What are the 4 types of Cleaning Agents

Table of Contents 


Classification of Cleaning Agents

Uses of Cleaning Agents

Types of Cleaning Agents

How to choose the right Cleaning Agents

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Agents



Cleaning is the most important and primary aspect of housekeeping. It is a process of removing dirt, dust, and grime by using methods such as dusting, sweeping, shaking, mopping, and polishing.

Cleaning agents are substances used in removing dirt, including dust, stains, bad smells, and clusters on surfaces. It is necessary to get the right cleaning agents in order to have a perfect result. Knowing the right cleaning agent to use for cleaning can reduce the time spent and produce a quality result. It is therefore important to know the different cleaning agents and what they can be used to clean. 


Cleaning agents are classified according to the method by which stains are being removed on surfaces. This is actually determined by their composition. There are different types of cleaning agents but basically, there are four(4) major types of cleaning agents. 

The four(4) types of cleaning agents are:

  1. Detergents
  2. Degreasers
  3. Abrasives 
  4. Acids.
  1. Detergents:  Detergents are cleaning agents which contain significant quantities of a group of  chemicals called ‘surfactants’( chemicals that have water and soil attracting properties). Detergents are the most commonly used cleaning agent. They work by breaking up dirt or soil making it easy to wash the dirt away. They (detergents) are chemical substance in either powder or liquid form used in removing dirt from clothes, dishes, etc. The detergents commonly used are usually synthetic detergents made from petroleum products and may be in the form of liquid, powder, gel or crystal.

 Qualities of a Good Detergent

 A good detergent should:

  1. Be soluble in water.

      2. Be effective in hard water with a wide range of temperatures.

      3. Clean quickly with less agitation.

      4. Clean quickly with no streaks or scum.

      5. Be economical to the user.

      6. Be harmless to the skin.

Chemical Composition of Detergent

  1. Surfactants are chemicals that are amphiphilic molecules that have hydrophilic and hydrophilic parts. The molecules disperse through water and reduce the surface tension of water by overcoming the forces of attraction between the water molecules thereby allowing the water and surfactants molecules to penetrate the surface.
  2. Foaming Agents increase or stabilize the foam formed by a detergent. The level of foam depends on the amount of surfactant active in a cleaning solution.   Alkalomomides derived from coconut oil are frequently used for this purpose.

Conditioning agents ensure that the granules in the detergent powder are crisp, firm, and dry.

3. Perfumes and dyes are included to increase consumer acceptability, but increase the risk of allergic reactions.

Types of Detergent 

 Detergents are classified into three broad groupings, depending on the electrical charge of the surfactants. 

  1. Conventional Detergents: The conventional detergents use chemicals to bring scent, the cleaning agents to make the laundry/cleaning  cleaner, the stabilizers to stabilize their shelf life, and bleach, brighteners and phosphate to make the detergents more effective in hard water. Convention detergents, like any other products can contain  toxic chemicals  and carcinogens.
  2. Powder detergents: powder detergents have a longer shelf life than liquid detergents, thus you can easily purchase  them in large quantities  without any worry. The main challenge of powder detergent is that they don’t dissolve well into the liquid and can leave deposits of white chalky residue on the clothes or surface. 
  3. Liquid detergents: Liquid detergents work well with water, especially cold water. Liquid detergent can easily be overused and also  their packaging creates more waste. 

Uses of detergents: Powder or liquid detergent can be used for other purposes besides cleaning clothes, dishes, or surfaces. 

  1. All purpose cleaner: Both powder and liquid detergent can be used to clean tiles, floors, tubs, counters and toilets. 
  2. Oil spills: Powdered detergent can absorb oil that is spilled on a garage floor or on the street.
  3. Moss Killer: Powdered detergent can be used to kill growing moss on your steps, cracked walls. Sprinkle the powdered detergents on your steps, cracked walls or driveway, allow it to stay for some days,  it turns to brown then brush with broom. 
  4. Drains: Liquid detergent can be used to clean blockages. Put ¼  cup of liquid detergent into the drain, pour  boiling  water, allow for a few minutes then flush out to blockage. 
  5. Bubbles: detergent can be used to make bubbles for kids to play by mixing liquid detergent with water. 
  1. Degreasers: Degreasers are solvent based or solvent containing cleaning agents. They usually consist of strong alkalis, which can dissolve proteins, emulsify, disperse grease and similar substances. They are based on caustic soda or sodium metasilicate. They are chemicals mostly used for the removal of water insoluble substances such as grease, paints,lubricants, corrosive products etc . These products are specially made for the removal of grease. Extreme care should be taken in their use as they have high pH.

        Qualities of a good degreaser: A good degreaser should be 

  1. Gentle on the surface.
  2. Be safe to handle.
  3. Be biodegradable. 
  4. Be non toxic.

Chemical composition of degreaser

Sodium Carbonate: One of the active components of degreaser sodium carbonate  (also known as soap ash) is used in powdered detergent as well as degreasers. Sodium carbonate works to break down grease and oil and remove lubricants from materials and objects.

Sodium Metasilicate: Sodium metasilicate is an extremely alkaline substance that enables degreasers to break down fatty acids found in greasy products. This compound also works to soften hard water and becomes a strong cleaning agent when added to water. 

Sodium Tripolyphosphate: Sodium tripolyphosphate even out the friction between other substances in degreasers, which might cause a chemical reaction. Sodium tripolyphosphate also works to deter grease and grime, while boosting the power of the other ingredients to clean. Sodium tripolyphosphate is also used as an ingredient in pesticides.

