Understanding the pH Scale of Cleaning Chemicals and Why It Matters

Most of us remember from middle school science and high school Chemistry the very basics of the pH scale. We remember beakers and test strips, lining up the colors to see which side of the scale our test liquid would land on. We remember that dissolving chemicals in water alters the pH scale, either in the direction of being acidic or basic, and that pure water was our neutral base. We tested lemon juice and found it acidic, while common detergents were basic. But we rarely thought about these things again until we realized the impact it had on our cleaning chemicals and how much of a difference it could make in our cleaning processes.

Basic vs. Acidic on Different Types of Material

As a quick refresher, the pH scale ranges from zero to 14. Zero to six is acidic, seven is neutral, and eight through 14 is alkaline. Choosing the right cleaning supplies based on their standing on the pH scale, the type of material, amount of time you have, and the level of soiling is crucial. Most cleaning chemicals are alkaline (basic) because these are the types of solutions that are good for cleaning dirt stains, greases, oils, and other organics. On the other side of the pH scale, acids are more effective when working on minerals like rust spots and calcium buildup. Right in the middle, dish soap is the closest to neutral, as far as cleaning supplies go.

The Scale of Common Household Cleaning Supplies

Bleach: pH 11-13

Bleach is one of the most common cleaning supplies in households and commercial settings. This particular product has a pH between 11 and 13. Its high level of alkalinity is what makes it corrosive. As a result, ventilation is important when using bleach. It should be used cautiously and strictly according to instructions, both for the safety of the cleaner and the benefit of the surface it’s being used on. Because bleach is so strong, it’s not safe on a lot of surfaces or fabrics, but it’s great for eliminating stains and whitening the affected area.

Ammonia: pH 11-13

Ammonia is another common cleaning product and it lands around the same number on the pH scale. It is also corrosive, requires care and ventilation, and shouldn’t be mixed with other cleaning supplies or ingredients. Ammonia is great when you’re working with stubborn dirt and grime spots. The same is true for tub and tile cleaners. At home or in the office, these can be used on stubborn dirt and grime spots throughout the bathroom, not just in showers. Their alkalinity makes them ideal for toilets, countertops, and sinks, too.

Borax & Baking Soda: pH 8-10

As we inch closer to neutral on the scale, we find products like Borax and baking soda. Borax leans toward the alkaline side of the scale, making it ideal for breaking down organics like dirt and oil. But with a pH of 10, it isn’t as corrosive as heavier products like ammonia and bleach. And just before we reach our friendly, neutral cleaner of traditional dish soap, we have baking soda with a pH of eight or nine. It’s alkaline enough to eliminate dirt and grease, but close enough to neutral to be even less corrosive than Borax. For a good, neutral, everyday cleaner, mild dish soap won’t hurt your skin and it’s safe on most surfaces.

Acidic Cleaning Products: pH < 7

The cleaning products on the alkaline side of the pH scale are, by far, the more common ones. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any use for the products on the basic side of the scale. Things like stone cleaners, vinegar, lemon juice, and toilet cleaners serve their own purposes at home and in the office. These are generally better for cleaning things like mineral or hard water deposits, milder rust stains, soap film buildup, and polishing brass or copper products in the kitchen, bathroom, or other areas. Choosing the right cleaning supplies can save you time, money, and frustration. Using the wrong product can be ineffective or even damaging, depending on the surface you’re cleaning.

Corvus Janitorial

When you choose Corvus Janitorial’s cleaning services, we take all of the guesswork out of your commercial cleaning. We bring the right chemicals, tools, supplies, and procedures to give your space the deep cleaning it deserves. You don’t have to worry about relearning Chemistry, choosing the right products for the right surfaces, or any of the other little details that add up to make big differences. Our commercial cleaning services take the pressure off you and your employees. They provide you with a true, deep clean, and clear peace of mind. And with a deeply cleaned and sanitized office space to walk into, everyone will feel more comfortable and productive. Let us handle the complicated cleaning procedures, so you can focus your time and attention on more important things. Contact us today to discover how Corvus can help keep your workplace clean and vibrant.