Understanding Cleaning Chemicals


Cleaning chemicals are one of the basics of any cleaning operation. But what kind of chemicals are there? How can they be used efficiently? While these are all the basics of cleaning - this feature serves as a refresher...


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Specialised Cleaning
March 22, 2021
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Understanding Cleaning Chemicals

Cleaning chemicals are one of the most important products used to clean any facility. They range from multi-purpose to specific chemicals to even ones used just for disinfection. In the past decade alone, the concept of cleaning using detergents and other agents has slowly evolved. People are now more aware that a chemical necessarily need not be fragrant to clean well. Moreover, the advancement in dispensing equipment has completely revolutionized the way cleaning is done. 

But, there are challenges. How much is too much? If you go above your prescribed ratio of solution to water, will the result be the same? How do you handle these chemicals safely? What does it do to your and the building’s health? 

In an exclusive webinar hosted by the Clean Middle East, Alp Aksoy, Vice President of Hospitality at Diversey Africa, Middle East, and Turkey, and Niteen Kolte, Technical Lead at Diversey Middle East and Africa, decoded cleaning chemicals.

Here is an excerpt. 

Importance of chemicals in cleaning

Cleaning and hygiene came as an enabler for us to be able to live the life we want, for us to be able to go out. Over the past year, it has become obvious that we need good hygiene and good cleaning practices. Even though it is extremely important, cleaning is often played down. 

We need to understand that cleaning and hygiene is an enabler from this point in our lives. It always was, but today it is so obvious that we will need proper hygiene and cleanliness without playing down the importance of it in our daily lives and for our businesses. This is important for the sustainability of the business and even for the sustainability of countries. This holds true especially for countries that thrive mainly on hospitality. 

When we talk about cleaning, the importance of chemicals is displayed through a sinner circle which consists of time, temperature, chemical, and mechanical action. This is the heart of any cleaning process. Chemicals play a pivotal role in the success of the circle because we have challenges with other factors in our current life. Whenever you need to compensate for any other aspect, chemicals come to your rescue. The right selection of chemicals and the right process can deliver your desired expectations. For instance, if you have a potent chemical, it can significantly lower the time of your cleaning process and even the mechanical effort you would otherwise put into your cleaning operation. 

Housekeepers must understand the sinner circle and also have a fair understanding of which aspect needs to be applied where. Then again, the use of the right quality of chemicals is extremely important for us to maintain the safety and sustainability of the people who are in the operation. With the right chemical, you will always be saving money because you will be saving on time and temperature. Because you will be using less mechanical energy, your asset lives will be more sustainable. 

Types of chemicals available

There are different types of chemicals based on their composition, nature of the application, etc. However, they can be broadly classified into three categories - acid, alkaline, and neutral. Acidic chemicals are excellent descalers. They work very well as water stains and dust removers. These are mostly used in washrooms. 

Alkaline chemicals are excellent degreasers and work very well for any animal or vegetable-based oils. This is why alkaline chemicals are widely used in the kitchen. 

Neutral chemicals are used in situations where the chemical may come in contact with human skin or places where you think that substrates are very sensitive to harsh chemistry like acidic or alkaline. 

This is the very basic categorization of chemicals. However, if you go deeper, chemicals can also be classified as surfactants, foaming, and non-foaming chemicals. Foaming chemicals are used in situations where you want to clean vertical surfaces and you want the chemicals to remain longer on the surface. On the other hand, non-foaming chemicals are used in machine ware wash or laundry because in these areas, foaming chemicals can disrupt mechanical efficiency. 

There are different types of solvents for different types of soils. There are also different chemicals based on different types of disinfectant ingredients. For example, chlorine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxides, etc., are traditional chemistries used for a long time. Each of these chemistries has different plus and minus points. Chlorine, for instance, is an excellent disinfectant, but it is highly corrosive in nature and has a lot of odor issues. It can discolor your substrate or fabric. Similarly, alcohol is a fast disinfectant, but it is highly flammable.

There are new technologies available in the market like accelerated hydrogen peroxide. They are green chemicals. They take care of all the negative points associated with traditional chemicals - they are fast-reacting, they work as cleaners and disinfectants, and are sustainable. They don’t have any negative impact on the environment or health and safety. 

These technologies are dominating the market and are preferred nowadays. We are learning about QAC or QUAD too; we are learning how we can use chlorine and alcohol as a disinfectant, and we are tapping into high technologies such as chlorhexidine and AHP when we want our surfaces to remain risk-free and safe, yet are short on time. 

Understanding rust removal

Traditionally hydrogen fluoride was used against rust. However effective, hydrogen fluoride turned out to be carcinogenic in time. Responsible companies either discontinued its usage or put them in certain formulations that their delivery would not be as fast but they are combined with other substances in a formula to make sure that the user is safe. 

If you are going to remove rust, hydrogen fluoride is going to be the best solution possible but if it is not safe, is it worth it? The products that deal with rust have to be acidic in nature, but which acid you choose plays a pivotal role here. Many people consider only the cost factor in this selection process, but what is also important is the quality and right chemistry that does not impact the health of your staff. It is not advisable to use chloride acid, even though it may deliver good results. This again has carcinogenic effects. It’s best to opt for a formulated product. A formulated product supports you for cleaning rust with acid, but it also has other ingredients that reduce the active acid required for the application and also simplify application. It is easy to rinse, does not release too many fumes. 

Detergents, sanitizers, disinfectants - the difference

Detergents are defined for cleaning the substrate. Its purpose is only to clean. On the other hand, sanitizers have different definitions. Scientists mostly define them as products that can clean and provide a certain level of disinfection. The disinfection these products provide is very basic.

Coming towards disinfectants, their purpose is to disinfect. They are in place to be able to neutralize the viruses and bacteria that are challenging our lives today. They are used for high-risk areas such as hospitals where you need a broad-spectrum product, effective against multiple ranges of pathogens like bacteria and viruses, and they give a very good log reduction which is expected for its application. As we know, disinfectants are more popular, considering the type of challenges we are facing these days.

Why clean before disinfection

If you choose a product that works as a cleaner and disinfectant, then your pre-cleaning process can be simplified. You can just do a pre-wash or remove debris or loosen soil from the surface and clean it. But, if you select a product that is only a disinfectant and not a cleaner, then it is very important to follow the right process - clean the surface well, rinse it and then proceed towards disinfection. The reason is very simple. If your products are not cleaners, and then you don’t clean the surface, and your disinfectant will not work. Disinfectants are not designed to work in a soiled area. The soil interacts with the active ingredients of the disinfectant and it doesn't get the required disinfection efficacy on your surface. We wouldn’t like the dirt on the surface to steal away from the efficacy of the product. 

This is why it is very important to read the labels of the product properly, it is also important to understand the claims for that product from the supplier very well. 

This is a brief excerpt from our webinar “Understanding cleaning chemicals.” To access the full webinar click on the link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeYLIwaSNKc


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