Cleaning Glossary

Abrasion
The wearing away of cleaning by friction.
Acid
A compound that ionizes in water to produce hydrogen ions.
Active Ingredients
The ingredients in a product that are specifically designed to achieve the product performance objectives.
Adhesion
A characteristic of soils or films which causes soils and oils to stick or bond to surfaces making them difficult to remove.
Alcohols
Organic compounds that contain one or more hydroxyl groups (-OH functional groups) in each molecule.
Alkali or Base
Describes a solution formed when a base dissolves in water to form a solution which contains more hydroxide ions than hydrogen ions.
Ammonia
Alkaline gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen.
Amphoteric Surfactant
Surfactant that, in water solution, may be either anionic or cationic, depending upon the pH.
Anhydrous
Product that has had all of the water removed.
Anion
Ion with a negative charge, formed when an atom gains electrons in a reaction.
Anionic Surfactant
Negatively charged part of a molecule.
Biodegradable
The ability of a substance to be broken down into simpler, smaller parts by a biological process.
Buffer
Any substance in a fluid which tends to resist a sudden change in pH when acid or alkali is added.
Builder
Material that upgrades or protects the cleaning efficiency of a surfactant. Builders inactivate water hardness, supply alkalinity to assist cleaning, provide buffering to maintain alkalinity, prevents redeposition of soil and emulsification of oily and greasy soils.
Build-up
A heavy deposit of finish, wax, dirt and grime.
Catalyst
An element or compound that accelerates the rate of a chemical reaction but is neither changed nor consumed by it.
Cation
An ion with a positive charge, formed when an atom loses electrons in a reaction.
Cationic Surfactant
Surfactant with a positively charged ionic group.
Caustic
Strong alkaline substance which irritates the skin.
Chelating Agent
Organic sequestering agent used to inactivate hard water and other metallic ions in water.
Cleaning
Includes locating, identifying, containing, removing and disposing of unwanted substances (pollutants) from the environment. It is our most powerful means of managing our immediate surrounding and protecting our health.
Cloud Point
The temperature at which a surfactant becomes insoluble in water.
Coagulation
An irreversible process in which a number of emulsion droplets coalesce, leading to complete separation of the emulsion.
Colloid
Type of solution in which the particles are not dissolved but are dispersed throughout the solvent or medium and held in suspension.
Compatibility
The ability of two or more substances to mix without objectionable changes in their physical or chemical properties.
Corrosion Inhibitor
Material that protects against the wearing away of surfaces.
Critical Micelle Concentration
The concentration of a surfactant in solution at which the molecules begin to form aggregates called micelles while the concentration of surfactant in solution remains constant.
Defoamers
Substance used to reduce or eliminate foam.
Deionized Water
Water from which charged or ionizable organic or inorganic salts are removed.
Deliquescent
Describes a substance which absorbs water vapor from the air and dissolves in it, forming a concentrated solution.
Detergent
Washing and cleaning agent with a composition other than soap.
Diffusion
Spontaneous and even mixing of gases or liquids.
Dispersing Agent
Material that reduces the cohesive attraction between like particles.
Dispersion
Colloidal system characterized by a continuous (external phase) and a discontinuous (internal phase). Uniformity of dispersions can be improved by the use of dispersing agents.
Distilled Water
Water which has had salts removed by distillation.
Dwell or Contact Time
Describes the time something resides on a surface or in a basin before it flows or is washed away.
Electrolytes
Substances capable of conducting an electric current, either in their pure liquid state or when in solution. Acids, bases and salts are all electrolytes.
Emulsification
Action of breaking up fats, oils and other soils into small particles which are then suspended in a solution.
Enzyme
Protein molecules produced within an organism that are used as catalysts for biochemical reactions.
Etch
Chemically caused change on the outside of a smooth surface which causes it to become pitted or rough.
Eutrophication
An overgrowth of aquatic plants caused by an excess of nitrates, nitrites and phosphates. It results in a shortage of oxygen in the water, causing the death of aquatic life.
Evaporation
Change of state from liquid to gaseous (vapor), due to the escape of molecules from the surface.
Exothermic Reaction
A reaction in which heat is given off to the surroundings as the products of the reaction are formed.
Fatty Acid
An organic substance which reacts with a base to form a soap. Tallow and coconut oil are examples.
