Cleaning 101: How to Choose the Right Cleaning Chemical for the Job


So, you’re looking to choose a cleaner.  Often times, we all choose an all-purpose cleaner without really thinking what the task at hand entails.  The reality is that in all sorts of environments, from healthcare, industrial, to institutional, a variety of cleaners can be needed. 

In general, chemical cleaners can be divided into several categories:

  • Water Based
  • Acids
  • Alkaline
  • Disinfectants
  • Solvents
  • Green

With all these options, where should you start?  An easy way to start is to break cleaners into three categories: water based, solvent based, and the hybrid, water soluble solvents.  For the time being, we’ll stick with discussing water based cleaner concentrates.  At State Chemical Solutions, many of our water based cleaner concentrates are available through our One-SolutionTM system, which allows our customers to mix product at their location.

Water Based Cleaner pH

Water based cleaners are often described by their pH.  pH is simply a measure of a products’ acidity.  The pH scale runs from 1 to 14, with a pH of 7 being considered neutral, about the pH of your skin.  A pH less than 7 is considered more acidic, while a pH above 7 is considered more alkaline.  It turns out  that for more cleaning applications requiring a water based cleaner, pH is a good way to make your initial product selection.

Typically, cleaners that are acidic are appropriate for removing mineral stains and build up like hard water, rust, and soap scum, which we often encounter in restrooms.  Alkaline cleaners work best on any fats, oils, greases, and waxes as well as general dirt and grime.

In State Chemical’s product line, we have several acid cleaners and several alkaline cleaners.  Each product varies in concentration and strength and is specifically formulated for the applications described on their label and product literature. (If you ever have any application questions, please do not hesitate to contact your State Chemical account manager or our customer service line). As an example, Ecolution® Bath and Bowl cleaner is ideal for removing hard water and rust stains in toilet bowls, while a product like State Acidine®is better suited for industrial cleaning applications and removal of hard water deposits.

Products that are above a pH of 7 (alkaline) typically do a great job of general surface cleaning.  Kleen-All and Ecolution® Neutral Floor Cleaner are mild enough to clean waxed floors, while Formula-222 or Formula 68-A® are too strong for waxed floors but ideal for industrial degreasing applications.

A special category of water based cleaners are the neutral cleaners, like most of our housekeeping cleaners in the Ecolution® product line.  These products use surface active additives to achieve the same level of cleaning without the higher pH, making them ideal replacements for many higher pH (alkaline) cleaners.  This option offers you, our customer, the safety of a neutral pH product with high cleaning performance.


Generally speaking, you can use the acronym TACT when choosing a cleaning product.

T – Time

A – Action

C – Concentration

T – Temperature

All affect the performance of a water based cleaner.  A longer contact time will allow the cleaner to work better, adding any scrubbing action or agitation will help the cleaner remove soil better, generally the higher the concentration of the cleaning product the better it will remove most soils, and finally, the higher the cleaning solution water temperature the better the cleaning action.

Once you have selected the appropriate product types for your cleaning application, consult your State Chemical account manager or any applicable product literature you have been provided for detailed application, dosage, and surface compatibility information.