Cleaning agents are materials used to keep the home, office or other public places free of dirt, grime, germs and odors, and typically come in either liquid, granule or powder forms. Most common ones include acetic acid (vinegar), carbon dioxide, sodium perborate, borax, ammonia, chromic acid, trisodium phosphate and some forms of alcohol.
These substances can be of a neutral, acidic or alkaline variety, with the chemical make-up dependent on the intended uses of the product. Wherever a particular product falls on a PH level scale of 1-14 determines how acidic or alkaline the material is, with a seven grading rendering the agent neutral.
Alkaline solutions such as chlorine bleach are best for cleaning up grease, dirt and oils, and are often found in laundry detergents due to their ability to easily remove stains and dyes from clothing. Using bleach can be a highly effective way to clean fabrics and remove stains, but can cause undesirable spotting if applied directly to the fabric. In many cases, bleach should be diluted in wash water before adding clothing for best results.
Acidic materials found in some toilet bowl cleaners are a top choice when it comes to tackling stains caused by rust or calcium.
Another kind of cleaning agent known as a degreaser is solvent-based and is a suitable compound for spot removers, oven cleaners and some furniture and metal polishes. It is utilized to dissolve substances that are water insoluble, like tough greases and oils, and are intended for use on hard surfaces like floors, appliances, machines and even tools. Kerosene and xylene can be found in some kinds of degreasers.
Combining differing levels of some products can be hazardous to one's health, and consumers should be mindful of the active ingredients in each product before use. Mixing bleach and some toilet bowl cleaners, for example, can produce fumes that are toxic and can cause serious injury or death. Cleaners with a PH reading below two or above 12.5 are considered hazardous materials and special guidelines must be followed when disposing of them.
Disinfectants are cleaning materials used to kill harmful bacteria and are often used in homes, hospitals, schools, veterinary clinics and many other locations where the potential for spreading germs is of particular concern. These kinds of materials differ from standard cleaning agents because of their ability to eliminate microbes that can cause infection or illness. Key ingredients found in disinfectants and antiseptics are biocides, known for its ability to destroy bacteria and inhibit its continual growth.
Phenol, another common ingredient in disinfectants, has been used in everything from Pine-Sol to some types of mouthwash. Some studies have shown people who are sensitive to it may experience side effects such as respiratory problems or damage to kidneys, liver and eyes after exposure to relatively low levels.