Flashpoint
The minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off a vapor in sufficient concentration to ignite when tested.
Flocculation
A reversible process in which a number of emulsion droplets stick together to form a cluster which can be broken up by mechanical action restoring the emulsion to its original form.
Foam
A mass of bubbles formed on liquids by agitation. Foam can be unstable, transient or stable depending upon the presence and nature of the components in the liquid.
Hard Water
Water which contains calcium and magnesium salts that have dissolved from the rocks over which the water has flowed.
HLB (Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance)
Property of a surfactant which is represented by an arbitrary scale of 0-20 wherein the most hydrophilic materials have the highest numbers.
Hydrophilic
Describes a group or radical of a surfactant molecule that makes or tends to make it soluble in water. Associated with the hydrophilic portion of a surfactant molecule is the opposite hydrophobic portion.
Hydrotrope
Substance that increases the insolubility in water of another material, which is only partially soluble.
Insolubility
Inability of one substance to dissolve in another.
Interfacial Tension
Measure of the molecular forces existing at the boundary between two phases; expressed in dynes/cm.
Ions
Electrically charged particle, formed when an atom loses or gains one or more electrons to form a stable outer shell. All ions are either cations or anions.
Micelle
Spherical grouping of detergent molecules in water.
Miscibility
Used interchangeably with solubility. It is the ability of a liquid or gas to dissolve uniformly in another liquid or gas.
Molecules
Smallest particle of an element or compound that normally exists on its own and still retains its properties. Molecules normally consist of two or more atoms bonded together.
Neutral
Chemical state that is neither acid nor alkali with a pH of 7.
Nonionic Surfactant
Surface active agent containing neither positively or negatively charged functional groups.
Oxidation
to combine with oxygen.
Oxidizing Agent
Substance that accepts electrons in an oxidation-reduction reaction. A substance that causes the oxidation of a reactant molecule.
pH
Measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. It is expressed in a number from 0-14. Zero being a powerful acid and 14 being a powerful alkali. Neutral is 7.
Phosphates
Substance that is added to a detergent to increase its water softening ability.
Porous
Surface that was many tiny openings.
Precipitate
Material settled out of solution.
Preservatives
Antimicrobial agents to prevent microbial deterioration; they protect the unopened container, but do not substantially protect finish after it has been used.
Reagent
Substances used to start a chemical reaction suck as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide.
Salt
Ionic compound formed by the reaction between an acid and a base.
Saponification
Process of converting a fat into soap by treating it with an alkali. Also the process used by some to remove grease and oil.
Saturated
Describes a solution that will not dissolve any more solute at a given temperature. Any more solute will remain as crystals.
Sequestering Agents
Chemicals that tie up water hardness and prevent the precipitation of hard water salts.
Soil
Describes a wide group of substances that attach themselves to surfaces creating a pollutant. Soils loosely attach to surfaces by surface tension, electrical attraction or chemical bonding.
Solvents
Liquid which dissolves another substance. Water is the most common solvent.
Surface Tension
The attractive forces which liquid molecules have for each other.
Surfactant
Substances which lower the surface tension of water. These surface-active agents modify the emulsifying, foaming, dispersing, spreading and wetting properties of a product.
Suspension
Process of a cleaning agent holding insoluble dirt particles in the cleaning solution and keeping them from redepositing on a clean floor.
Synergistic
Chemicals that when combined have a greater effect than the sum of the two independently.
Synthetic Detergents
Sometimes called soapless detergents; typically made from by-products of refining crude oil.
Titration
Procedure that uses a neutralization reaction to determine the normality (the number of equivalents per liter of solution) of an unknown acid or base solution.
Universal Solvent
Water is called the universal solvent because it dissolves both ionic compounds and polar molecular compounds. Water usually cannot dissolve nonpolar molecules.
Use-Dilution
Final concentration at which a product is used.
Viscosity
Thickness of a liquid which determines pourability. Water has a viscosity of 1 centipoise. The resistance to flow is measured in relationship to water in centipoise.
Volatile
Part of a product that evaporates during drying.
Water Hardness
Measure of the amount of metallic salts found in water.
Wetting Agent
Chemical which reduces surface tension of water, allowing it to spread more freely.