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- Soils (Dirt)
Dirt, stains and even rusts are all known as soils in the cleaning world. That is as in soiled rather than the brown stuff worms eat. Cleaning is the removal soil. Again forget about spades!
Soils fall into 2 categories, organic and inorganic
- Organic soils such as fat, grease, protein like blood, and carbohydrate. I dont know what carbohydrate soil is – any one else? Mold, yeast and bacteria, motor oil, axle grease, cutting oils and other petroleum soils.
- Inorganic soils such rust, scale, hard water deposits and minerals such as sand, silt and clay.
They require different cleaning solutions
- Organic soils are usually best moved using alkaline cleaners.
- Inorganic soils prefer and acid cleaner.
- Minerals are often cleaned with general purpose cleaners.
Alkaline & Acid Solutions
Wether a solution is acid or alkaline is down to how much how much hydrogen is in a solution.
Acidity is measured in pH or the power of hydrogen.
It is shown in number form on the pH scale of 1 to 14.
Confusingly the lower the number the higher the hydrogen. The higher the hydrogen the more acidic the solution.
pH 1 = lots of hydrogen (H+) ions in solution
pH 14 = hydroxyl ions (OH–) in solution
The image is from precision Labs
So the strength of an acid is based on the concentration of H+ ions in the solution.
pH1 is very acidic
pH 7 is neutral. Pure water is neutral.
pH7 and above is called basic but often referred to as alkaline).
Soils & Cleaning
Organic soils are usually best moved using alkaline cleaners.
Inorganic soils prefer and acid cleaner.
Also good to know
Generally, you use an acidic cleaner on alkaline (also known as alkalie) dirt, and an alkaline cleaner on acidic dirt.
If you know the nature of your soil you know how to clean it.
Alkalines work well because they emulsify grease. Fatty acids are normally insoluble which is why they cannot be cleaned using water alone. The alkaline breaks down fat making them dispersable in water.
They also coat the dirt with negatively charged hydroxide ions which means the dirt particles repel each other. So rather than massing together in a big greasy clump they remain suspended in solution so again can be rinsed off.
“Tthe alkali will break down the fats making the residue soluble or dispersible in water. It’s called saponification: alkalis turn fats into soap which is why a greasy floor gets as slippery as a bag of arseholes when you put an alkali on it. While we rely on thermal disinfection in dish washers the fact is the alkali in a proper machine wash turns microbial cell walls into soap.”
Examples of alkaline cleaners are
Do not cut through grease. Vinegar the acid much touted as a cleaning fluid will be no good on your greasy stains because Vinegar is polar, while oils are nonpolar, so they don’t interact well together. (You have seen how oil and vinegar in salad dressing separate from each other — this is because of their opposite polarity.)
Inorganic soils include grit, salt, rust and limescale.
They are best cleaned using acids
- Hard water/mineral deposit removers
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Rust stain removers
- Tub and tile cleaners
- Mold removers
Acidic cleaners attack and dissolve these types of stains, breaking them down and making them easier to remove.
The acid dissolves these types of materials – many are carbonates so you see the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas fizzing off. Or at least you will with a decent product. Examples are toilet cleaners and kettle or boiler descalers.
Examples of acidic cleaners are
- Lemon juice
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