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Cleaning agents 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. on door handles, worktops and other metallic surfaces, and clean at the same time. Others, called degreasers, contain organic solvents to help dissolve oils and fats.

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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.

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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.

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Neutral washing agents are pH-neutral and based on non-ionic surfactants that disperse different types

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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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All-purpose 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, 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.

Scouring cleaners

Dishwashing agents

Manual dishwashing detergents (MDDs)

Automatic dishwashing detergents (ADDs)

Floor cleaners

Carpet cleaners

Toilet bowl cleaners

Toilet hygiene and deodorant products

Drain cleaners

Metal cleaners

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 ?m. Fatty alcohol or alkylphenol polyglycol ethers with 7-12 ethylene oxide (EO) units are used as surfactants.

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.

Window cleaners

Automotive cleansers

Building facade cleaners

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Components of cleaning agent


Sequestrants (Builders)


Corrosion Inhibitors

Foam Inhibitors


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Environmental impacts

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Common cleaning agents

  • Water, the most common cleaning agent, which is a very powerful polar solvent
  • Soap or detergent
  • Ammonia
  • Calcium hypochlorite (powdered bleach)
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium hypochlorite (liquid bleach)
  • Sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • Acetic acid (vinegar)
  • Various forms of alcohol - like isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
  • Borax
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • Tetrachloroethylene (dry cleaning)
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Chromic acid
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Saltwater soap (a potassium based soap)
  • Sodium percarbonate
  • Sodium perborate
  • Acetone (can damage plastics)
  • Amyl nitrite and other nitrites
  • Xylene (can damage plastics)
  • Freon-Dichlorodifluoromethane (discontinued in 1995 due to damage to the ozone layer).

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See also

  • Disinfectants
  • Laundry detergents
  • Hard-surface cleaner
  • Green cleaning
  • List of cleaning products


External links

  • The Chemistry of Cleaning

Source of the article : Wikipedia