The Ultimate Cleaning Chemical Guide & Uses
Learn about how to choose the right cleaning chemical for your application.
25 September, 2023 by
The Ultimate Cleaning Chemical Guide & Uses
Capital Equipment Hire, Emma Dimech

Cleaning Chemical Guide & Uses

One of the most important cleaning factors every cleaner needs to get right is the cleaning chemical (or solution) used. There are thousands of products on the market and depending on the chemical makeup of a specific solution, it will impact results. Read this guide to help customers navigate through the confusing world of cleaning chemical to find the one that is best for the application!

What are cleaning chemicals?

Cleaning chemical is a solution designed to target bacteria, grime and other impurities by removing or killing them from a surface. They can be acidic, alkaline or neutral in their chemical makeup and impact the overall cleaning performance based on what they are applied to. There are a couple of main types to consider:

  • Detergents - remove impurities/grime/bacteria/viruses on a surface

  • Sanitisers - kill some bacterias/viruses (not as potent as disinfectants)

  • Disinfectants - kill germs on a surface

  • Degreasers - remove grease, oils, cutting fluids and other similar contaminants.

Essentially, the right cleaning chemical will appropriately break down and react with the soiling to remove or kill it from a certain environment. See SafeWork for more info about cleaning best practices.

Why do people use cleaning chemical?

Cleaning chemical is one of the 4 most important cleaning factors in combination with heat, aggression and time. Cleaning chemical allows reaction with the dirt/bacteria to dishevel or kill it.  If you choose to not include cleaning chemical when scrubbing a surface, the other three factors will need to compensate. Striking the right balance between these four elements will guarantee a highly successful clean.

Cleaning solutions can be made DIY by the cleaner themself or can be purchased by a cleaning chemical manufacturer, depending on the preferences and needs of the person. 

Why is chemical pH important to consider?

Every cleaning chemical solution has it’s own pH rating which indicates how acidic or alkaline the chemical is. Depending on the type of dirt, grime, bacteria or soiling you are trying the clean, different cleaning chemicals are more effective to use than others based on the pH level.

pH scale (briefly) explained

7 is a neutral reading, anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below 7 is acidic. 

The pH scale is measured in factors of 10. For example, pH 3 is 10x more acidic than pH 4. For acidic cleaners, the lower the pH number is more acidic and for alkaline cleaners, the higher the pH number is more alkaline.

Common examples of acidic cleaners are vinegar, lemon juice or hydrochloric acid. Common examples of alkaline cleaners are bleach and degreasers. 

You can usually check the pH level of a cleaning chemical by checking the product label, otherwise the Safety/Material Data Sheet.


Are acidic or alkaline cleaning chemicals better?

If you remember anything from this blog, remember this general rule about pH types and cleaning:

Acidic soil types should be cleaned with an alkaline cleaner, and alkaline soil types should be cleaned with an acidic cleaner.

There are as always some exceptions to this rule but as a general guide, this is what cleaners should be considering when choosing their cleaning solution. See below some application examples to show it in practice.

Acidic cleaners are great for cleaning inorganic and mineral-based stains such as calcium deposits, hard water stains, dried urine or limescale build-ups. Bathrooms and swimming pools are two common environments where these types of soilings are found. The reason why acidic cleaners work well in these applications is because the acidity liquifies the build-up so it can be washed away.

Please note: handle acidic cleaners carefully, avoid spraying acidic cleaners and instead use with a mop, sponge and bucket style to prevent damage to delicate surfaces and harm to the eyes and respiratory system. 

Please note: do not use acidic cleaners on natural stone or metal applications such as marble, sandstone, natural granite, copper, aluminum, bronze and brass. It can etch away at the surface. 

Alkaline cleaners are great for oily and organic stains typically found in commercial kitchens, classrooms, retail stores and dining areas. Organic soilings tend to be acidic which is why alkaline cleaners are recommended. 

For general daily cleaning applications, a weaker alkaline cleaner is recommended and for more heavy-duty annual deep cleans, a stronger alkaline cleaner is recommended. 

Capital Equipment Hire sells a highly effective alkaline degreaser called ScrubClean suited for floor scrubbers or mop and bucket cleaning.

Handy Cleaning Chemical Use Tips

The use of any cleaning chemical product, whether alkaline, neutral or acidic, needs to be handled with care to prevent damage to the surface and injury to the user. 

  1. Research products thoroughly. Take time to research the different cleaning products available on the market compared to the floor type and dirt type you are trying to clean. Learning from other customer experiences can also provide some insight into which product is right for you. If in doubt, always speak to your floor manufacturer or cleaning chemical supplier for more information.

  2. Always follow the chemical dilution rates. It is extremely important these dosage instructions are followed! Remember, more chemical doesn’t necessarily mean a better clean, it can actually make the floors stickier and dirtier!

  3. Read the Material Data Sheets (MDS). Every chemical product has an MDS to provide guidance in the safe use and handling of the solution. As mentioned, the MDS also provides details about the chemical makeup of the solution including the pH scale.

  4. Avoid cleaning solution staying too long on the surface/drying on the surface. It can lead to staining.

  5. Spot test. Check the use & care guidance of your floor manufacturer and compare it to the use instructions of your cleaning chemical. When ready, do a spot test in an inconspicuous area to make sure you are confident the chosen cleaning chemical is right for you.


Research into potential cleaning chemical products and the application type of your surface will ensure a much more effective cleaning result every time. The choice of cleaning chemical needs to consider the pH rating of the product and the target soil type to ensure the most effective type is chosen. Careful use of any cleaning chemical type is needed to ensure the user and the surface type are protected each time. If you need some more assistance with this matter, please contact our friendly team who will be happy to assist!

Shop our own brand ScrubClean