Smart Cleaning Managers Understand the pH Scale. Here’s Your Crash Course!
Many facility managers have fallen under the misconception that the higher the pH of a cleaning product, the more effective that product will be at cleaning. In reality, however, the pH level you seek is going to depend on the type of substance you need to clean.
What follows is a quick “101” guide to understanding the pH scale, and how it relates to your cleaning chemicals.
What Is pH?
pH measures hydrogen ions, and is an indicator of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Electrically charged atoms that are positively charged are hydrogen ions – or acidic. Electrically charged atoms that are negatively charged are hydroxide ions – or alkaline. If the number of positively and negatively charged ions in a substance is equal, the substance is neutral, and neither alkaline nor acidic.
What Is The pH Scale?
The pH scale – which ranges from 0 to 14 – tells you the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Any substance with a value of less than 7 is an acid. Any substance with a value greater than 7 is alkaline. A substance with the value of 7 is neutral.
The lower the number on the scale, the stronger the acid is. The higher the number, the more alkaline (or “basic”) the substance is. Neutral substances (those with a value of 7) are neither alkaline nor acidic.
What Are Some Everyday Examples of Alkaline, Acid, and Neutral Substances?
Examples of neutral substances are milk, water, and blood. Examples of acidic substances include vinegar, wine, cola, and lemon juice. Alkaline substances include items like ammonia, baking soda, and detergents such as laundry detergent.
How Does the pH Scale Relate To Cleaning Chemicals? When cleaning a substance off a hard surface or a carpet, your goal is to neutralize the soil’s acidic or alkaline ions. Acid neutralizes alkaline, and alkaline neutralizes acid. Therefore, contrary to the misconception that a higher pH level makes the best cleaning product, the following is actually true:
To clean acidic soils, you want a cleaning product that falls in the alkaline spectrum (greater than 7 on the pH scale.)
To clean alkaline soils, you want a cleaning product that falls in the acidic spectrum (less than 7 on the pH scale.)
For acid-based soils, such as those listed below, use alkali cleaners.
Engines and tools
Motor oils, diesel oil, axle grease
For alkaline-based soils, such as those listed below, use acid cleaners.
Inside of dishwashers
Knowledge is Power When it Comes to Effective Cleaning. Is your crew cleaning with the proper products? While it’s a common mistake to order only the cleaning products with the highest pH levels, the truth is that a higher pH isn’t always appropriate. Always be careful when ordering cleaning chemicals, and remind your crew to follow cleaning product labels if there’s ever any question or doubt.
[Include this chart in the article? It falls under Creative Commons.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH
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