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What are Cleaning Materials?

There are many materials and reagents, which help in cleaning, scrubbing and polishing surfaces. Some of these are commercial preparations for cleaning and you may be already familiar with some of them.


Detergents are available in powder, solid (soap, soap flakes etc.) and liquid form. These are used with water to clean various surfaces. The basic ingredients in a detergent are surface active agents, known as surfactants. A detergent may have more ingredients to make it more effective, like alkaline salts, bleaches, foam boosters, germicides and perfumes. The exact nature and use of a detergent will actually vary according to its ingredients. However, there are a few points which should be kept in mind while choosing a detergent. It should:

  • Be readily soluble in water
  • Be effective in all types of water and produce no scum
  • Have good wetting powers so that the solution penetrates between the article and the dirt particles
  • Have good suspending powers to suspend dislocated dirt and not allow it to settle back
  • Be effective over a wide range of temperatures
  • Be harmless to the article and the skin.
  • Clean quickly
  • Be easily rinsed away


Some of the common abrasives are sand, finely powdered brick, sawdust, wheat bran, emery paper, fine ash, filtered chalk etc. Besides these, steel wool, nylon mesh, coconut fibres are also used to scrub dirt. Their use depends on the surface to be cleaned and the type of dirt to be removed. The extent of cleaning will depend upon the nature of the abrasive used and on the scrubbing action.


Strong acids are used to clean toilets (water closet and sinks) and are available in crystals or liquid form. Milder forms of acids are also used to clean very dirty tiles. Acids should be rinsed off as soon as possible after use and should be stored away from children. Vinegar and lemon are used to clean stains on metals like brass and copper.


Water is the simplest cleaning reagent available to us. Some dirt may be loosened and dissolved in it. Although most of the time, some other cleaning agent is also used along with it.


Caking soda and ammonia are used as grease emulsifiers and stain removing agents.


Stains on fabrics are removed by bleaches such as sodium hypochlorite, sodium perborate, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydrosulphite etc.


solvents such as methylated spirit, carbon tetrachloride, kerosene, petrol etc; are used to remove grease, wax and other stains from the surfaces. You should keep the methylated spirit, kerosene, petrol, away from the fire as they are inflammable. Carbon Tetrachloride is harmful if inhaled.


Polishes are used on surfaces such as floors, furniture, leather and even metals. When rubbed on a surface, they provide a protective covering to the surface and produce shine. The article also gets cleaned in the process.

Ready-made polishes are expensive as compared to home-made ones. Recipes of some commonly used polishes are given below. You can easily make them at home.

But before you use polishes, you should keep the following basic principles in mind:

  • Remove dust and dirt thoroughly before polishing a surface
  • Use small quantities of polish as extra polish could be harmful to the surface, besides being uneconomical
  • Rub off polishes thoroughly as surfaces could otherwise become greasy and sticky
  • Surfaces already provided with permanent or semi-permanent polishes should be polished very carefully, so as not to destroy the original shine

Apart from these equipment and cleaning agents, there are other materials which are used in a cleaning process, such as disinfectants, deodorants, antiseptics, etc.

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Related Topics:

What is Cleaning?

Cleaning Equipment

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