You might not give much thought to the pH levels of your cleaning products, but understanding the pH scale actually plays a crucial role in achieving optimal cleaning results. Making sense of pH levels and how they affect the cleaning process can be tricky – so we’re here to make it easier! We’ve put this handy guide together to tell you everything you need to know about pH and what it means for commercial cleaning.

What is pH?

pH stands for ‘potential hydrogen’ and it measures the amount of hydrogen in a solution. In other words, it tells us how acidic or alkaline a solution is by giving it a rating of 0-14.
  • pH rating 0-6: These cleaning chemicals are considered acidic and have a high concentration of hydrogen ions. A liquid with a pH level of 0 is highly acidic e.g. hydrochloric acid.
  • pH rating 7: A solution with a neutral pH e.g. water.
  • pH rating 8-14: These solutions are considered alkaline or basic and have a low concentration of hydrogen ions. A liquid with a pH level of 14 is highly alkaline e.g. liquid drain cleaner.

Suggested reading: Check out this blog if you want to learn more about the pH scale and how it is measured.

Person wearing gloves testing the PH of a chemical in a test tube

How does pH affect cleaning products?

Understanding the pH level of different industrial cleaning detergents will make your commercial cleaning services more effective. It will also help you choose the best cleaning product for a specific job.

Alkaline cleaning agents

Oil, grease, and fats are acidic which means alkaline cleaning agents are typically more effective at breaking them down and making them easier to remove.

According to Rustic Wise, alkaline cleaners are also good at unclogging drains, absorbing odours, and removing heavy dirt build-up.

pH levels of alkaline cleaning agents

How to use alkaline cleaning agents safely

Alkaline cleaning agents are corrosive and can cause serious injuries such as chemical burns, so they must be used with caution. This is especially true if you are using a strongly alkaline solution like chlorine bleach.

Safety tips: Always follow the guidelines displayed on alkaline cleaning agents and wear protective gloves when handling alkaline cleaners. It is also important to ensure good ventilation when using alkaline cleaning agents as they can release ammonia and other toxic fumes.

Acidic cleaning agents

Acidic cleaners are good at removing rust, calcium, and other mineral deposits. You can use an acidic cleaning solution to:

  • Remove rust on metal.
  • Eliminate hard water deposits on tile and other hard surfaces.
  • Descale hard mineral deposits from kettles and coffee pots.
  • Polish metal surfaces e.g. sink taps.

pH levels of acidic cleaning agents

  • Rust stain removers: pH 3
  • Lemon: pH 2
  • Toilet cleaners: Ph 1

How to use acidic cleaning agents safely

Acid-based industrial cleaning detergents can cause skin burns, produce toxic fumes, and cause serious injuries and blindness if they come in contact with your eyes.

Safety tips: Always wear gloves when handling acidic cleaners, especially when using strong industrial cleaning detergents such as drain cleaners that contain sulfuric acid. Follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines and always use these products with extreme caution.

Can I buy a pH neutral cleaner?

In simple terms, a neutral pH cleaner is one that has a pH level of 7.

Pure water is typically the only solution that has a pH level of 7, but cleaning solutions are considered neutral if they have a pH level between 6 and 8. Mild dish soap and baking soda are common examples of pH neutral cleaning solutions.

5 benefits of using a pH neutral cleaner

  1. A pH neutral detergent is safe to use on all surfaces including untreated surfaces
  2. A pH neutral detergent will not cause any damage to your surfaces
  3. A pH neutral detergent is less likely to cause skin or eye irritation
  4. A pH neutral detergent is more environmentally-friendly
  5. A pH neutral detergent is less likely to release toxic fumes
a gloved hand holding a spray bottle of cleaning product

How can I check the pH level of industrial cleaning detergents?

If you’re unsure about the pH levels of your industrial cleaning detergents, you can use pH strip testing paper to check where the solution is on the scale.

The pH strip will measure the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution, thus telling you how acidic or alkaline it is.

You can purchase pH test strips for your cleaning business here:

Can I change the pH level of cleaning products?

It may be possible to change the pH level of industrial cleaning chemicals by adding a solution at the opposite end of the pH scale. For example, a mildly alkaline solution can neutralise an acidic solution. However, mixing industrial cleaning detergents can be extremely dangerous and it is not recommended unless you know what you are doing. It is always best to speak to a cleaning industry professional if you’re unsure what commercial cleaning products you should buy based on pH level.

Things to consider when choosing cleaning products

The effectiveness of a particular cleaning product is often linked to its pH level. For instance, alkaline cleaning agents are better at tackling oily or fatty deposits while acidic solutions are better at removing mineral deposits like rust.

Here are some key things to consider when choosing cleaning products based on pH level:

  • The pH of the substance you are tackling. You should use a cleaning solution at the opposite end of the pH scale e.g. alkaline cleaners are effective at removing acidic substances like fatty deposits.
  • The type of material. Strong acidic or alkaline cleaning agents may damage certain materials e.g. fabrics or untreated surfaces.
  • The level of soiling. Heavily soiled surfaces may require strong industrial cleaning detergents to remove soiling and disinfect surfaces effectively.

Browse our professional cleaning products

At Ultima, we offer a wide range of pro-clean products and industrial cleaning detergents from leading sanitation brands. You can visit the Ultima Store to browse our cleaning supplies and have products delivered directly to your home or cleaning business.

Get in touch with our cleaning specialists if you have any questions about pH levels or commercial cleaning in general. We’re always happy to help!