Glossary of Terms for our Industry

Abrasive cleanerA cleaner that comes in powder and liquid form and contains a kind of built-in elbow grease, which helps cut down on the hard rubbing required to remove soil. These products are designed to remove relatively heavy amounts of soil often found in small areas.
Active IngredientThe ingredient in a product that is responsible for the product’s function.
AlkaliAn ingredient that neutralizes or adjusts acidity of other ingredients; makes surfactants and builders more efficient; and increases alkalinity, which is useful in removing acidic, fatty and oily soils.
AntimicrobialA product that destroys or inhibit growth of microorganisms that cause diseases and/or odour.
Antiredeposition agentA substance that prevents soil from resettling after removal during washing.
BactericideA product that controls and/or eliminates bacteria.
BleachA product that helps whiten, brighten and remove stains. Bleaches convert soils into colourless, soluble particles that can be removed by detergents and carried away in the wash water. Liquid chlorine bleach (usually in a sodium hypochlorite solution) can also disinfect and deodorize fabrics. Oxygen (colour-safe) bleach is gentler and works safely on almost all washable fabrics.
Carpet CleanerA product that is formulated to wet the pile of the carpet and take up oily and greasy soils. Such products provide a system that traps soil in suspension and dries to a brittle solid residue. The brittle residue containing the soil particles is then removed by vacuuming.
Corrosion inhibitorA product that protects metal machine parts and finishes, china patterns and metal utensils.
DisinfectantA product that destroys microorganisms on inanimate surfaces.
Drain OpenerBuild-up removers are liquids formulated to prevent the grease and soap scum build-up which causes clogged drains using enzymes to break down and digest organic materials, such as grease. Traditional drain openers often include sodium hydroxide to generate heat to melt fat and break it down to simpler substances that can be rinsed away. Some products also contain agents to produce gas which provides agitation in the drain, a further help in opening drains.
Film removerA product that removes build-up of hard water film and cloudiness from dishes and the interior of the dishwasher. They are used instead of an automatic dishwasher detergent in a separate cycle or together with the detergent.
FragranceAn ingredient that provides pleasant odour to clothes and rooms.
FungicideA product that controls and/or eliminates fungi.
Furniture PolishThese products’ principal ingredients include silicone fluids and a wax, often a so-called microcrystalline wax. A hydrocarbon solvent helps remove oily stains and some wax build up. Furniture cleaners/polishes can be formulated as water-in-oil or oil-in-water emulsions. An emulsion stabilizer is present in both to prevent the product from separating into two layers. Fragrance and colour round out the product formulation.
Glass CleanerA product that contains surfactants to loosen soil, solvents to dissolve oily soils, and water as the medium to carry surfactants and solvents. Builders are included to remove heavier soils, especially oily soils. Alkaline builders, such as ammonia, are more effective on acidic soils like body oils or cooking grease. Acetic acid (vinegar) provides better performance on alkaline soils like mineral salts. Opaque creamy glass cleaners contain surfactants and solvents. They also contain colloidal clays and silica, which absorb soil and dry after spreading. Any remaining dried solid shows areas that need to be wiped.
HerbicideA product that controls and/or eliminates weeds.
HydrotropeA substance that increases the solubility in water of another material, which is only partially soluble.
InsecticideA product that controls and/or eliminates bugs.
Antiscaling AgentAntiscaling agents (also called descalers) are used to prevent the build up of or remove inorganic oxide deposits (scale, limescale) caused by the deposition of salts or minerals.
Metal Cleaner and PolishMetal presents a special cleaning problem, tarnish (the oxidation of metal), which is the principal soil to be removed. Metal cleaning products are sold as pastes, thick opaque liquids or clear liquids which may hold a fine abrasive in suspension. Surface impurities on most metals are removed more easily in an acidic medium. Metal cleaning products, therefore, usually contain organic acids, such as oxalic, sulphuric or citric. To aid in mechanical removal of tarnish and soil and contribute to metallic luster, a very mild abrasive is present as a polishing/buffering agent. Clay-like materials, such as kaopolite or finely divided hydrous silica, are common mild abrasives used. Metal cleaning formulations may also contain surfactants for ease of spreading the product as well as an aid in soil removal. Some products also contain an antioxidant, which protects the clean metal against rapid retarnishing.
