Solvent Cleaners 101

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The Basic Cleaning Families

  • Abrasives
  • Acids
  • Alkalis
  • Bleaches
  • Commercial Blends
  • Detergents
  • Solvents

Solvent cleaners are readily available and are often used to dissolve household soil. The solvent is often the medium the stain or soil goes into to facilitate its removal.

Water is a universal solvent because it will dissolve most kinds of soils except oils. Alkalis, acids, bleaches, or detergents are added to water to chemically react with specific soils and loosen them so they can be removed with water. Prompt sponging with water (if the material is water safe) will remove many stains without adding chemicals.

Caution: Surfaces damaged by water include wood which warps, wood finishes which soften or turn white, textiles which shrink, padding which can be soaked, and mildew, materials that soften or disintegrate in water such as paper, or around electrical components where shock hazards exist.

Organic Solvents

Acetone, Denatured Alcohol, Petroleum Distillates including kerosene, mineral spirits, naphtha, dry cleaning fluid, and turpentine are used to remove greasy soil, or stains that will not dissolve in water. It can also be used for cleaning surfaces that would be damaged by water. Some remove waxes, wood finishes, and oil-based paint. Many are used in polishes, waxes, spot removers, rug cleaners, degreasers, and all-purpose household cleaners.

Caution: Most are flammable or combustible. Read and follow all label directions completely.