoo, ammonia, soapy water, bleach, oven cleaner, drain cleaner, and even baking soda. Factors such as hydrolysis and the dispersion of soils happen most effectively during alkaline pH levels. Proceed with caution as the higher in the scale your product falls, the more corrosive it is. This is where reading the directions and safety data of your supplies is important. These labels and posters will typically explain to you which surfaces are the most effectively cleaned with the product, which surfaces to absolutely avoid using them on, and if there’s any protection or ventilation recommended.
There are some instances where an Acidic cleaner is required such as removing rust stains or mineral deposits in the restroom, these messes have an alkaline make up and require an acid to treat them. Cleaning products for these scenarios would typically include toilet bowl cleaners, vinegar, and rust stain removers. All of these solutions have a pH scale between 1 and 3 so they are more aggressive when dealing with difficult soils.
When dealing with several different kinds of cleaning products, it’s important to know the chemistry behind what you’re using to avoid damaging a surface and potentially making a mess even worse. Keeping pH testing strips on hand is a simple way to determine the level the product is at. This process would continue to help down the line to ensure everyone is aware of the types of products you have on hand and when it’s appropriate to use them.