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The Chemistry of Cleaning Supplies

The Chemistry of Cleaning Supplies

It happens to the best of us. We take simple things for granted, like how our food is made, where our garbage goes, and why our cleaning products work. Today, it’s time to get scientific. We will look into the unique chemical characteristics of different cleaning agents to learn their value in order to better protect your home from germs. 

Now, right off the bat, it is important to remember that just because something is chemical, does not necessarily mean it is an effective cleaning solution. There is an extensive list of products out there that are helpful and work beautifully without chemicals. Some chemical cleaners are costly, smell horrible, and are dangerous for the environment.

Chemical agents don’t all work the same way. Even the best formulations will not be effective if applied incorrectly or inconsistently. Most disinfectants are anti-microbial whereas some are sporicidal. This means that it kills spores which prevent the regrowth of bacteria.  

Isopropyl alcohol, in solutions between 60% and 90% alcohol, is antimicrobial against bacteria and viruses and is one of the most effective cleaners. Alcohol agents force cell proteins to clump and lose their function. Specifically, the cell membranes lose their structure and collapse, eventually dying. Alcohol cleaners should be diluted with water, as water acts as a chemical catalyst to assist in penetrating the cell wall more completely. Once it permeates the entire cell, the proteins coagulate, and therefore the microorganism dies.

Most people know it as a chemical used to treat the water in swimming pools, however, Chlorine is also a very common disinfectant used in a variety of cleaning solutions and applications. Very few chemicals are considered sporicidal; however, chlorine compounds in higher concentrations have been shown to kill bacterial spores. Chlorine works by oxidizing proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. Hypochlorous acid, which is a weak acid that forms when chlorine is dissolved in water, has the most effect on the bacterial cell, targeting some key metabolic enzymes and destroying the organism. 

Phenol is a disinfectant and antiseptic cleaning solution found in everyday products like air fresheners, hair spray, and cosmetics. Phenol and its derivatives exhibit several types of bactericidal action. At higher concentrations, the compounds penetrate and disrupt the cell wall and make the cell proteins fall out of suspension. The next step in the damage to the bacteria is the loss in the membrane’s ability to act as a barrier to physical or chemical attack. Though phenols can act at the germination stage of bacterial spore development, this effect is reversible, making them horrible at eliminating spores. 

You may have heard about formaldehyde from its use as a sterilant in the embalming process. However, formaldehyde is also used as a surface and space decontaminate. Formaldehyde is a simple chemical compound made of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. All life forms including bacteria, plants, fish, animals, and humans naturally produce formaldehyde as part of cell metabolism. Formaldehyde-releasing ingredients found in everyday products, act as a preservative to kill microorganisms and prevent the growth of bacteria and other pathogens, extending product shelf life.

Having to use a different cleaner for each room and surface can be tedious. Hydrogen peroxide is unique because it is a multi-purpose cleaner that can be used on multiple surfaces. You can use it on tables, light switches, and laundry. Hydrogen peroxide is safe to clean with since it is a non-toxic substance. It won't hurt the environment, cause pollution, or create mutant animals, yet it is a strong disinfectant. The only caution that you'll need to take with hydrogen peroxide on hard surfaces is your countertops. If they are made of marble or granite, using hydrogen peroxide once in a while is okay but not for continuous use. 

The final cleaning agent we will be talking about today is iodophors or iodine solutions. An iodophor is a combination of iodine and a solubilizing agent. Iodine is the only cleaning agent that is consistently active against bacteria, spores, amoebic cysts, fungi, protozoa, yeasts, drug-resistant bacteria. 

Understanding how chemistry works in cleaning products can help you evaluate which ones are best suited to your family's needs. 

Even More Housekeeping Tips and Tricks

Even More Housekeeping Tips and Tricks

Welcome back to the second part of our housekeeping series of blog posts. We hope that you were able to utilize some of the tips from our first post. We have even more information to help keep your household neat and clean. Keep in mind, we are not professionals, but love to clean and have picked up tips over the years that we want to share with you. 



Before you start cleaning, put away anything that isn't where it belongs. This will save you time before you clean instead of trying to do both things at once.

Tidy Up 

Heaps of garbage, dirt and grime would be overwhelming for anyone. It is helpful to pick things up as you go. Pick up after yourself and encourage other members of your household to pitch in and help. Start with shared spaces, clear counters, put food away, use a feather duster and take a vacuum to the floor. Don’t forget the dishes in the sink. Little things at a time help manage mega loads and eliminate stress. 

Deep Cleaning

One of the most wonderful times of the year. All jokes aside this isn’t something you’ll need to do every single day. Usually you’ll need to deep clean your household once or twice a year. This is the time to really roll up your sleeves and tie your hair back. This type of cleaning is the most thorough and may take a few days, so divide your home into sections and conquer one area at a time. Clean carpets, dust elevated surfaces and wash windows and window frames. It is also the perfect time to check for mold and mildew in damp places to avoid getting sick. Don’t forget to sort through clothes in closets and giveaway clothes that no longer fit or you no longer need. Last but not least, clean those baseboards and walls. They get dirty too!

“New House” Smell

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a new house. Too bad it doesn’t stay that way for long, or can it? If you use all-natural cleaning products, your place shouldn’t smell like chemicals, post-cleaning. Making your own cleaning agents at home can help with this too. Using cleaning agents like vinegar, baking soda and adding some essential oils will get rid of grime while keeping your home smelling fresh and new. 

The Proper Tools 

You can’t clean a house with a toothbrush. Having the proper cleaning supplies will make your home drastically cleaner. You don’t need to have fancy supplies either.  All you really need to keep your home spotless are; quality microfiber cleaning cloths, sponges, a scrub brush, a plastic scraper, a vacuum that can clean hard floors and carpets, a microfiber feather duster and mop. 

Pet Odors

We love furry friends, but their fur and dander doesn’t necessarily love us. Use a lint roll to remove excess hair from surfaces. To remove pet odours from carpets, use a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray the carpet. Cover the vinegar-soaked area with baking soda and let it dry. Sweep and vacuum up the excess soda. The mixture actually pulls the odour out, leaving your home fresh. 

Fresh Perspective

Don’t you hate it when you think you’re done cleaning, only to find a mess on the floor? It’s frustrating and disheartening to see a never ending mess of clutter. Just when you think you're done cleaning, get down on eye level and examine your home. By getting a new angle, you can see if you still have any crumbs or dust that needs to be cleaned up

Hopefully some of these tips will help you and your household keep your space clean.