Is bleach an acid or a base

cleaning supplies

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Cleaning agents are available for a wide variety of materials and applications. They are used to wash dishes, clean floors or polish metals. In general, cleaning agents can e.g. B. can be differentiated according to their pH value. The pH value indicates whether an aqueous solution reacts acidic or alkaline. The pH is given in dimensionless numbers from 1-14, with an aqueous solution having a

pH <7 is acidic,
pH = 7 is neutral (corresponds to pure water),
pH> 7 is alkaline.


Figure 1: pH scale

Depending on the pH of the cleaning agent, it may or may not be suitable for different materials. Acid cleaning agents attack limestone such as marble; they are also unsuitable for cleaning cork floors. Due to their limescale dissolving properties, such cleaners are ideal as toilet and sanitary cleaners.
Neutral cleaners react neutrally and belong to the all-purpose cleaners. The pH value of other all-purpose cleaners is different, but mostly slightly alkaline. Soft soap has a pH value of 10-12, while cleaners for linoleum and PVC are neutral to slightly alkaline (pH value 9-10). Security notice: It is difficult to predict how different cleaning agents will react with one another. Therefore: Do not mix detergents!


  • Surfactants (→ detergents),
  • Acids,
  • Alkalis,
  • Complexing agents / softeners (→ detergents),
  • Organic solvents,
  • Bleach (→ detergent),
  • Enzymes (→ detergents),
  • Care components,
  • Corrosion inhibitors,
  • Scouring agents (abrasives),
  • Microbiological cleaning agents,
  • Preservatives,
  • Fragrances and dyes.


Acids have a pH value <7; the lower the value, the stronger the acid. In cleaning agents, they are used to remove mineral deposits such as lime and urine scale, as well as rust. When handling acids, it is essential that you observe the protective measures specified in the → safety data sheet and the product information.
The following acids are used in cleaning agents: hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid and sulfamic acid as well as lactic acid, formic acid, citric acid, methanesulfonic acid and acetic acid. The Federal Environment Agency recommends cleaning agents based on citric acid [4]. Other effective acids are: sulfamic acid, methanesulfonic acid and phosphoric acid. Acetic acid develops irritating fumes and attacks brass and copper. For this reason, we do not recommend cleaning fittings with vinegar cleaner → Information on the subject of vinegar cleaner. Formic acid also develops fumes with a pungent odor and is classified as corrosive.


Alkalis are substances that, together with water, form alkalis. Alkalis have a pH value> 7; the higher the value, the more corrosive they are. It is imperative that you observe the protective measures specified in the → safety data sheet and the application concentration.
Alkalis dissolve both organic soiling such as fat and proteins as well as paint. Sodium hydroxide can be used as a paint remover, for example. A lot of glue residue can be removed with soapy water. The following alkalis are used in cleaning agents: potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), ammonia water (ammonia), silicates, potassium carbonate (potash) and sodium carbonate (soda). Potassium and sodium hydroxide form extremely corrosive alkalis. Sodium hydroxide is used in → drain cleaners and soda is used in the manufacture of soaps and detergents. Sodium metasilicates are commonly used ingredients in laundry detergents and dishwashing detergents. They are used as buffers and ensure that the pH value remains constant. In the case of → detergents, they also stabilize the bleaching agent during the wash cycle and ensure soft water by binding calcium and magnesium ions [3]. Sodium metasilicates are slightly hazardous to water (WGK 1) [2].

Organic solvents

Organic solvents are added to the cleaning agents for greasy soiling, felt-tip pens, old care product residues, paints or adhesives that do not dissolve with water. These can be divided into two groups: water-miscible or water-immiscible solvents.
Organic solvents miscible with water include: alcohols, acetone, and butyl glycol. The following are not miscible with water: halogenated and non-halogenated hydrocarbons as well as aromatic hydrocarbons.

Alcohols (e.g. ethanol, isopropanol, propanol and butanol) are added to window cleaners, alcohol cleaners and hand dishwashing detergents. The alcohol ensures that greasy residues dissolve without damaging the surfaces. The cleaners are well suited for routine cleaning.
Halogenated hydrocarbons or halogenated hydrocarbons contain elements from the group of halogens, such as, for example, chlorine, fluorine, iodine or bromine. They can be found in stain removers, paint removers and cold cleaners (for engines and machine parts). Chlorinated solvents have good fat-soluble properties and dry quickly, but they are highly hazardous to water, are among the potentially carcinogenic substances and are hardly biodegradable. Cleaning agents containing halogenated hydrocarbons should therefore be avoided.
To the non-halogenated hydrocarbons belongs z. B. White spirit (also known as white spirit or white spirit), which is suitable for loosening adhesive residues.
Aromatic hydrocarbons such as toluene and xylenes are used in stain removers and basic cleaners, among other things. The solvents are often harmful to health and pollute the environment. Toluene [5] and xylenes [6] are both classified as hazardous to water, Water hazard class (WGK) 2. Cleaning agents with aromatic hydrocarbons should therefore be avoided.


Examples are hydrogen peroxide and sodium percarbonate (→ detergents).


These are proteins that break down other proteins, carbohydrates or fats (→ detergents).

