Types of surface cleaning agents

The Different Types of Surface Cleaning Agents

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The environment your commercial building has is the primary element responsible for attracting clients to your business, allowing you to make profits. That’s why a clean environment is essential for all establishments aiming for growth. When most business owners think of a clean environment, they visualize a few machines and cleaning agents. While you might have the best machines on the market and have invested in the most expensive cleaning agents, this does not automatically guarantee a clean working environment.

Using the right cleaning agent is an essential element to achieve the thorough cleanliness of your premises. These professionals understand that not all cleaning agents found in store shelves are enough to fully clean the floors and other surfaces in your premises. They will focus on picking the right cleaning agent for all your needs.

Here are some facts about the four most common categories of cleaning agents that you can use to clean your commercial space:


These are the most common cleaning agents used in commercial and residential establishments. Although you might be most familiar with detergents made to clean fabrics at home like detergent powder, liquid detergent, and detergent pods, in commercial cleaning, there are a lot more types of detergent available.

DIY Detergent

You can make your own detergent to save on costs, customize the fragrance to be what you want, and choose ingredients that don’t trigger allergies or rashes on your skin. This can allow you to make detergents that are free of toxins and inorganic chemicals. However, be warned that DIY detergent may require a bit more effort and do not have the heavy-duty cleaning abilities other detergents have.

But if you’re interested in making your own detergent, here’s a video on how to make detergent with only baking soda and soap. There are other DIY detergent ingredients on the internet, so it ultimately depends on what works for you.

Powder Detergent

Powder detergent has a longer shelf life compared to liquid detergent, so if you’re looking at costs, it’s much better to buy powder detergent in bulk since you don’t have to worry about detergent reaching its expiry date. The only downside to using this is that if you don’t wash away the detergent well enough, it can leave a chalky residue on your clothes.

Liquid Detergent

Liquid detergents work better in water and can be used to pre-treat tougher stains. The only downside to using liquid detergent is their packaging. Customers prefer sustainable companies, so using liquid detergent for your business may create unnecessary waste.

How Do Detergents Work?

Detergents work by breaking up the dirt on your fabrics, making it easier to remove. The most significant advantage of detergents over other cleaning agents is their ability to work in both soft and hard water and warm or cold water. There are three types of detergents — anionic, cationic, and ethoxylate detergents – and it really depends on how heavy-duty you need your detergents to be.


Cleaning agent on blue background

These are also called solvent cleaners. They are used to removing the grease that is generally found in commercial kitchens and industrial establishments through the hydrolysis of oils and fats before their dissolution in water.

Conventional degreasers used in the past were white or methylated spirits. Nowadays, most cleaning companies use non-fuming degreasers, which are non-toxic, to avert chemical contamination of their interiors. This option also minimizes the damage to various surfaces in your interiors.


These are chemicals which clean surfaces through scrubbing to get rid of the dirt found on hard surfaces. Abrasives are pastes or powders which contain small hard particles such as sand, quartz, and pumice that work because friction allows them to scrub off dirt particles that are much softer than the abrasive material.

In most cases, abrasives are used for cleaning metallic surfaces which can withstand their rough texture without breaking or compromising their integrity. They are commonly used on concrete floors and outdoor surfaces where they are scrubbed into the surfaces with different machines to get rid of ingrained grime and dirt.

Acid Cleaners

Chemical bottles used in cleaning

These are generally the most powerful cleaning agents available and should be used with caution. They are corrosive, meaning they dissolve dirt particles and make them easier to clean off. However, acid cleaners can be extremely toxic to humans, so you need to take extra care when handling this type of cleaning agent. They are diluted as per the manufacturer’s instructions and the dirt in your environment before they are used.

Inorganic acid cleaners are strong and used for getting rid of alkaline, scale and mineral deposits, and rust. Organic cleaners, on the other hand, are a bit mild and can be used on metallic surfaces with minimal risk of corrosion.

Which Cleaning Agent Should I Use?

There’s really no one cleaning agent that can work on all types of surfaces, so depending on your business type, you might need all four categories of cleaning agent to keep your property clean.

Detergent is the most common type of cleaning agent. Aside from its commonly known use for fabrics, several types of detergents can also be used for cleaning dishes, cutlery, and cooking ware (dishwashing soap is actually a type of detergent), floors, toilets, and sinks (all-purpose cleaners), stairs, walkways, carpets, and drains. However, it may not be heavy-duty enough for certain stains, which may require you to turn to other cleaning agents.

Degreasers are more common in businesses where oils are more common and difficult to clean with regular detergent. Some examples of businesses that use this include restaurants, commercial kitchens, and manufacturing centers.

Abrasives are an all-around cleaning tool used for stains and dirt that require the hard particles of abrasive products to scrape down and clean tougher stains.

Finally, acid cleaners are the most heavy-duty cleaning agent. This is not an option for businesses that have lots of metal that can corrode and places that really require the heavy-duty cleaning properties of acid.

Safety Tips for Handling Cleaning Agents

Infographic about handling cleaning agents

Whether you hire a cleaning company to clean your business, hire in-house employees, or do it yourself, you should always practice safety when handling cleaning agents. These can have adverse side effects on your body if used or handled improperly.

Ventilate Areas Using Strong Cleaning Agents

Certain cleaning agents can produce fumes or strong smells that can be nauseating or have long-term side effects when exposed to your body. Always make sure that if you’re handling products like these, there’s at least some form of ventilation in the room. If there are no ventilation fans on the walls or ceiling, open the room’s doors and windows when inside.

After cleaning, stay outside the room and let the air circulate for at least an hour (depending on how much cleaning product was used) to let the residual fumes out of the room. Avoid letting anyone enter the room until the smell goes away.

Read the Manufacturer’s Label for Warnings and Directions

Some cleaning products can have adverse effects on you or the surface it’s applied on if used incorrectly. There may also be negative effects from mixing certain cleaning agents together.

For example, if you mix ammonia and bleach, you could be producing a toxic gas called chloramine. Short-term symptoms include coughing, watery eyes, and chest pain, but it can also have long-term effects like pneumonia and fluid building in your lungs.

Keep Cleaning Agent Packaging Clean and Store Properly

cleaning materials

There’s a good chance that you keep all your cleaning fluids in one cabinet. As a precaution, make sure your cleaning agents are properly and tightly sealed and the outside packaging is free of residue. Store it upright in a closet or at least avoid exposing your cleaning materials to direct sunlight.

Dispose of Cleaning Agents Properly

Improper disposal of cleaning agents could lead to contamination or adverse chemical reactions while in your waste bin or when handled by others responsible for collecting your business’ waste. There are proper ways to dispose of each type of cleaning agent, so check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check the Signal Words

Cleaning agents will most likely have warning labels on its packaging. The words used can help you determine how dangerous the product can be so you can exercise the right amount of caution when handling them.

Items labeled with “Caution” mean that the product should be used carefully, but it is relatively safe. Items with “Warning” indicate that the product can be toxic. And items with “Danger” written on it means that the product is highly toxic, can cause permanent damage to your skin and eyes, so it’s recommended you wear gloves and goggles before handling these products.

These are the most commonly used cleaning agents that may work for your establishment. Whether you sign a contract with a cleaning business or opt to have your business cleaned yourself, it is important to take time to understand what cleaning agent is the most appropriate to use and its possible effects on your surfaces. If done correctly, you can ensure your business’ healthy and safe cleaning standards without bringing harm to yourself or your employees.

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