The AboutCleaning.com Glossary
abrasive - an ingredient whose purpose is to help a product physically abrade a surface; usually a fine, hard powder.
acids - chemical compounds that lower the pH of water-based solutions; the opposite of bases.
activators - material that reacts with oxygen bleaches to enhance their effectiveness, the most common peroxygen bleach activator is TAED, tetraacetylethylenediamine.
actuator valve - an adjustable valve operated by a remote mechanism, may be used to start / stop flow or adjust flow rate.
acute toxicity - toxic (adverse) effect related to a single exposure.
adduct – an association of two or more materials held together without chemical bonds.
aerosol - a small particle of a liquid or solid suspended in a gas.
aerosol product - a pressurized, self-dispensing product form used for a wide variety of chemical specialty products.
- a class of organic compounds containing a hydroxyl (OH) group; common examples are ethanol (the alcohol in alcoholic beverages), isopropanol (rubbing alcohol), and methanol (wood alcohol).
- see bases.
- having both anionic and cationic functionality, sometimes referred to as zwitterionic. Amphoteric surfactants in solution usually generate lots of foam and impart mildness (reduced irritancy) to skin. Amphoteric surfactants are often used in personal care products
- a negatively charged particle, common anionic surfactants include sulphonates, sulphates, carboxylates, etc.
bases - chemical compounds that raise the pH of water-based solutions; the opposite of acids.
bioaugmentation – the addition of selected microbes to a system to produce specific benefits.
biodegradation - the process by which complex organic compounds are broken down into simpler compounds by microorganisms in the environment.
bioenzymatic – refers to the effects of in situ enzyme production by microbes for the removal of organic stains or accumulations for cleaning or odor control.
builder - a material that builds detergent performance by either softening the water of the cleaning solution (a sequestrant), or by increasing the alkalinity of the cleaning solution (an alkali). Many builders function by both mechanisms.
cationic - a positively charged particle, common cationic surfactants include alkyl ammonium and alkyl aryl ammonium compounds.
carbonaceous - the defining attribute of a substance rich in carbon
caustic - common name for sodium hydroxide, general term for a material able to corrode or burn by chemical action.
chelates - a compound capable of binding with positively charged metal ions effectively preventing them from interaction with other ions in solution.
chemicals - all of the solids, liquids and gases that are formed from elements or compounds of those elements; all matter at or above the atomic level.
chemical reactions - interaction between 2 or more substances to produce different substances.
chemical specialties - formulated chemical products designed to accomplish specific tasks.
child-resistant closures/packaging - chemical specialties containers designed to be difficult to open for children, used to deter accidental ingestion.
chlorocarbons - a class of chemical compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine; also called chlorinated hydrocarbons.
chlorofluorocarbons - compounds composed of carbon, chlorine and fluorine, and containing no hydrogen; currently used as refrigerants, formerly used as aerosol propellants.
chronic toxicity - the slow or delayed onset of an adverse effect, usually from multiple, long-term exposures.
compounds - chemical substances that are composed of molecules containing specific arrangements of elements held together by chemical bonds.
Defoamers - a material added to products to limit or eliminate foam during use.
disinfectants - products approved by the EPA as capable of eliminating harmful bacteria when used according to label directions, disinfectants must kill 100% of all vegetative bacteria in a standard test.
EDTA – ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, a strong chelant commonly used to reduce water hardness
efficacy - how well a chemical specialty performs its various tasks and functions.
elements - the 117 basic building blocks of which all chemical substances are formed, each element is composed of a certain number of protons and electrons, plus neutrons.
emulsify - to stabilize a mixture of two or more immiscible liquids
emulsion - a stable mixture or two or more liquids that are not mutually soluble in each other, usually formed through the use of surfactants that are called "emulsifiers."
enzyme - a protein that acts to increase the rate of specific chemical reactions without itself being changed; enzymes are key to the cell chemistry of all living organisms.
eutrophication – the enrichment of mineral, typically phosphate, and organic nutrients in a body of water to the point that plant life fluorishes, depleting the dissolved oxygen content of the water such that it is unable to sustain animal life.
fats - a family of non-water soluble chemical substances composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, often of biological origin; fats are in the same chemical class as saponifiable oils, but are solids instead of liquids at room temperature.
gases - chemical substances with no fixed volume or shape; gases become liquids or solids when subjected to high pressure.
glycols - a class of organic compounds with two hydroxyl (OH) groups per molecule. (See also alcohols.)
hydrocarbons - large class of chemical compounds composed solely of carbon and hydrogen.
hypochlorite – salt of hypochlorous acid, very strong oxidizing agent, commonly known as bleach
inert – a substance that does not participate in a given reaction or process.
inorganic - chemical compounds containing no carbon, plus a few carbon-containing compounds, such as carbon dioxide, carbides and carbonates.
ionic - a chemical compound that creates separate positively- or negatively-charged species (ions) in water solution.
