There are so many cleaning products to choose from, how do you know which to select? There are degreasers, detergents, acids, bases…
Picking the right cleaning product starts with understanding your particular cleaning challenge. Then it’s a matter of knowing your options. Masterclean has decades of experience selecting from hundreds of products used for thousands of cleaning jobs. We’ve put a handy guide together to help you understand what’s in the most common cleaning product categories.
In general, cleaning solutions come in six types:
- Water Based
Water Based cleaners are great for surface cleaning jobs such as countertops and windows. They typically have a neutral pH (level of acidity) and tend to be fragrant and effective. A good example of a safe, effective water-based general purpose solution is “Method All Purpose Natural Cleaner.” These products are inexpensive (about $4) and are available in seven interesting scents including “clementine,” “cucumber,” and “pink grapefruit.”
The first ingredient in a water-based cleaner is… water. Also known as the “universal solvent,” water and some mild surfactants (chemicals that break the surface tension of water) are pretty much all you need to clean most household spills, scuffs, and smears.
Acid-based cleaners are typically used for cleaning toilet bowls, drains, soap scum, mineral build-up… think plumbing and areas that are typically wet. Even concrete cleaners contain acid. Among the most dangerous types of cleaning solutions, acid-based products must be stored out-of-reach of children, as the packaging can look like food or toy packaging (think how fun a picture of the toilet duck might look to a toddler).
Alkaline cleaners include ammonia and bleach. Think of alkaline solutions as the opposite of acids, with pH levels above seven on a 14-point scale. Examples include Borax, with a pH of about 10 and mild dishwashing liquids. Alkaline cleaners are corrosive and used to break up stubborn grime that might be baked-on a plate or some calcium deposit that may have built-up in a shower over months or years.
Disinfectant cleaners are formulated to attack pathogens such as influenza and strep on bathroom and kitchen surfaces. Look for non-bleach disinfectants, as they will not discolor clothing and other fabrics when the come into contact. Examples of disinfectant products are Lysol Disinfectant Spray, Chlorox Disinfecting Wipes, and Mr. Clean Antibacterial Multipurpose Cleaner.
Disinfectant cleaners should be capable of killing 99.9 percent of:
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- Influenza A (Strain new Caledonia/20/99)
- Staphylococcus aureus MRSA
- Salmonella enterica (Salmonella)
- Human Coronovirus
To sanitize, wipe surface and let remain wet for 30 seconds. To disinfect, wipe surface and let remain wet for four minutes.
Solvent cleaners are designed to soften, melt and dissolve dirt and grime. The principle is uncomplicated, but a lot of chemistry goes into formulating these varied products. Fingernail polish remover is a good example of a solvent property. Typically, solvent cleaners contain strong chemicals such as alcohol, hexane or acetone (fingernail polish). The solvent cleaner you choose should match the cleaning challenge you face. Always consult with an expert before applying a solvent cleaning solution. Use solvent cleaners to remove sticky adhesives, crayon messes and paint spills.
Green cleaning solutions are a relatively new addition to the category. Generally, they purport to be “environmentally safe,” “pet safe,” “non-toxic,” and/or “Earth-friendly.” Products such as “Simple Green” spray cleaners are popular choices. Basically, manufacturers of green cleaning products stress biodegradability (the product will break down harmlessly in nature) as their main selling point. Secondary claims also include reduced use of petroleum-based plastics, inks and dyes.