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Carpet Cleaning Chemicals 101: What You Need To Know

Carpet Cleaning Chemicals 101: What You Need To Know

Aug 17th 2022

Remember when you were in high school and wondered when you'd ever use the information you learned in real life? If you own a residential or commercial cleaning business, here's hoping you paid attention in chemistry class.

Why? Because a basic understanding of pH is essential for choosing the right cleaning products for a job. Can't recall much from your school years? Don't worry. You don't need to enroll in a chemistry course at your local college for a refresher. Clean Pro Supply's Carpet Cleaning Chemicals 101 course will teach you what you need to know.

Understanding the pH Scale

Let's start with the basics. What's pH? pH (potential hydrogen) is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a solution is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The lower the number, the more acidic the solution. The higher the number, the more alkaline the solution. Solutions with a pH of 7 are neutral.

Every time you move up or down a number, the acidity or alkalinity of the solution increases tenfold. A solution with a pH of 9 is ten times more alkaline than a solution with a pH of 10, for example. Likewise, a solution with a pH of 2 is ten times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 3.

How Does pH Affect Cleaning Power?

So, what does pH have to do with cleaning? Cleaning solutions aren't the only things that have a pH level. Everything has a pH level, including dirt, soil, and other substances that stubbornly stick to surfaces and make them dirty. Knowing the pH level of the grime on a surface helps you determine what kind of solution you need to clean it.

In most cases, you want to use a solution with a pH value that’s the opposite of what you're cleaning. So, if you're cleaning an acidic substance, you use an alkaline solution. If you're cleaning an alkaline substance, you use an acidic solution.

If you're cleaning carpets, the type of carpet fiber you're dealing with also matters. Different materials have different tolerances for certain pH levels. You'll want to use a solution that effectively breaks down dirt without damaging the fibers. Synthetic fibers can usually tolerate solutions with a pH level from 0 to 10. Natural fibers are a bit more delicate. So, clean them with solutions that are closer to the middle of the pH scale. Solutions with a pH level between 5 to 8 are safe bets.

Another crucial thing to know about cleaning carpets is that previous stains or cleaners lingering on the surface can turn the carpet alkaline and alter its tolerances even though carpets are naturally slightly acidic. It's a good idea to carry around a pH meter so that you can test the pH level of carpets before you clean them.

Types of Cleaning Products

You can sort cleaning products into one of three main categories based on their pH level. Here's how to tell acidic, alkaline, and neutral solutions apart.

Acidic Products

An acidic cleaner has a pH less than 7, with the intensity getting stronger as the number approaches zero.

People traditionally use acidic solutions to clean deposits that are insoluble in water. You can't clean these deposits with water-based chemicals. Mineral deposits and limescale, which are common in bathrooms and kitchens, are two things that you'll need an acidic solution to clean. Because these are alkaline, they dissolve in acid. Acidic solutions are also helpful for cleaning toilet bowls, rust stains, and mold.

Alkaline Products

An alkaline cleaner has a pH greater than 7, with mild alkaline solutions being 8 or 9 pH, getting more intense as it approaches 14.

Did you know that most soils are acidic? That means alkaline solutions are pivotal for eliminating them and leaving surfaces squeaky clean. Alkaline products effectively remove greasy or oily organic residues, including oils, fats, greases, and proteins.

Neutral Products

A neutral cleaner has a pH of 7.

Most cleaning products that have neutral a pH would be classified as maintenance cleaners. Neutral cleaners are ideal for cleaning tile and grout, stone floors, wood floors, linoleum, laminate floors, and other sealed surfaces.

If the surface only has light soil or small particles, you can use a neutral solution to clean it. Only use acidic and alkaline situations in specific circumstances, such as when cleaning carpets or metals.

How To Choose the Right pH

This post on Carpet Cleaning Chemicals 101 has taught you most of what you need to know about pH’s influence on the cleaning process. So far, you’ve learned:

  • What pH is and how to read the pH scale
  • The correlation between pH and cleaning power
  • What acidic, alkaline, and neutral solutions can traditionally clean

But now, you're probably wondering how to figure out what kind of solution you need when the answer isn’t obvious. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to determine the pH level you need to clean certain surfaces and messes.

Match It to the Task

There's no such thing as a universally "correct" pH level for cleaning. The kind of solution needed varies depending on what exactly you're cleaning. If you're scrubbing soap scum off a sink in a commercial kitchen, use an acidic cleaner. But when you move on to the greasy and oily countertops, you'll need to switch to an alkaline cleaner. What if you’re cleaning off desks or tables in an office? A neutral solution should get the job done.

Know What Fiber You're Working With

When cleaning a carpet, you need to consider the type of fiber you're tackling. As mentioned previously:

  • Synthetic fibers (nylon, polyester, olefin, etc.) are generally cleaned with alkaline cleaners, detergent cleaners, and acid rinses between 3-12 pH.
  • Natural fibers (wool, silk, cotton, jute, etc.) are generally cleaned with mild solutions ranging 5-9 pH.

Determine the Soil Type and Amount

The type and amount of dirt on a surface also influence what kind of solution is best. You can clean surfaces that have small amounts of soil with neutral products. But if there's a lot of soil, you may need to switch to a solution that's more acidic or alkaline.

Neutral cleaners are effective at cleaning both acidic and alkaline soils. But neutral cleaners may not be strong enough when a surface has heavily acidic or alkaline soils on it. If you're dealing with acidic soils, you'll want to use an alkaline solution. On the other hand, if you're dealing with alkaline soils, you'll want to use an acidic solution.

For commercial carpet cleaning chemicals, shop with Clean Pro Supply! We have everything you need for your residential or commercial cleaning business.

Carpet Cleaning Chemicals 101: What You Need To Know