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pH Levels Explained

For commercial cleaning companies, it is vital that their team members understand the relevance and importance of the pH scale. This determines the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, and applies across a range of liquids, from water to battery acid! Obviously battery acid isn’t going to be a great product to use for cleaning, but it helps us to put into perspective the range of this sliding scale.

Generally the scale is measured from 0 to 14, with 7 being considered “neutral” – the only examples of which are purified water, or buffer liquids designed for calibration of pH meters. A solution which reads less than a 7 on the scale will be considered acidic. On the flipside of this, any liquid or solution greater than 7 is heading into alkaline territory. When it comes to cleaning chemicals, more acidic products are well suited to descaling operations, which alkaline being better for degreasing.

The pH Scale
Here are a few examples of pH levels in a range of items.

 

Examples of acidic products

As previously mentioned, any solution that falls below a neutral pH rating of 7 will have increased acidity. For commercial cleaning chemicals you will more than likely discover their usual pH level to sit anywhere between 0.5 and 5. Anything below a 0.5 is usually concentrated pure acids – NOT recommended for tackling anything!

Acidic Products

When a pH value of a product or solution decreases below 7, its acidity will start to increase. Most acid based cleaning materials will have a typical pH value of between 0.5 and 5 on the scale. Concentrated pure acids will have a pH value of approximately 0.1, though these would never be used as cleaning agents.

Acidic products are most commonly used to remove limescale deposits from hard surfaces as they will dissolve salts that are not soluble in water, such as descalers.

citrus
Your everyday lemons are a 2-3 on the Ph scale – more acidic than you think!

Alkaline Products

As you can see from the chart, if the pH value rises above 7, the product or solution will become more alkaline. Alkaline products are particularly effective in removing greasy and fatty deposits from hard surfaces. They will typically have a pH value of between 11 and 12.5. Stronger alkaline products such as emulsion floor polish strippers will have a value of around 13. Caustic soda, which is extremely corrosive, will have a pH value of 14.

A good example of alkaline cleaning products is Degreasers.

Neutral Products

As we have pointed out earlier, the pH of distilled water is 7 which is taken as being the purest neutral solution. However, in reality, any product or solution with a pH value of between 6 and 9 is generally considered to be neutral. Neutral products are commonly used for general cleaning procedures and include washing-up liquid and carpet cleaning solution.

water

How is the pH Value Tested?

The approximate pH value of any liquid product or solution can be tested using Universal Indicator Paper, a type of litmus paper, which reacts to solutions and changes colour based on the pH level.

colour-wheel

This can then be compared with a chart, with the colour corresponding to the relevant value on the pH scale.

 

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