How Acidity and Alkalinity – and Beer – Impact Cleaning
Cleaning different surfaces or grime requires a different approach. While this is fairly common knowledge, what is less commonly understood is the impact that pH has on your success. How acidic or how basic (or alkaline) a cleaning solution is can dramatically influence how well a cleaning product or approach works on different kinds of dirt or materials.
So, What Is pH?
pH stands for the “potential of hydrogen,” and indicates if a solution is acidic or alkaline, also known as basic. This is measured on a 14-point scale: a pH of 7 is neutral, with acids measuring less than 7 and alkalines measuring higher than 7. But where did pH come from? The answer may make you want to crack a beer.
Dr. Søren Sørensen, working as the head of The Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark, first introduced the pH scale in 1909, as the Science History Institute reports. Sørensen was working at the time to determine how ion concentrations impacted protein analysis and introduced this new standard scale.
The lab itself was named after its largest benefactor – Carlsberg beer. The brewery supported the lab’s operations, and in fact, the company still lists the lab on its website today:
"The principal task of The Carlsberg Laboratory shall be to develop as complete a scientific basis as possible for malting, brewing and fermenting operations." - J.C. Jacobsen, founder of Carlsberg
So in some ways, the way we choose a detergent solution relies on innovations brought to us by beer.
How Does pH Work?
While the numeric value assigned to a material denotes whether it’s an acid or alkaline, values are measured logarithmically. That means that something registering as a pH of 5 is 10 times more acidic than a substance with a pH of 6.
pH is also measured as the intensity of a substance, not the concentration or capacity. It’s in some ways like how we measure temperature – an item that measures a heat reading of 80 degrees F lets you know that it’s warm, but doesn’t measure how much heat is carried by that item. And, like hot and cold, pH is measured in the extremes as acidity and alkalinity.
Understanding How to Choose a Detergent
When approaching your cleaning project, you should first assess what kind of substance you need to clean. Broadly speaking, whether an alkaline or acid solution should be used depends on the kind of grime that needs to be cleaned. Most often this can be divided by whether you have organic or inorganic materials to clean. Typically, acidic solutions are more well suited to cleaning inorganic surfaces while alkalines are best for organic soils.
When to Use Acidic Solutions
Acids are highly effective at blasting away minerals, salts and other kinds of substances that are produced in the natural world, not from organic life. An acidic detergent works well to clean away oxides, salts and other general types of dirt. They’re also a good choice for brightening metal surfaces, like in Phosphatizer No. 2 often used for metal prepping before painting.
When to Use Alkaline Solutions
At the other extreme, alkaline detergent excels at cleaning away greases, oil, fats and other organic substances. Many detergents – even in day-to-day uses, like laundry soap – are on the basic end of the pH spectrum, making them well suited to clean away organic dirt. At WET, products like the Ripper 1 are high on the pH scale, while still biodegradable.
Find the Right Solution for CLEAN
No matter what you need to keep clean, WET has a variety of solutions to help you work more efficiently and effectively. We offer a full range of detergents to meet each of your specific cleaning needs. We also offer an analysis of your current cleaning system and recommendations for the best detergents for your operations. Your water source may have a specific pH that is impacting your cleaning power, and we can inspect your operations and recommend a solution for you.
Contact us today and schedule your consultation with WET.