Types Of Cleaning Detergents

Procedure code:
451007G
Source:
Floor Maintenance Materials: Their Choice & Uses/Edwards
Division:
Masonry
Section:
Masonry Cleaning
Last Modified:
07/11/2016

This standard includes general information on the different types of cleaning detergents, their typical uses, and their advantages and limitations. Sample products are listed when known.

Soap

Uses:

  1. A surfactant (Surface Active Agent).
  2. Soaps are produced from naturally occurring fats and oils. 
  3. Soapless or synthetic detergents are manufactured from organic chemicals usually derived from petroleum

Advantages:

  1. Very effective as a bactericide.
  2. It will form gels, emulsify oil and lower the surface tension of water.  A lower surface tension allows the soap to come in contact with greater surface area than with water alone.

Disadvantages:

  1. When used in hard water, soap can produce a scum - calcium and magnesium salts present in hard water react with the soap to cause this to happen.  Soapless or synthetic detergents do not leave a residual film behind.
  2. Considerable rinsing is required to remove soap scum.
  3. Soap may produce a greasy build-up on the surface which can be slippery.
  4. More expensive than synthetic detergents.

Sample Products:

  1. "Joy", "Ivory" (Procter & Gamble Co.)

Anionic Detergents

Uses:

  1. Commonly known as a "neutral" detergent.
  2. The most widely used soapless detergent.
  3. Available in both liquid or powder.
  4. Manufactured from strong alkalis and weak acids.
  5. Effectiveness is even greater when combined with a non-ionic detergent.
  6. These detergents produce foam when used in excess quantities and, therefore, should only be used in the recommended amounts.

Advantages:

  1. Safe for use on all floors and should not affect any pigment present in the floor covering.
  2. Can safely be used on waxed or unwaxed floors or floors treated with a water emulsion floor wax or solvent-based wax.
  3. Can be used in conjunction with mopping equipment or a polishing/scrubbing machine.
  4. More effective than non-ionic detergents in the wetting of metal surfaces.
  5. Very effective in removing inorganic dirt and soil.
  6. Greater dirt carrying capacity than non-ionic detergents.
  7. Fairly inexpensive.

Disadvantages:

  1. Not very effective in hard water.
  2. More difficult to rinse than non-ionic detergents.
  3. Produces considerable foam.

Sample Products:

  1. Natural soaps

Non Ionic Detergents

Uses:

  1. These detergents do not ionize or carry a charge when dissolved in water.
  2.  They are manufactured from alkalis and acids of equal strengths and are, therefore, neither alkaline or acid.  They have a pH value of 7.
  3. Compatible with many ingredients and can, therefore, be included in a wide variety of formulations.
  4. Acts as a foam booster when combined with other detergents such as anionic detergents.

Advantages:

  1. Safe for use on all surfaces.
  2. Produce less foam than anionic detergents.
  3. Because of their low foam characteristics, they may be effectively used in conjunction with scrubbing machines or other cleaning equipment.
  4. Easier to rinse.
  5. More effective for use in hard water than anionic detergents.
  6. Very effective for removing oils and grease.

Disadvantages:

  1. Less effective than anionic detergents in the wetting of metal surfaces.
  2. Generally more expensive than anionic detergents.
  3. Mostly available in liquid form.

Sample Products:

  1. "Orvus" (Procter & Gamble Co.)
  2. "Joy" or "Ivory Liquid" (Procter & Gamble Co.)
    "Zyfo" (Industrial Soap Co.) cleaner concentrate, a controlled suds, silicate buffered, non-ionic, rinseless-type synthetic detergent, containing no
  3. soap, free alkali, solvents, abrasives, acids, caustics or the like.
  4. "Igepal 630" (Sigma-Aldrich Corporation)

Cationic Detergents

Uses:

  1. These detergents carry a positive charge when dissolved in water.
  2. Manufactured from weak alkalis and strong acids. They are acidic in nature with a pH value less than 7.

Advantages:

  1. Have low-foam characteristics.
  2. These detergents carry anti-static properties and are effective in repelling dust.  The positive charge in a cationic solution repels the positive charge carried by dust in the atmosphere.  
  3. Very effective as a bactericide, disinfectant and deodorizer.

Disadvantages:

  1. More expensive than anionic and non-ionic detergents.
  2. Used alone, these detergents are very ineffective. They are usually combined with non-ionic detergents for better cleaning effectiveness.
  3. These detergents CANNOT be blended with anionic detergents, as each will cancel the other out, rendering the detergent completely ineffective.

Sample Products:

  1. Dish- and hand-washing soaps

Amphoteric Detergents 

Uses:

  1. Also called ampholitic detergents.
  2. These detergents have both acidic and alkaline properties.
  3. Mainly used in specialty formulations.
  4. Limited quantities are used in shampoos, medicated liquid soaps and aerosol shampoos.

