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Panel: Steve Risotto
Media: Alison Lynn

Less “Elbow Grease” Required

Sometimes, it’s amazing how much easier a task can be with the help of a cleaning product. Why? Well, one big reason is that many household cleaners contain solvents. Solvents are used in hundreds of products to improve cleaning efficiency. The solvents in household cleaners help make counters, showers, toilets, tubs, carpets and other household items clean. 

How do solvents work in cleaning products?

To understand how solvents help clean, think about how our ancestors washed clothes—basically with soap and a bucket containing a washboard. Clothes were cleaned by scrubbing clothes against the washboard. Now, in modern washing machines, solvents help reduce the need for this abrasive type of cleaning by setting up a system to soften soils and dissolve the unwanted material. Solvents disperse the soils, making the unwanted material/particles easier to dissolve, which means faster cleaning and less elbow grease.

A hard surface cleaner (such as tub or tile cleaner) without solvents may cause streaking because soil particles may actually settle back to the surface before they can be wiped away. Different types of cleaners that rely on solvents include hard surface cleaners, window cleaners, and floor polishes.

Solvents also help with disinfectant tasks by lowering surface tension. This feature, working with other ingredients in the product, helps the disinfectant to get into the nooks and crannies of your cutting board and counter and be more effective in decreasing bacteria.

Another benefit solvents bring to cleaning products is product stability. A stable cleaning product means the first capful is as effective as the last capful. Solvents help prevent separation during shipping, which is an important feature to giving products a longer shelf life.

Solvents are in a variety of home cleaning products to help improve cleaning efficiency and make homes both easier to clean and more hygienic. The effectiveness of solvents in cleaning applications helps us have cleaner, more beautiful homes and offices. Less time spent cleaning and scrubbing means people have more time to do the things they enjoy.

What is a solvent?

Solvents are chemical substances that can dissolve, suspend, or extract other materials, usually without chemically changing either the solvents or the other materials. Solvents can be organic, meaning the solvent contains carbon as part of its makeup, or inorganic, meaning the solvent does not contain carbon. For example, "rubbing" alcohol is an organic solvent, and water is an inorganic solvent. Hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents are examples of types of organic solvents that can effectively dissolve many materials.

Modern solvents make it happen.®

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