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Cleaning chemical conundrums14th of May 2014
Oven cleaning, carpet extraction, grease traps, graffiti removal - what are the most challenging cleaning applications for chemical companies? And how do manufacturers come up with products to tackle such difficult tasks? ECJ finds out.
Chemical companies offer a wide range of products and solutions designed to make light work of tasks such as oven cleaning, removing graffiti and cleaning away grease and soiling from surfaces
But some cleaning tasks are much more difficult than others. A job such as lifting a coffee stain from a carpet, for example, or removing deeply-engrained dirt from a commercial oven may require specialist products – and perhaps some mechanical aids as well.
And according to Diversey Care global marketing director Irina Klemps, the difficulty begins before the task in question has even been tackled. “The biggest challenge lies in identifying the nature of the dirt and the type of surface you are faced with,” she said. “Once these have been correctly identified, the right chemical solution can be chosen and a cleaning system can be devised.”
Cleanroom cleaning is a particularly difficult task, she says, since this calls for chemicals that have been certified for that application. Floor stripping presents another challenge since a high alkaline stripper cannot be applied to certain surfaces such as linoleum.
“The spot cleaning of carpets can also be difficult since it is hard to identify whether a stain is water-soluble or not,” says Klemps. “The deep cleaning of wool carpets can also be tricky since these cannot be treated with too much water. And oven cleaning is a challenge because you need to choose between systems that use cold or heated water.”
Diversey Care offers a range of cleaning systems including chemicals, tools, machines, services and e-solutions for specific cleaning tasks. “For example we offer a certified ClearKlens range for the cleanroom while our linoleum-stripping solution comprises TASKI Jontec Linosafe in combination with a single disk machine,” says Klemps. “And for removing grease from ovens we offer Suma Extend D3 which can be applied on vertical surfaces.”
For each cleaning challenge the operative needs to apply the right combination of chemicals, mechanics, time and temperature, says Klemps. “We promote the rule of using the minimum quantity of chemicals possible, but also as much as is required to remove the dirt in the most efficient way.”
She adds that regular maintenance cleaning will make such challenging cleaning tasks easier. “Cleaners can reduce the amount of chemicals they need to use by carrying out proper maintenance cleaning in order to prevent the dirt from accumulating.”
According to 3M business development manager Tim Copner, graffiti removal is among the most difficult cleaning challenges a chemical company has to face. “Not all graffiti is the same, and not all graffiti artists use the same paint,” he said. “It is a particular challenge to remove graffiti from porous, non-flat surfaces such as brickwork since this will absorb some of the paint.”
The company offers two anti-graffiti products – GR1500 for use on plastic, painted and varnished surfaces, and GR3000 for brickwork and concrete.
Another difficult task is the cleaning of kitchen surfaces such as griddles and ovens, says Copner. “The problem here is that the soiling becomes hard baked over a period of time,” he said. “There are also many surfaces in a kitchen that are awkward to access such as cooker hoods and heating elements.” The company offers a product called Quickly for cleaning griddles. “This is a liquid that reacts to the baked-on residue when applied to a hot griddle surface.”
According to Delphis brand manager Neil Lelean, the cleaning of fat traps and drain lines in catering outlets is a particularly difficult problem since maintenance issues can occur if the grease is simply transferred downstream. Delphis makes a biological Liquid Grease and Drain Treatment that is said to feed off the grease and fat.
“With no fewer than 500 million colony-forming units of bacteria per gram, we believe this to be the most powerful product of its kind on the market,” said Lelean. “While it won’t remove the need for emptying the fat traps it will reduce the number of times they need cleaning.”
The product is also said to reduce the problem of odours since it breaks down volatile fatty acids while the microbes contained within it inhibit the production of hydrogen sulphide.
Other particularly tough cleaning challenges include oven cleaning and limescale removal, says Lelean, “Effective oven cleaning is difficult to achieve since it can be hard to remove burnt-on carbon deposits without producing noxious fumes,” he said. The company’s plant-based Foaming Oven Cleaner is said to be caustic-free and fume-free, and can be used on all oven surfaces including stainless steel. Delphis also offers a plant-based limescale remover. “This was developed in the UK for the Prince of Wales, and being a plant-based product it is much safer than most limescale removers,” claims Lelean.
Director of international sales at Premiere Products Mark Hughes says the biggest cleaning challenge his own company faces is in floor care. “We have to continually come up with products that work on today’s new floors,” he said. “There is a great deal of innovation taking place and floors today tend to be finished with a range of different types of substrate. In the old days you would simply polish a hard floor, but many of the new products need to be maintained using a specific PH cleaner or maintainer.”
The company offers various multipurpose cleaning products that can be used in different dilution rates depending on the soiling. “The challenge lies in developing products that won’t damage the floor but that will remove the soiling,” says Hughes. Premiere Products offers floor products in seven different strengths for use on different types of floor.
Export manager at Johannes Kiehl Hermann Fehle agrees floor care can be among the toughest of cleaning challenges. “This is particularly true of floors with a surface that is difficult to moisten such as PVC floors with a certain PU-coating, or porcelain tiles - both of which are often found in public areas such as offices or shopping malls,” he said.
Johannes Kiehl offers Corvett, an ultra-moistening stripper for use on PVC floors and porcelain tiles that is said to penetrate deeply into the pores of the floor. The company also has a care system for wooden floors: Kiehl PurOil is an impregnating water-based oil while Kiehl Eco-Refresher is a film-building water-based oil.
“Wooden floors represent another challenge,” said Fehle. “Contract cleaners are often afraid of treating these floors as they can be easily damaged and repairs can be quite expensive.”
Bio-Productions’ managing director Mike James agrees with Klemps’ analysis that the hardest part of a cleaning task lies in analysing the challenge it represents. “The most difficult aspect of chemical cleaning is recognising what needs cleaning - and then coming up with the best way of doing it,” he said. “If you sand down what you think is a wooden floor, for example - only to find out that it is an expensive antico lino surface, or a hardboard floor with a photographic finish – you will damage that floor.”
According to James applications such as cleaning grease traps, toilets and drains are not necessarily particularly difficult. However, they can be dangerous.
“Drain cleaning can usually successfully be tackled using very aggressive chemicals, but these have to be used with care,” he said. “We were recently called out to a London hotel that had a grease problem with its drains. To try to solve it, a cleaner had removed a manhole cover and poured two 25 litre containers of acid solution down the drain. The acid reacted with the water in the drain and the cleaner then started choking and his eyes began to stream, which meant he was unable to replace the manhole cover. As a result the hotel’s kitchen, storage rooms and corridors all had to be evacuated because they quickly filled up with fumes.”
James recounted another story in which a cleaner had lost an eye during a routine lavatory cleaning task. “He poured bleach down a toilet in which an acid-based cleaning solution had already been used, and the two chemicals reacted together and exploded in his face.”
Bio-Productions offers a range of ‘problem-solving’ products for difficult tasks. These include Bio-Clear for drain cleaning and Bio-Productions Stain Remover for the spot cleaning of carpets.
“This is a highly effective carpet cleaner that can even remove substances such as nail varnish from a shag-pile carpet,” said James. “But you have to know what you are doing. If you were to rub the stain remover in too aggressively, for example, you would damage the pile of the carpet. You need to use a pinching action instead to remove the soiling.”
And he adds that the success of any difficult cleaning task comes down to education and experience. “We offer training for our customers’ sales forces, but there is such a high turnover of staff that I’m sure that many operatives simply wing it,” said James. “However, I believe that any difficult chemical cleaning problem can be solved by using a combination of the right product and the right application.”