Advantages:

  1. These are greatly affected by changes in pH.  They behave like anionic detergents at pH values greater or equal to 8.  They behave like non-ionic detergents at pH values between 8 and 6.They behave like cationic detergents at a pH below 4. NOTE:  At a high pH, detergency powers are increased; at a low pH, detergency powers are reduced.
  2. Non-toxic, non-irritating, germicidal and compatible with anionic, non-ionic and cationic detergents.

Disadvantages:

  1. Fairly expensive.

Alkaline Detergents

Uses:

  1. Alkaline detergents are water-soluble alkalis having detergent properties, but containing no soap.
  2. Usually range in pH from 9 to 12.5.
  3. Used in applications where a strong detergent is required such as removing water emulsion waxes, scuff marks and heavy accumulations of dirt.
  4. Generally used for "hard surface" cleaning.
  5. High alkalinity is important in saponifying fats and neutralizing acids found in many types of dirt.
  6. They are the most used of all cleaning materials.
  7. Some materials used in formulating alkaline detergents include sodium carbonate, trisodium phosphate, sodium silicate, sodium tripolyphosphate and to a lesser extent, sodium bicarbonate, sodium sulphate and certain silicates.

CAUTION: Take precautions when using alkaline detergents on linoleum. These detergents can remove the linseed oil component in linoleum and adversely affect the wood flour component.

Advantages:

  1. They remove a wider range of dirt and soil than any other type of detergent.
    Economical.
  2. Can be used with a wide variety of cleaning equipment.
  3. Low foam properties in the better alkaline detergents.

Disadvantages:

  1. DO NOT ALLOW to remain in contact with the skin for any length of time.  Wear rubber gloves.
  2. Alkaline detergents may remove water emulsion floor waxes.
  3. Alkaline detergents may also affect pigment by causing it to fade or yellow.
  4. Some alkaline cleaners (especially those containing sodium hydroxide) may tend to form soluble salts which crystalize as efflorescence on the surface.
  5. Alkaline detergents must be rinsed thoroughly in order to prevent a white powdery residue from remaining on the surface.
  6. Multiple applications may cause damage to the surface.
  7. Contact of bronze or copper with alkaline cleaners will cause the metals to corrode.

Sample Products:

  1. Most common is Trisodium Phosphate (TSP):
    1. NOTE: This chemical is banned in some states such as California.  Regulatory information as well as alternative or equivalent chemicals may be requested from the environmental protection agency (EPA) regional office and/or the state office of environmental quality.
    2. Strong base-type powdered cleaning material sold under brand names.
    3. Other chemical or common names include Sodium Orthophosphate; Tribasic sodium phosphate; Trisodium orthophosphate; TSP*; Phosphate of soda*; (also sold under brand names such as Red Devil).
    4. Potential Hazards:  Castic to flesh.
    5. Available from chemical supply house, grocery store or supermarket or hardware store.
    6. Commercial TSP supplied by Red Devil, Inc., 2400 Vauxhall Road, Union, NJ  07083-1933, 201/688-6900 or 800/423-3845.
  2. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH):
    1. A white brittle solid that is a strong caustic base used especially in making soap, rayon, and paper 
    2. Other chemical or common names include Caustic soda*; Hydrate of soda*; Hydrated oxide of sodium*; Lye*; Mineral alkali*; Soda lye*; Sodic hydrate*; Sodium hydrate*
    3. Potential Hazards:  Caustic to flesh and Flamable (When in contact with organic solvents)
    4. Available from chemical supply house, drugstore or pharmaceutical supply distributor, hardware store, or paint store.
  3. Potassium Hydroxide (KOH):
    1. A white deliquescent solid that dissolves in water with much heat to form a strongly alkaline and caustic liquid; used chiefly in making soap and as a reagent.
    2. Other chemical or common names include Potassium hydrate; Caustic potash*; Caustic potassa*; Hydrate of potassa*; Potassa*.
    3. Potential Hazards:  TOXIC AND CORROSIVE TO FLESH.
    4. Available from chemical supply house, drugstore or pharmaceutical supply distributor, hardware store, or garden and lawn supply center.
  4. Ammonium Hydroxide or Ammonia (NH4OH):
    1. CAUTION:  DO NOT MIX AMMONIA WITH CHLORINE BLEACHES, A POISONOUS GAS WILL RESULT!  DO NOT USE BLEACH ON BIRD DROPPINGS.
    2. A weakly basic compound that is formed when ammonia dissolves in water and that exists only in solution.
    3. Other chemical or common names include Ammonia water*; Aqua ammonia*; Household ammonia*.
    4. Potential hazards:  TOXIC; MAY IRRITATE THE EYES.
    5. Available from chemical supply house, grocery store or
    6. Pharmaceutical supply distributor, or hardware store. Spic 'n' Span (Procter & Gamble Co.)

