What Are Home Cleaning Agents?


For a specific cleaning job, what toxic chemicals do you purchase? Unless you know what ingredients commercial products contain, the answer is not an easy one. Alkalines, acids, detergents, abrasives, sanitizers, and spirit solvents are the most common ingredients in household cleaning products.



Abrasives are materials that, by rubbing, wear off dirt. Prime examples of an abrasive are Rottenstone, Whiting, Pumice, Volcanic Ash, Quartz, Marble, Feldspar, and Silica. The abrasives are also sandpaper, plastic and nylon mesh, and steel wool.


In scouring powders and pads, abrasive materials, particularly calcium carbonate, may be found. The larger the abrasive particles, the harsher the cleaner, in general. The finest abrasive is plastic or nylon mesh, and the finer the abrasive, the less damage to the cleaning surface.


Coarse abrasives have a rough, gritty feel. Labels on abrasive powder containers rarely use the term “abrasive” but instead state that they are “cleansers,” as opposed to the more common term “cleaner.”


The finish of sinks, bathtubs, and kitchen appliances will be gradually scratched by regular use of harsh abrasives on a surface. It gets dirtier and stains deeper once the surface is dull and rough, and you have to continue using a harsh abrasive to remove imbedded dirt and stain.


Plastic, glass, nonstick surfaces on cookware, painted woodwork, and plated and highly polished metals can be harmed by coarse abrasives.



Acids are useful for removing hard-water deposits, stains of aluminum, brass, bronze, and copper and iron rust discoloration. Clothing, leather, skin and certain metals are also eaten away by strong acids. They can also irritate the skin and eyes and injure them.


Examples of, and strengths of, acids:

  • Very Mild: Vinegar is approximately 5% acid and works against oven cleaners. Vinegar removes deposits of hard-water from glassware. Lemon juice is a citric acid that works like vinegar in much the same way.
  • Very Strong: As a rust remover, oxalic acid is particularly effective and is very poisonous. Sometimes it is discovered in toilet bowl cleaners. In some toilet bowl cleaners, hydrochloric and sulfuric acid are used at diluted concentrations.



Alkalies are soluble salts that, without excessive rubbing, are effective in removing dirt. Because the alkalies form an emulsion, a blend where oily or solid particles are held in suspension, they are good grease removers. The particles are not separated from the rest of the liquid, so they are not redeposited on the cleaning surface.


Alkalies remove oily dirt easily. Alkaline cleaners can also remove, dry, and cause oil to crack or peel from the oil-based paint. Alkalies tend to darken the surfaces of aluminum.


In strength, alkaline substances differ. Most of them are toxic, some of them corrosive, others can irritate the eyes and skin. The stronger alkalies can cause burns and can cause internal injuries or death when swallowed.


  • Mild: An example of mild alkali is baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
  • Moderate: Household ammonia is a mixture of 5 to 10% ammonia gas in water that is diluted. It can be found in all-purpose cleaners, cleaners for ovens and cleaners for windows. Borax is a white crystalline powder, and some all-purpose cleaners find trisodium phosphate (TSP) as a crystalline powder.
  • Very Strong: Sodium carbonate is the washing soda, also called sal soda. Lye, which can be found in some oven cleaners and drain cleaners, is a sodium hydroxide and is also called caustic soda.


As with any product that contains chemicals, examine the label and carefully follow the instructions for handling, storage and disposal. Keep children and pets away from all household cleaners.


The most common bleach used in household cleaning products is usually chlorine. However, new non-chlorine bleaches, mainly because they are safer to use and store, are becoming more popular.



For Baltimore House Cleaner Services jobs, some laundry detergents may be used. Detergents loosen the dirt, and if a detergent is added to complex soluble phosphates (called ‘builders’), they will remove oily dirt. The cleaning product is labeled “heavy duty” or “all-purpose” if a builder is added.



Sanitizers are chemicals that reduce the amount of bacteria and are often used in bathroom cleaning and dishwashing. Use and follow the directions on the bottle with caution.


Sanitizers also aid in deodorizing surfaces because they kill microorganisms that produce odor.




A spirit solvent is included in most polishes and waxes for wood furniture and floors. Because they remove oily dirt, these solvents are similar to the fluids used in dry-cleaning processes.



You can save money and control the amount of hazardous chemicals in your house by making your own household cleaners. First, though, some of the limitations or disadvantages of homemade products should be known to you:


They may take longer to efficiently clean. You may need to let the product “sit” on the surface for longer than usual or several times you may have to go over a surface.
More elbow grease may be required and if a harsh cleaner has been used repeatedly on the surface prior to your homemade solution, the product may not clean as well.
Use and store them securely if you decide to make your own cleaners. While the ingredients are safer in homemade cleaners, not all of them are nontoxic. Recall these guidelines:


  • Be vigilant when mixing chemicals. When mixed, some chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia, generate a toxic gas.
  • Do not mix a supply of more than a month at a time. In the course of time, chemical solutions may lose their effectiveness.
  • In a well-ventilated zone, mix solutions. Keep all cleaning solutions out of the reach of children, preferably with a child-proof lock in a cabinet.
  • In unused, store-bought containers, store solutions. Use containers for permanent storage that will be put in a permanent location. Never put them in containers with old food. Chemicals may interact with residues from the original content, or a food or beverage may be mistaken for a container.
  • Carefully label the containers. If other individuals in your home clean or have access to the cleaners, this is particularly important.