kerosene - a petroleum distillation fraction containing a mixture of hydrocarbons and related compounds that is less volatile than gasoline but more volatile than motor oil.
liquids - chemical substances that have a fixed volume but no fixed shape; they can therefore be poured, but not easily compressed. (See also solids, gases.)
metals - a large class of chemical elements that forms positive ions when its compounds are in solution and whose oxides form hydroxides instead of acids in water; about three quarters of the known chemical elements are classified as metals.
microbe – a member of a class of very small organisms including bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. Microbes can be detrimental or beneficial.
mixture - two or more chemical substances combined together but not uniformly dispersed at the molecular level.
molecule - a group of atoms joined together by chemical bonds; the smallest unit of a chemical compound.
monomer - a molecule that is the smallest repeating unit in a polymer.
nonionic - a chemical compound that does not create separate positively- or negatively-charged species (ions) in water solution.
non-porous – not permeable to fluids
non-woven substrate – manmade synthetic polymer fibers used as diaper linings, wipes, carpet backing, insulation, etc.
NTA – nitrilotriacetic acid, a strong chelant useful for reducing water hardness
oils - a family of non-water soluble liquid substances. Oils can be characterized as saponifiable, that is oils that contain an ester functionality, and non-saponifiable, that is oils that do not contain an ester functionality.
optical enhancers (or optical brighteners) - Colorless fluorescent organic compounds that absorb ultraviolet light and emit visible blue light that masks undesirable yellow of textiles, paper, and plastics.
organic - chemical compounds containing carbon, with the exception of a few carbon-containing compounds, such as carbon dioxide, carbides and carbonates.
oxidation- a class of chemical reactions that usually results in the addition of oxygen; the opposite of reduction.
oxygen bleach - commonly referred to as "color safe bleach" or "bleach alternative", oxygen bleaches are molecules containing the peroxygen functionality. Oxygen bleaches will decolorize stains and contribute to stain break down and removal, similar to hypochlorite bleach.
pH – value that represents acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution ranging from values of 0 - 14, with water as neutral at pH of 7.
pesticide - a product that kills, repels or otherwise mitigates any pest; the legal definition includes a wide variety of products, including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, disinfectants and sanitizers.
petroleum distillates - mixtures of chemical compounds derived from the distillation of petroleum; usually characterized according to the range of boiling points between which they were distilled.
phosphates – salts of phosphoric acid and poly phosporic acid, a strong chelant useful for reducing water hardness.
polar - compounds with electrical charge unevenly distributed so that one side is positive and the other negative; non-polar compounds have their electrical charge distributed evenly around the molecule.
polish - a product used to beautify and protect a surface by removing surface materials and/or applying a protecting layer to the surface.
polymerize – chemical reaction in which a large number of simple molecules (monomers) combine to form a polymer chains.
polymers - a broad class of chemical compounds composed of repeating series of one or more chemical units called monomers.
precipitates – small particles that have settled out of a liquid suspension via gravity.
propellant - the compressed or liquefied gas in an aerosol product that serves to pressurize the container, and usually also serves as a solvent.
proteins - naturally-occurring polymers composed of monomers called amino acids.
salt - a class of chemical compounds that are formed when the hydrogen in an acid is replaced by a metal, usually occurring when an acid and a base react and are neutralized.
saponify – to react a metallic alkali (base) with a fat or oil to form soap
sanitizer - products approved by the EPA as capable of eliminating 99.999% of harmful bacteria when used according to label directions, sanitizers must pass a standardized test.
sequestration – the inhibition or prevention of normal ion behavior by combination with added materials, especially the prevention of metallic ion precipitation from solution by the formation of a coordination compound with a chelant such as EDTA.
silicone - inorganic-organic polymer used as a non-stick material for applications such as baking and steaming and to add beading/sheeting attributes to car wash.
solid - chemical substances that have fixed volume and shape; includes powders, granules, crystals, and other such forms.
solubilize – to blend uniformly one substance with another (solid in liquid, liquid in liquid, etc.)
solution - a mixture of a solid or liquid in another solid or liquid that is uniformly dispersed at the molecular level.
solvent - a liquid that can serve to bring other chemical substances into solution.
stoichiometry – the ratio of quantities of chemical substances that enter into and are produced by chemical reactions.
substrate – any solid surface on which a coating or layer of different material is deposited.
surface tension – in liquid, the attractive force exerted by molecules below the surface upon those at the surface. This inward pull restrains the liquid from flowing.
surfactant - surface active agent; a chemical compound with both polar and non-polar characteristics that can help bring polar and non-polar substances into common solutions or emulsions.
synthetic - a chemical compound or mixture manufactured through chemical reactions which result in creating different compounds than the starting materials.
toxicity - the ability to cause an adverse effect on an organism at a given dose and route of exposure.
viscosity – the thickness or resistance to flow of a liquid.
volatile organic compounds - organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere.
wax - a mixture of water-insoluble organic compounds (usually mostly long-chain hydrocarbons) that is solid a room temperature but melts at low temperatures.