Care components

These include soaps, waxes and polymers. Natural waxes such as carnauba wax, candelilla wax [7], montan wax [8] and beeswax (furniture care products) as well as synthetic waxes (paraffin) are used. Ceresin was also used in floor wax in the past. Polymer dispersions are now increasingly being used. Care components based on wax or polymer form a care film that serves to give the surface a → shine and to delay renewed soiling. As a rule, the care film can be → polished and is compressed in the process. Can be used for polishing and compacting Floor polish blockers (for wax emulsions) or → single-disc machines can be used. Compaction increases the durability of the floor against mechanical influences such as scratches and walking marks and the dirt particles remain on the surface. Polymer dispersions can withstand higher revolutions and can be polished with a high-speed machine. The rotation generates heat and the applied care film is plasticized.
In a care film that is only applied by wet wiping, on the other hand, dirt can build up and the floor turns gray. This care film is removed with a basic cleaner and then renewed again through the care.

Corrosion inhibitors

Inhibitor (lat. Inhibere "to stop", "to stop") prevents the corrosion of metals in this case.


Abrasives are rock flour, for example from quartz, pumice, marble, Diatomite, chalk [11] or alumina and are responsible for the mechanical action of the cleaning agent. The grain size must not be too large (<0.05 mm), otherwise the surfaces will be scratched. The abrasive used depends on the material that is to be cleaned with it. For example, brass should only be cleaned with softer abrasives based on marble or similar, so that no visible scratches appear on the surface [1].

Microbiological detergents

Microbiological detergents (also called probiotic detergents) eliminate bad smells such as urine smell in toilets. Many odors are caused by the bacterial decomposition of organic substances. Microbiological cleaning agents contain microorganisms that deprive these bacteria of the basic nutritional basis by breaking down the organic residues. The microorganisms also penetrate porous surfaces and, over time, even remove odors in poorly accessible places. However, it may be necessary to repeat the application. The possible uses are extremely diverse: There are, among other things, Cleaning agents for carpet and upholstery cleaning, sanitary cleaners, for cleaning various waterproof surfaces such as garbage cans, drains, facades or for use in animal breeding. Since microorganisms are sensitive to heat, such cleaning solutions are prepared with cold water.


Since microorganisms can still multiply in the pH range between 4 and 9 and cleaning agents often provide a good breeding ground for microorganisms, preservatives are added to them. These prevent excessive growth of the microorganisms and thus preserve the shelf life. Mixtures of different preservatives are often used to increase the effectiveness.
To protect people who are allergic to various ingredients need to be loud Detergent Ordinance Enzymes, preservatives, disinfectants and fragrances, regardless of their concentration, are declared on the cleaning agents (Essential legal provisions, Bavarian State Office for the Environment). However, it is not mandatory to add the function. For this reason, it is often not evident that the specified ingredients are preservatives (Figure 2).
Some preservatives are even classified as hazardous substances; above a certain concentration they are subject to special labeling regulations. The preservative mixture methylchlorisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone in the → mixing ratio of 3: 1, from a concentration of 0.0015%, must be provided with the warning "Sensitization through skin contact possible". Benzisothiazolinone and octylisothiazolinone must only be labeled with the above warning from 0.05% [9]. For methylisothiazolinone, lower substance-specific concentration limits (SCL) in detergents, care products and cleaning agents are expected to come into force from 2019 [10].
Formaldehyde can cause contact allergies. With a concentration of 0.1% or more, the warning "Contains formaldehyde" must be attached. From a concentration of 0.2% formaldehyde in detergents, cleaning agents and care products, these may not be put on the market [9].

Examples of the declaration of preservatives

Figure 2: Declaration of ingredients on the back of a label (preservatives are outlined in red)

Figure 3: Declaration of ingredients on the label (preservatives are outlined in red)


The fragrances give the room air a pleasant smell for us. However, some of them can cause allergies. Since 2005, the 26 fragrances that most frequently cause allergies across Europe must be listed by name on the packaging if they exceed a weight percentage of 0.01% (Essential legal provisions, Bavarian State Office for the Environment). You can find an overview of some of the fragrances used in detergents and cleaning agents under this link: → Fragrances.

Various cleaning agents are presented for the materials (see → glass, → rubber, → wood, → ceramic tiles, → cork, → plastic, → laminate. → leather, → linoleum, → metals, → natural stone, → carpet, → terrazzo).

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Interesting link

Poster of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) in the EU is the classification and labeling according to Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 (CLP-VO). Accessed 08/08/2019


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KATALYSE Institut e. V. (2017): Halogenated Hydrocarbons. Accessed August 25, 2017
[2] Federal Environment Agency (2014): Water-polluting substances, groups of substances and mixtures. Accessed August 25, 2017
[3] IMPAG Group Head Office (2011): Sodium Metasilicates. The trend in the detergent and cleaning agent industry. Accessed August 25, 2017
[4] Federal Environment Agency (2013): Four cleaning agents for spring cleaning. Accessed August 25, 2017
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[6] Carl Roth GmbH + Co. KG (2016): Safety data sheet xylene (isomers). Accessed August 25, 2017
[7] Cosmacon GmbH: Candelilla wax. Accessed August 25, 2017
[8] Archive material: montan wax. Accessed August 25, 2017
[9] Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office (CVUA) Stuttgart (2007): Preservatives in detergents and cleaning agents - investigation results 2006. Accessed on August 25, 2017
[10] Tropal Media UG (2017): Label-free active ingredient alternatives to methylisothiazolinone in detergents, care and cleaning agents. Accessed August 25, 2017
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Detailed references

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