Application Technology - Alkalinity in Cleaning Products - CEBE Reinigungschemie GmbH

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Application Technology - Alkalinity in Cleaning Products

Typical  soil today contains an extensive amount of acidic components whose removal is  facilitated or made possible through alkalinity. The alkalinity in cleaning products  is generated through ingredients commonly referred to as builders. Builders are  substances that generate, enhance and maintain the efficiency of a cleaning product.  Their working mechanism includes neutralisation of water hardness, generating  alkalinity for cleaning effectiveness and buffering this alkalinity, that is maintaining  it throughout the cleaning process. They prevent redeposition of soil by dispersing  it in the solution and keeping it there, as well as emulsifying fatty and oily  dirt. Common sources of alkalinity include sodium hydroxide, sodium metasilicate,  sodium carbonate, sodium orthophosphate and their potassium analogs.

The  different working mechanisms of alkalinity are:

Saponification: This is the process by which fat is converted into soap by way of reacting with  an alkaline substance. A large share of fatty and oily dirt consist of saponifiable  fats and fatty acids. The soap that is generated by saponification has the additional  advantage of supporting the cleaning process. In addition the dirt that is trapped  to the fibres through the sticky fats and oils is released during the process.

Emulsification: Paraffin and mineral oils are not saponifiable through alkalinity. However, they  can be emulsified. Sodium hydroxide and sodium carbonate form good an stable emulsions  with, for example, motor oils, but are difficult to rinse out. Silicates and phosphates  not only form good emulsions, they are also easy to rinse out and are therefore  preferred for this process.

Buffering: This describes the  ability of the builder to stabilise and maintain the pH-value (in this case the  alkalinity) of the cleaning solution. This ability is important on one hand for  the saponification process and on the other for the stabilisation of softening  the water.

Dispersion: The potential to disperse larger particles,  that is they are distributed as smaller particles and held in solution. This ability  is usually directly related to the soil carrying ability of the solution and at  the same time keeping it in solution thereby preventing a redeposition on the  fibres.

Sequestering of water hardening ions: This is the  ability of the builder to keep ions in solution that directly determine the water  hardness, since these can combine with soil and salts in order to form salts (calcium  carbonate or scale, for example) that are insoluble and deposit on the fibres  or the machinery. These can be extremely difficult to remove and may also cause  damage to pumps, in-line heaters and other machine components.

The above  summary lets the reader recognise that alkalinity plays an important role in determining  the effectiveness of the cleaning product. Alkalinity in itself is no heal-all  but it is an important factor which should be recognised by both manufacturer  and user.

Since alkalinity is defined as the pH-realm from 8 to 14 the  following question presents itself: how are the individual types of fibres suited  for alkalinity in a cleaning product ?

As a rule of thumb, alkalinity generates  the most effectiveness as of a pH-value of 9.5.

Synthetic fibres: In general alkalinity presents no danger for synthetic fibres.

Wool: This fibre is slowly degraded by alkalinity. The hydrolysis of the peptides caused  by alkalinity slowly leads to a dissolution of the fibre. For this reason wool  is usually cleaned with milder, fat-restoring or slightly acidic products.

Silk: Is a protein fibre just like wool and therefore endangered in a similar manner.  In addition the effect of alkalinity is seen much more rapidly as the silk begins  to lose its luster and therefore its appeal almost immediately.

Cellulose  fibres: Cotton, hemp or linen are degraded slowly through alkalinity but  in general resist cleaning with mildly alkaline cleaning products.

Stain  resistant carpets: Carpets that have been equipped with stain resistant  protection from the manufacturer are susceptible to alkalinity. This is due to  the fact that the stain resistant protection is applied to the fibres in an acid  bath. The protection adsorbs to the fibre, forming a relatively durable connection  to them. An increased pH-value can lead to a reversal of this process. In general  the pH-value should be below 10 when such a carpet is cleaned.

This discourse  shows how important alkalinity can be in a cleaning product but also demonstrates  that alkalinity can not always be used. It is up to the manufacturer of cleaning  products to recognise this and take these factors into consideration when formulating  a product for a specific use.

CEBE has a solution for all cases - the products  are formulated in such a way, that they unfold maximum effectiveness for the purpose  they were formulated for, if they are applied correctly.
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