Cleaning products are substances (usually liquids, powders, sprays, or granules) used to remove dirt, including dust, stains, bad smells, and clutter on surfaces. Purposes of cleaning agents include health, beauty, removing offensive odor, and avoiding the spread of dirt and contaminants to oneself and others. Some cleaning agents can kill bacteria (e.g. door handle bacteria, as well as bacteria on worktops and other metallic surfaces) and clean at the same time. Others, called degreasers, contain organic solvents to help dissolve oils and fats.
Acidic cleaning agents are mainly used for removal of inorganic deposits like scaling. The active ingredients are normally strong mineral acids and chelants. Often, surfactants and corrosion inhibitors are added to the acid.
Hydrochloric acid is a common mineral acid typically used for concrete. Vinegar can also be used to clean hard surfaces and remove calcium deposits. Sulphuric acid is used in acidic drain cleaners to unblock clogged pipes by dissolving greases, proteins, and even carbohydrate-containing substances such as toilet tissue.
Alkaline cleaning agents contain strong bases like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Bleach (pH 12) and ammonia (pH 11) are common alkaline cleaning agents. Often, dispersants, to prevent redeposition of dissolved dirt, and chelants, to attack rust, are added to the alkaline agent. Alkaline cleaners can dissolve fats (including grease), oils, and protein-based substances.
Neutral washing agents are pH-neutral and based on non-ionic surfactants that disperse different types
Cleaning agents specially made for removal of grease are called degreasers. These may be solvent-based or solvent-containing and metamorphic.
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Traditional oven cleaners contain sodium hydroxide (lye), solvents, and other ingredients, and work best when used in a slightly-warm (not hot) oven. If used in a self-cleaning oven, the lye will cause permanent damage to the oven.
New-style oven cleaners are based on ingredients other than lye. These products must be used in a cold oven. Most new-style oven cleaners can be used in self-cleaning ovens.
Oven cleaners are some of the most toxic household cleaning products available on the market. When using any oven cleaner, it is important to carefully read and follow all directions. Correct use of an oven cleaner may be reasonably safe, but incorrect use can cause poisoning.
One popular oven cleaner brand in the US is “Easy-Off”, sold by Reckitt Benckiser. Popular choices in the UK include “Zep Oven Brite” and “Mr Muscle Oven Cleaner”.
For more information on the history and composition of oven cleaners, see Mr Muscle § Oven cleaner.
All-purpose cleansers contain mixtures of anionic and nonionic surfactants, polymeric phosphates or other sequestering agents, solvents, hydrotropic substances, polymeric compounds, corrosion inhibitors, skin-protective agents, and sometimes perfumes and colorants.
Some cleaners contain water-soluble organic solvents like glycol ethers and fatty alcohols, which ease the removal of oil, fat and paint. Disinfectant additives include quaternary ammonium compounds, phenol derivatives, terpene alcohols (pine oil), aldehydes, and aldehyde-amine condensation products.
All-purpose cleansers are effective with most common kinds of dirt. Their dilute solutions are neutral or weakly alkaline, and are safe for use on most surfaces.
Metal cleaners are used for cleaning stainless steel sinks, faucets, metal trim, silverware, etc. These products contain abrasives (e.g., siliceous chalk, diatomaceous earth, alumina) with a particle size
Stainless steel, nickel, and chromium cleaners contain lactic, citric, or phosphoric acid. A solvent (mineral spirits) may be added.
Nonferrous metal cleaners contain ammonia, ammonium soaps (ammonium oleate, stearate) and chelating agents (ammonium citrate, oxalate).
Silverware can be freed of silver sulfide tarnish with thiourea, and either hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.