Caustic Materials

Uses:

  1. Caustic materials are based on caustic soda, sodium hydroxide, caustic potash or potassium hydroxide.
  2. EXTREMELY strong materials with a high pH value.
  3. Used where VERY STRONG alkaline solutions are required such as in clearing blocked drains.
  4. Available in solid or concentrated liquid forms.
  5. Caustic potash is hygroscopic (absorbs water from the air) and is NOT recommended for use in powdered formulations that are to remain moisture-free
  6. CAUTION:  Never use caustic materials on floor coverings.  The strong alkalinity will produce irreversible damage.

Disadvantages:

  1. Can produce irreversible discoloration.
  2. Safety hazard to user:  Corrosive to flesh and flammable when in contact with organic solvents.
  3. Produces a significant increase in temperature when dissolved in water at high levels.
  4. Difficult to rinse from surfaces.  However, caustic potash is more soluble than caustic soda.
  5. Lack the ability to absorb liquid ingredients in powdered formulations.
  6. Extremely corrosive to soft metals such as aluminum and zinc and ceramic or glazed surfaces.
  7. Avoid contact between caustic soda and liquid surfactants - contact may result in a decrease in its effectiveness and discoloration in the product.

Sample Products:

  1. Liquid Plumber (The Clorox Company)
  2. Oven Cleaners

Acid Cleaners

Uses:

  1. Composed primarily of compounds based on phosphoric acid, sodium bisulphate, oxalic acid, gluconic acid and
  2. hydrochloric acid.
  3. Acid cleaners are usually formulated as aqueous solutions.
  4. DO NOT ALLOW acids to come in contact with skin or clothing. Protect hands by wearing rubber gloves.  Wash with soapy
  5. water immediately if skin comes in contact with an acid cleaner.
  6. Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is the most commonly used acid cleaner and the only cleaner known not to leave soluble salts in
  7. masonry; usually applied in a 2-5% dilute water solution.

CAUTION: Acid cleaners can be detrimental to many types of surfaces such as paint, stainless steel, aluminum and almost all floor types. Not recommended for use on limestone, marble or light-colored brick, unless applied in very low concentrations (3%) and rinsed immediately with copious amounts of water. Never use acid cleaners in combination with bleach or hypochlorite solutions.  This combination will produce a toxic chlorine gas.

Advantages:

  1. Effective in removing cement, plaster or concrete spill because acids will attack alkaline materials.
  2. Suitable for use on sandstone and granite.

Disadvantages:

  1. Acids may damage surrounding materials such as glass, bronze, painted surfaces, wood, limestone and marble, vegetation and humans.
  2. Disposal of run-off must be carefully controlled.
  3. Drainage of toxic chemicals may not be permissible in some cities.

Sample Products:

  1. Weak acids include white vinegar (acetic acid) and lemon juice (citric acid)
  2. Rust removers - usually contain oxalic acid; "Zud"
  3. Cleaning products for removing hard water deposits - usually contain phosphoric acid
  4. Toilet bowl cleaners - usually contain diluted concentrations of hydrochloric and sulfuric acids

Detergent Crystals

Uses:

  1. Also called alkaline degreasers.
  2. Used primarily in industrial applications.
  3. Detergent crystals contain few ingredients - one being sodium metasilicate which is soluble in hot or cold water.
  4. Detergent crystals, when mixed with water, create a strong alkaline solution that is effective in removing oil, grease and wax.
  5. See also Alkaline Detergents above.

Advantages:

  1. Less expensive than solvent-based emulsions.
  2. They can be used on any type of floor because they are water-based and solvent-free.

Solvent-based Detergent Wax Removers

Uses:

  1. Composed of hydrocarbon solvents such as white spirit and water.  
  2. NOTE:  THESE WAX REMOVERS CAN ONLY BE USED ON FLOORS
    NOT ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY WHITE SPIRIT OR SIMILAR SOLVENTS.
  3. Manufactured in many different strengths.  The two most common include 
    1. those containing almost all solvent and a little water (usually clear, transparent liquids),
    2. those with equal proportions of solvent and water (usually white, opaque liquids).
  4. Solvent-based detergents are used primarily for removing solvent-based waxes, oil and grease.
  5. Widely used for removing paste and liquid types of solvent wax from floors.
  6. The solvent component of the remover penetrates and softens the wax.  The emulsifying and wetting agents hold the wax in suspension for removal by mopping with warm water.

Advantages:

  1. Safe and effective for use on wood, wood composition, cork, magnesite, linoleum, concrete and stone floors.
    Non-flammable.
  2. Better than paraffin and white spirit in removing wax, oil and grease because of the presence of an emulsifying agent in the solvent-based remover, which suspends the dirt for removal.
  3. Less material is required to soften the wax than with paraffin or white spirit.  Paraffin and white spirit tend to evaporate quickly leaving loosened dirt behind to harden again on the surface.

Disadvantages:

  1. DO NOT USE on asphalt, thermoplastic tiles, PVC (vinyl) asbestos or rubber floors.  Solvents will damage these types of floors.
Last Reviewed 2016-07-11