The Science Behind Water Solubility and Power Washing Detergent

Published:

9/13/2021

There's no time to waste when it comes to choosing the right cleaning tools for your power washer. The wrong cleaning chemical can mean the difference between completely clean and not clean enough for customer confidence; alternatively, it can mean the difference between a fast, automated process and a slow cleanup that needs manual spot checks.


According to Cleaning & Maintenance Management, choosing the wrong combination of tools and detergents can even result in financial penalties.


In order for your team to choose the right supplies and implement power washer detergent use properly, it's important to understand the complex regulations and rules that accompany power washer cleaning. This guide will help educate you of different power washer detergent types and how water solubility affects them so you can make the right choices for your business.


Residential vs. Commercial Power Washer Detergent

Not all detergents are the same, and that goes far beyond having different ingredients and slightly different properties. Residential and commercial power washer detergents offer extremely different levels of power, which can impact the amount of water needed, the surfaces that can safely be cleaned by a given product, and what safety and protective measures are needed. 


For example, a heavily concentrated, abrasive cleaner may scratch fragile glass surfaces, or a chemical concentrate may need far more water per unit of cleaner than your standard practices suggest.


At NorTex Sales & Service, we provide commercial detergents that can be up to ten times stronger than residential cleaning products. If your team members or equipment operators are unaware of the increased power, they can easily damage equipment, products, and surfaces. 


Our available detergents are packaged as concentrates. This is another crucial difference between consumer and commercial cleaners, as many consumer products can simply be applied directly to a surface while concentrates must be mixed with the appropriate volume of water to generate the final cleaning product.


Each product is labeled with directions for the optimal ratios and preparation. As a general rule, users should be prepared to mix one ounce of commercial cleaning product with enough water to produce a gallon of cleaning solution.


Why Are Commercial Cleaning Solutions So Strong?


Most commercial and industrial cleaners are packaged and distributed as concentrates for efficiency. Mobile teams and delivery trucks can more easily transport the chemicals to the cleaning site before water is added. This reduces overall transportation costs, as water is heavy and bulky. It also allows experienced professionals to modify their cleaning solution with different proportions of water to create detergents that fit their precise needs. Additional benefits of keeping commercial solutions in compound form include:


  • More Powerful Properties: Commercial cleaners often need to have better performance to handle commercial jobs. In turn, the surfaces for commercial buildings, fixtures, fabrics, and other surfaces are more durable and can handle the stronger chemical exposure. For example, commercial detergents can have over twice as much bleach in a mixture because operators can safely handle that formula, and it creates a more powerful clean suited to commercial applications. 
  • Saves Time and Money: This practice also reduces packaging waste, inefficiency due to refill purchases, and other incidental costs that accompany pre-mixed detergent.
  • Less Water Use: Detergents and water are mixed together to dilute the detergent. If manufacturers add water, it weakens the product beyond what commercial users may need. In general, commercial users require a smaller water-to-detergent ratio than consumers.

Understanding Water Solubility

Mixing chemicals together in almost any context can be dangerous, and this is especially true for powerful commercial detergents that include caustic or harsh ingredients like bleach. Remember — water is also a chemical, so you and your team need to be aware of what reactions to expect when mixing cleaners and water together.


First, water has a set surface tension. The same forces that make raindrops bead together can stop water from running evenly across a surface. Detergents act as a surfactant to reduce water tension. However, it's important that the surfactant be applied to an appropriately low concentration. 


Water also has a set tolerance for solubility. Solubility is the measure of a material's ability to be dissolved. Water can only hold so much of a given cleaning product before more can't be dissolved and evenly distributed into the solution. As chemical cleaners or detergents become more concentrated, the amount of water required for ideal solubility becomes higher.


Anyone in your organization who handles cleaning products needs to be aware of how much water should be mixed with a given unit of cleaner to achieve optimal safety, cost savings, and effectiveness; mixing the chemical with less water won't necessarily produce a beneficially stronger cleaner.


Another important attribute of water to consider is its ability to hold chemicals at different temperatures. Water can hold more detergent when it's hot compared to when it's cold. If you add the same amount of detergent to equal volumes of hot water and cold water in different machines, the hot water more powerfully reacts to the characteristics of the detergent and more efficiently utilizes the cleaner; the cold water, however, can only dissolve a smaller portion of the cleaner, ultimately reducing its cleaning potential.


Some best practices for using detergent in water are:


  • Ensure that the cleaner is mixed with at least the minimum amount of water recommended for the concentration.
  • Use it in hot-water applications whenever suitable.
  • In hot-water applications, the ratio of water to detergent may be higher because it takes less detergent to generate the same effects as a cold-water application.
  • Be careful to not use too much detergent, as that can result in wasted product and money, as well as potential damage to the equipment and cleaned surface.


Choose NorTex Sales & Service for Industrial Power Washing Detergent

Carefully instituting the best procedures for mixing detergent concentrates with water does more than help your detergents last longer. It ensures your organization is compliant with applicable regulations, isn't at risk of damaging your equipment and cleaned surfaces due to overexposure to detergent, and is properly utilizing water to create a fast, high-quality clean. Contact our team at NorTex Sales & Service to find the right cleaners for your business and to get friendly guidance on best practices.