Cleaning agent

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Using a mix of acidic vinegar and soap to clean a plastic surface

Cleaning agents or hard-surface cleaners are substances (usually liquids, powders, sprays, or granules) used to remove dirt, including dust, stains, bad smells, and clutter on surfaces.[1] 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.[2]

Chemical agents[edit]


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 that also helps to maintain our environment bacteria free. 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.

Green Cleaning agents Using green cleaning products would also important to make sure we minimize the environmental pollutions. There are wide verities of green cleaning agents. These are also called as ecofriendly cleaning agents.

Scouring agents[edit]

Scouring agents are mixtures of the usual cleaning chemicals (surfactants, water softeners) as well as abrasive powders. The abrasive powder must be of a uniform particle size.

Particles are usually smaller than 0.05 mm. Pumice, calcium carbonate (limestone, chalk, dolomite), kaolinite, quartz, soapstone or talc are often used as abrasives, i.e. polishing agents.

Special bleaching powders contain compounds that release sodium hypochlorite, the classical household bleaching agent. These precursor agents include trichloroisocyanuric acid and mixtures of sodium hypochlorite (“chlorinated orthophosphate”).

Examples of notable products include: Ajax, Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami, Comet, Vim, Zud, and others.


Oven cleaners[edit]

Traditional oven cleaners contain sodium hydroxide (lye), solvents, and other ingredients,[3] 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.[4] Correct use of an oven cleaner may be reasonably safe, but incorrect use, including breathing fumes, contact with eyes and mucous membranes and swallowing can cause poisoning.[5]

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".

All-purpose cleaners[edit]

Fabuloso multipurpose cleaner and generic surface cleaners

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.[6] Aversive agents, such as denatonium, are occasionally added to cleaning products to discourage animals and small children from consuming them.

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 cleaners are usually concentrated solutions of surfactants and water softeners, which enhance the behavior of surfactant in hard water. Typical surfactants are alkylbenzene sulfonates, an anionic detergent, and modified fatty alcohols. A typical water softener is sodium triphosphate.

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.

Dishwashing agents[edit]

Manual dishwashing detergent[edit]

Automatic dishwashing detergents (ADDs)[edit]

Laundry detergents[edit]

Floor cleaners[edit]

Carpet cleaners[edit]

Toilet cleaners / hygiene / deodorant products[edit]

Toilet bowl cleaning often is aimed at removal of calcium carbonate deposits, which are attacked by acids. Powdered cleaners contain acids that come in the form of solid salts, such as sodium hydrogen sulfate. Liquid toilet bowl cleaners contain other acids, typically dilute hydrochloric, phosphoric, or formic acids. These convert the calcium carbonate into salts that are soluble in water or are easily rinsed away.

Drain cleaners[edit]

Metal cleaners[edit]

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 < 20 μm. Fatty alcohol or alkylphenol polyglycol ethers with 7-12 ethylene oxide (EO) units are used as surfactants.[6]

For ferrous metals, the cleaners contain chelating agents, abrasives, and surfactants. These agents include citric and phosphoric acids, which are nonaggressive. Surfactants are usually modified fatty alcohols. Silver cleaning is a specialty since silver is noble but tends to tarnish via formation of black silver sulfide, which is removable via silver-specific complexants such as thiourea.

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).

For special type of precious metals especially those used for luxury watches and high-end jewelry, special type of cleaning agents are usually used to clean and protect them from the Elements. Some examples of these cleaners include jewelry cleaner from Weiman,[7] watch cleaning solution from HOROCD[8] & even cleaning metal plates from Holland Hallmark.

Glass cleaners[edit]

Light duty hard surface cleaners are not intended to handle heavy dirt and grease. Because these products are expected to clean without rinsing and result in a streak-free shine, they contain no salts. Typical window cleaning items consist of alcohols, either ethanol or isopropanol, and surfactants for dissolving grease. Other components include small amounts of ammonia as well as dyes and perfumes.[1]

These are composed of organic, water-miscible solvent such as isopropyl alcohol and an alkaline detergent. Some glass cleaners also contain a fine, mild abrasive. Most glass cleaners are available as sprays or liquid. They are sprayed directly onto windows, mirrors and other glass surfaces or applied on with a soft cloth and rubbed off using a soft, lint-free duster. A glass cloth ideal for the purpose and soft water to which some methylated spirit or vinegar is added which is an inexpensive glass cleaner.

Silverware can be freed of silver sulfide tarnish with thiourea, and either hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.

Building facade cleaners[edit]

For acid-resistant building facades, such as brick, acids are typically used. These include mixtures of phosphoric and hydrofluoric acids as well as surfactants. For acid-sensitive facades such as concrete, strongly alkaline cleaners are used such as sodium hydroxide and thickeners. Both types of cleaners require a rinsing and often special care since the solutions are aggressive toward skin.

Environmental impacts[edit]

Common cleaning agents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Christian Nitsch, Hans-Joachim Heitland, Horst Marsen, Hans-Joachim Schlüussler (2005). "Cleansing Agents". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a07_137.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Wisniewski, Karen (2007). "All-Purpose Cleaners and their Formulation". In Tsoler, Uri (ed.). Handbook of detergents, Part 2. Surfactant science series. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-57444-757-6.
  3. ^ Justo, Patrick Di (19 May 2008). "What's Inside: Foamalicious, Vaporlicious Easy-Off Oven Cleaner". Wired. Condé Nast, Inc. ISSN 1059-1028.
  4. ^ Kelly, John (9 June 2012). "How Self-cleaning Ovens Work". HowStuffWorks website. InfoSpace Holdings LLC.
  5. ^ Oven cleaner poisoning, The Mount Sinai Health System, retrieved April 18th, 2021
  6. ^ a b Christian Nitsch; Hans-Joachim Heitland; Horst Marsen; Hans-Joachim Schlüssler (2007), "Cleansing Agents", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley
  7. ^ Chan, Tim (13 May 2020). "After Washing Your Hands, Here's How to Clean and Disinfect Your Watches and Jewelry". Rolling Stone.
  8. ^ DEBBY KWONG, HAYDEN NG. "How to take care of your watches and jewellery". Her World Singapore. Her World Singapore.