Types of degreasers

  1. Butyl degreaser: This is the most common water based degreaser and it’s mostly used for cleaning petroleum-derived grease such as motor oil. When applied to oil based grime it turns the oil into a liquid which makes it easy to clean up. Butyl is considered organic and it’s not toxic on it’s own, but because it’s usually combined with other solvents that can cause health hazards, it sometimes gets a bad rap.
  2. Non-butyl degreaser: This is a high alkaline cleaner which works particularly well on animal fat-based grease and the soap scum in bathrooms. Non-butyl degreasers are free of soaps, fragrances, acids, solvents and caustic, thereby making them suitable for restaurants, bathrooms and home use. 
  3. Everyday degreasers: Non-caustic, non-toxic degreasers can actually be used for daily use, and they do a good job preventing oil and fat-based build up. 

Uses of degreasers

  1. They are used to clean appliances, stainless steel, counters, cupboards, microwave etc. 
  2. They are  used for removing tough stains on blinds.
  3. They can be used to clean grills. 
  4. They  can also be used on bike chains. 

3.  Abrasives: Abrasives are substances or chemicals  that depend on scrubbing or rubbing to clean dirts from surfaces.  One of the most common operations that can be done with abrasives is the polishing of surfaces.  

Qualities of good abrasives:

A good abrasive should 

1.Be easy to cut and fold to the required size.

2. Have great flexibility.

3. Have grit and the coating doesn’t crumble.

Abrasives are mostly classified as – 

  1. Natural abrasives –  these abrasives occur as minerals or rocks in the crust of the earth.  Calcite,stone,Iron oxide,  sandstone, diamond, and powdered feldspar are examples of natural abrasives.  
  2. Synthetic abrasives (Authentic) – These abrasives include a number of materials possessing high hardness.   Barazon, ceramics, aluminium oxide, glass powder, steel abrasive, silicon carbide are examples of synthetic abrasives. 

Types of abrasives: 

  1. Cut off wheels: It is also known as a self-sharpening wheel. It is usually used on materials like metals, stone, concrete etc. It is known for it’s fast and comfortable cutting and has a long life. It is often used  for metal fabrication, maintenance, repair, and general industrial application. 
  2. Grinding wheels:  It is a wheel  that is composed of an abrasive compound and it’s used for grinding, cutting abrasive,  abrasive machining operations. It is designed for working with grinding machines. Grinding wheels are made up of either  solid steel or aluminum. 
  3. Sand and fibre disc: It has a coarse grit that helps in removing welds on metal, mill marks on wood, and even outs the edges.  The Sand disc is a circular disc used for removing material, corrosion, paint, rust from wood, metal or plastic surfaces.

Properties of abrasives

1. Hardness: Abrasive must be harder than the material it is to grind, polish, or remove.   It is important that an abrasive be hard if it must effectively work. 

2. Grit Size: Grit size indicates the abrasive grade on the abrasive side of the paper. A higher grit number indicates a smaller abrasive grain and a finer abrasive product. Grit size is an important component to consider when deciding the right abrasive for your task. 

 Some factors that may affect how quickly a substance is abraded include; 

1.  Differences in hardness between the two substances. A much harder abrasive will cut faster and deeper. 

2. Grain size (grit size): Larger grit sizes will cut faster as they cut deeper. 

3. Contact force: More force will cause faster abrasion. 

4. Adhesion between grits, between grits and backing, determine how grits are lost from the abrasives and how soon grits, if presents, are exposed. 

Uses of abrasives: Abrasives can be used for various purposes, they include –

  1. Abrasives are used in flexible steel hoses like shower hoses, armored cables.
  2. Abrasives are used in hypodermic needles in medical, dental & veterinary for polishing.
  3. Abrasives are used for smoothing surfaces.

4. Acids: Acids are mainly used for the removal of inorganic deposits like scaling. They are the most powerful type of cleaning agent and therefore, should be used with care. Acid as a cleaning agent if not properly/correctly diluted can be poisonous, harmful, and corrosive. 

Types of acids: There are different types of acids, they include –

  1. Hydrofluoric acid: This is a solution of hydrogen fluoride in water. Solutions of hydrofluoride are colourless, acidic, and highly corrosive. 
  2. Sulfuric acid: It is  known as hydrogen sulfate, is highly corrosive, clear, colorless, and odorless. This acid is a composition of detergent which is also a cleaning agent. 

Uses of acids: Ethanoic acids are used to clean metals before electroplating, household cleaning, and maintaining swimming pools. 

Nitric acid is used for the purification of gold.   


Q – What is a cleaning agent?

 A – Cleaning agents are substances used for removing dirt, including dust, stains, bad smell, and clusters on the surface. There are different types of cleaning agents used for different purposes. 

Q – Can I use a degreaser to clean oily plates?

 A – Yes, you can use degreasers to clean greasy plates. Though, one has to be careful in selecting degreasers to clean dishes as some degreasers could be harmful. Therefore, when a degreaser is used for dish cleaning, it is important to rinse the dishes properly.

Q – Can abrasives be used to clean saucepan pots?

A – Yes. Abrasives can be used to clean saucepans and pots. Though, abrasives cannot be used for a non-stick saucepan as they could affect the potency of the pots. 


The use of cleaning agents cannot be overemphasized as it is something that we cannot do without either in homes, offices, hospitals, and other places. There is a wide range of cleaning agents, and they differ in their uses. It is therefore pertinent to know the different cleaning agents, and what they can be used for in order to get  perfect cleaning.  

Contact Epoxy Oilserv Nigeria today, we stock quality cleaning agents. 

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