OpacifierAn ingredient that reduces transparency or makes the product opaque.
Oven CleanerFor most oven cleaners designed to work in a cold oven, strong ingredients are necessary to remove burned-on soils. A strong alkali, like sodium hydroxide (lye), is the principal agent in such oven cleaning products. During use, the alkali converts the grease to soap. Another product type uses a combination of less alkaline salts plus oven heat to aid soil removal. Surfactant is also present to help penetrate soil and wet the surface. Oven cleaners are formulated to be as thick as possible to allow the product to cling to the soiled, greasy, vertical oven surfaces.
Oxygen bleachAn ingredient that may be combined with bleach activator for better performance in lower water temperatures.
Pest control product or pesticideA product that is designed to control, eliminate, attract or repel pests.
PreservativeAn ingredient that protects against the natural effects of product aging (for example, decay, discolouration, oxidation and bacterial attack).
Prewash soil and stain removerA product used to pre-treat heavily soiled and stained garments, especially those made from synthetic fibres.
Processing aidAn ingredient that provides proper pour or flow, viscosity, solubility, stability and uniform density and assists in manufacturing.
Rinse agentA product that is used in addition to the automatic dishwasher detergent to lower surface tension, thus improving draining of the water from dishes and utensils. Better draining minimizes spotting and filming and enhances drying.
SanitizerA product that reduces the level of microorganisms present by significant numbers or to acceptable levels established by federal or provincial health authorities.
Shower CleanerA product that prevents build up of soap scum, mildew stains and hard water deposits without rinsing, wiping or scrubbing, and without leaving a dull residue or streaks. The products contain surfactants to help clean and prevent soap scum and hard water deposits and to aid water in sheeting off shower surfaces. Some products contain builders or chelates, and alcohol or solvents to assist in the continual cleaning process. Some also contain antimicrobial agents to kill germs, including mould and mildew.
SolventAn ingredient that prevents separation or deterioration of ingredients in liquid products, dissolve organic soils and clean without leaving residue.
Starch, fabric finish or sizingA product used in the final rinse or after drying to give body to fabrics, make them more soil-resistant and make ironing easier.
Suds control agentAn ingredient that ensures optimum sudsing (foaming) level needed for a cleaning job.
Suds stabilizerAn ingredient that maintains high sudsing where suds level is an important indicator of cleaning power.
Suds suppressorAn ingredient that controls sudsing where suds would interfere with cleaning action.
SurfactantAn ingredient in soaps and detergents that makes liquids foam.
Toilet Bowl CleanerA product that maintains a clean and pleasant-smelling toilet bowl by clinging to the sides of the toilet bowl, freshening the bowl or releasing active ingredients into the bowl with each flush of the toilet. Surfactants plus oxidants or acids are the primary ingredients for soil removal. The presence of acids or sequestrants facilitates removal of stains caused by hard water deposits and iron. Specific organic stains are cleaned by oxidizing agents present in some products. Toilet bowl cleaners with disinfecting action contain antimicrobial agents, such as quaternary ammonium salts. To dissolve stubborn rust and hard water stains, some products may contain strong acids, such as hydrochloric acid. Products containing sodium hypochlorite as the oxidizing agent also include alkalis, such as sodium hydroxide, sodium metasilicate or sodium carbonate. Most toilet bowl cleaners contain a pleasing fragrance.
Tub, Tile and/or Sink CleanerA product that removes not only the normal soils found on bathroom and kitchen surfaces, but also hard water deposits, soap scum, rust stains and discolourations due to mould growth, which are common to these areas. Almost universally, such cleaners contain surfactants to penetrate and loosen soil. In addition, they may contain special sequestering agents and specific solvents to dissolve and keep calcium (hardness) deposits, soap scum and metal discolourations in solution. Products designed to remove mildew stains may also contain an oxidant, such as sodium hypochlorite, antimicrobial agents to attack mould and mildew, and alkaline ingredients, such as sodium carbonate, sodium silicate and sodium hydroxide.
Water softenerA product added to the wash or rinse to inactivate hard water minerals. Since detergents are more effective in soft water, these products increase cleaning power.