Glossary of Terms


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  • Abrasion: The wearing away or cleaning by friction. Abrasion can also relate to the wearing away of a floor finish film by friction.
  • Abrasive: A product that works by abrasion. Products such as cleaners, polishes and pads may contain an abrasive.
  • Acid: A compound that ionizes in water to produce hydrogen ions. It readily donates protons to other substances and, when dissolved in water, creates solutions that conduct electricity, taste sour and turns litmus paper red. Inorganic acids (sometimes called mineral acids) include sulfuric, nitric, hydrochloric and phosphoric. Organic acids include acetic, oxalic, hydroxyacetic and citric. Acids are used in toilet bowl cleaners, rust removers and hard water stain removers.
  • Active Ingredients: The ingredients in a product that are specifically designed to achieve the product performance objectives.
  • Adhesion: One characteristic of soils or films which causes soils and oils to stick or bond to surfaces making them difficult to remove.
  • Alcohols: Organic compounds that contain one or more hydroxyl groups (-OH functional groups) in each molecule. Alcohols used in cleaners include ethyl, methyl, propyl and butyl.
  • Aliphatic Solvents: These are sometimes referred to as paraffins. They are also referred to as straight chain or open chain solvents. Kerosene, Odorless Mineral Spirits and Mineral Seal Oil are examples of aliphatic solvents.
  • Alkali or Base: Describes a solution formed when a base dissolves in water to form a solution which contains more hydroxide ions than hydrogen ions. Alkaline solutions have a pH of more than 7, turn red litmus paper blue, and feel soapy because they react with the skin. Alkalinity is exhibited in solution by alkalies such as sodium or potassium hydroxide or alkaline salts such as sodium carbonate. A substance used in some wax strippers, degreasers and cleaners to assist in soil and finish removal.
  • Ammonia: An alkaline gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen. Aqueous solutions of with 5-10% ammonia are sold as household ammonia.
  • Amphoteric Surfactant: A surfactant that, in water solution, may be either anionic or cationic, depending upon the pH.
  • Anhydrous: A product that has had all of the water removed.
  • Anion: An ion with a negative charge, formed when an atom gains electrons in a reaction. The atom now has more electrons than protons.
  • Anionic Surfactant: Negatively charged part of a molecule. Anionic surfactants are widely used in high-sudsing detergents.
  • Antiredeposition Agent: An ingredient used in detergents to help prevent soil from redepositing on surfaces or fabrics. Sodium carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) is the most widely used.
  • Aromatic Solvents: Solvents made of compounds that contain an unsaturated ring of carbon atoms, typified by benzene structures. Xylene and toluene are aromatic solvents sometimes referred to as Ring Hydrocarbons.
  • Atom: The smallest particle of an element that retains the chemical properties of that element. The atoms of many elements are bonded together in groups to form particles called molecules. Atoms consist of three main types of smaller particles. These include the electrons, protons and neutrons.