What is a Cleaning Solvent?
A solvent is basically a chemical compound that is used to soften, dissolve, extract, or melt another compound. Chemical solvents are classified into two main categories, namely, organic and inorganic.
Organic chemical solvents contain carbon and are commonly used as a cleaning solvent to lift stains, dissolve paint, dry-clean fabrics, and remove the glue. Inorganic solvents, on the other hand, do not contain carbon, except water, and are primarily used for research purposes with very little commercial application.
Common Organic Cleanup Solvents Used in the Industries for Cleaning
Water, also known as “the universal solvent” is the most common and widely used organic cleanup solvent that is used in both residential and commercial settings for cleaning purposes. Chemists generally use the principle “like dissolves like” to determine the most effective solvent for a given task that would effectively break down the compound it is applied on.
It is called a universal solvent due to its capacity to dissolve both acids and bases. Be it a home or a factory, the cleaning routine starts by washing the area with water to remove dirt, debris, and traces of other chemicals from the surface.
Rubbing alcohol, also known as Isopropyl alcohol, is a mild organic cleanup solvent. As a matter of fact, most commercial cleaning solutions are made up of 70 percent rubbing alcohol, which is again diluted by mixing 30 percent water, making this cleanup solvent safe for skin contact.
Rubbing alcohol works as a fine cleaning agent and can effectively remove ink stains from upholstery and clothing, remove the sticky hair sprays from bathroom mirrors, keep the windows frost-free during winters, and also clean grime and dirt from cellphone and computer screens.
Another strong organic solvent, hexane is widely used for making commercial lubricants like water-displacing sprays. This compound is used for lubricating rusty hinges and loosening zippers. However, this organic chemical is an effective cleanup solvent due to its hydrocarbon base, which removes spills and stains that cannot be dissolved in water like crayon, grease, lipstick, and vegetable oil quite effectively.
Unlike rubbing alcohol, hexane is a strong chemical compound and must, therefore, be handled with care. Ensure that you only use hexane and hexane-based products in open and well-ventilated areas. Given that hexane fumes are highly toxic and flammable, make sure that it is not sprayed anywhere where it can come into contact with open flames.
Acetone is not as strong as hexane and not as mild as Isopropyl alcohol. It is a moderately strong organic cleanup solvent that is mainly used to make nail polish removers. However, this organic cleanup solvent must be handled with care as it is highly flammable and can be hazardous for health if inhaled over an extended period of time.
Acetone is used for a number of applications like to clean up superglue from the skin and from hard solid surfaces, restore the shine to patent leather, clean up the adhesive left behind by stickers, clean lacquer coatings from brass, and to rub out abrasions from watch faces made from plastic.
Toluene and Xylene:
These are very aggressive cleanup solvents and are mainly used for cleaning equipment and tools. Toulene and Xylene can damage paints and plastics, so refrain from using these chemicals on them.
Useful Tips for Cleaning Using Cleanup Solvents:
Here are some useful tips that you must keep in mind while handling cleanup solvents.
1. Do not apply the cleanup solvent directly on the surface. Apply small amounts to a rag and then go on to clean the surface with it.
2. Do not use dirty rags to clean another soiled surface as it will keep on spreading the dirt.
3. Always use the cleanup solvent in an open and well-ventilated area and do not forget to wear an appropriate mask and solvent resistant gloves while cleaning.
4. Before you start using the recently cleaned surface; allow the cleanup solvent to evaporate completely, leaving no residue behind.
5. If you are unsure about the efficacy and strength of the solvent, test it first on some paint or plastic.
6. You should not apply too much of the solvent as it can destroy the surface being cleaned.
7. Always use high-quality personal protective equipment and gear, to avoid injury from fire or spills.
Cleanup solvents are a necessity for commercial establishments as certain areas, tools, and equipment require proper and thorough cleaning. Hopefully, this article will help you determine the clean up solvent best suited to your needs.