Glossary of Cleaning Terms

Glossary of Cleaning Terms

Abrasion – an area scratched resulting from scraping or rubbing away.

Abrasive – A material that is rough and capable of polishing and cleaning surfaces.

Acid – A corrosive substance that can neutralize alkalis and capable of remove scaling and other inorganic materials.

Acrylic Floor Finish – A surface made to withstand high traffic by layering a durable and glossy water based product.

Aerobe – A microorganism that benefits from oxygen for it to grow and survive.

Alcohols – Usually a colorless volatile liquid that is used as a solvent and fuel.

Algaecide – An agent that destroys the growth of algae.

Alkali – A corrosive substance like sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Can neutralize acids and capable to dissolve grease, oils and other materials containing proteins.

All Purpose Cleaner – It refers to the general “all around” cleaner that can be used on all surfaces and capable to remove most dirt and grease.

Anhydrous Soap – It is a soap that has no oil and water.

Anionic Surfactant – Commonly found in most detergents and cleansers, it contains active materials that can remove grease.

Antibacterial – Agent that kills and inhibit growth of bacteria.

Antimicrobial – Refers to an agent that destroys and inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, protozoans, viruses and fungi.

Antiredeposition Agent – It is a type of agent found in detergents to prevent soil from adhering to the surface after being cleaned.

Bacteria – It is a microscopic organism that thrive in living environments. Some are beneficial and some cause illnesses.

Bactericide – Refers to an agent that is capable of destroying bacteria.

Bacteriostat – Can be a biological or chemical agent that suppresses bacterial growth without necessarily killing them.

Bleach – A physical or chemical agent that whitens and/or removes color and stains.

Bluing – A process during laundry, where a blue liquid dye is added to prevent yellowing of white fabric.

Blushing - A whitening or milky condition; occurs after the solvent evaporates.

Booster -  Mostly contains active oxygen, it is used to remove stubborn stains and dirt from the fabric.

Brighteners – These are chemicals added to detergents to make clothing whiter and cleaner.

Buffing – A process used to clean and polish metal, wood and other surfaces using a cloth until it shines.

Builder – These are chemical agents that are added to detergents to make them more effective in their cleaning ability.

Build-Up – Slow accumulation of dirt, dust or grime on the floor.

Burnish – It is a process of polishing a floor to achieve shine.

Calcium Carbonate- It is unnatural compound which slowly deposits on inner pipes, kettles etc., causing “hard water.”

Carpet Cleaning – It is a process of removing dirt, dust and allergens from carpets using chemical agents or vacuuming and dry cleaning.

Cationic Surfactant – Are surfactants that have positive charge and use a cleaning enhancers due to its degreasing powers.

Caustic – An agent capable of burning, destroying or corroding by chemical reaction.

Chelating Agent – It is a compound added to detergents to remove mineral stains and decrease yellow discoloration.

Cidal or 'Cide' – Refers to any physical or chemical agents that kill microorganisms.

Chemical Cleaning – Any process that uses chemical agents to remove dirt and stains from surfaces.

Chlorine Bleach – It is a solution composed mainly of sodium hypochlorite and used mainly as a whitener and disinfectant.

Clarity – It refers to the veracity of how clear a liquid is.

Cleaning – It is a process of organizing and removing dust, dirt and stain from things and places especially inside a house.

Cleanser – An agent that is used for cleaning to remove dirt, stains and other substances.

Concentrate – Refers to a cleaning solution before water is added.

Contaminate – To infect by direct or indirect contact; to make something dirty or impure.

Corrosion Inhibitor – It is an agent that when added to another substance, reduces the corrosion of metal.

Damp Mopping – It is an effective way of cleaning wooden floors, using a damp mop or cloth to remove dirt.

Decontaminate – It is a process of cleaning an object and neutralizing or removing contaminants that accumulated.

Defoamers - A chemical agent that reduces foam formation.

Degreaser – An agent with solvent that is used to remove oil and grease from hard surfaces.

Deodorant – A chemical substance used to mask unpleasant odor brought about by bacterial growth on a surface.

Detergent – A cleaning agent either in a powder or liquid form used to remove dirt and stain from clothes, dishes and more.

Dilute – It is a process of adding solvent like water to reduce concentration.

Dirt – Any material or substance that causes stains and makes a surface unclean.

Dirt Retention - It is a process of measuring the structures that are used to keep soil contained in a specific boundary.

Dirty – Not clean, marked with dirt or grimy substances.

Disinfectant - A chemical agent that destroys harmful pathogens like bacteria.

Domestic Cleaning – It is an activity that is being carried out at home as part of home cleaning maintenance.

Drain Cleaner – A base agent that is used to remove clogs in sewer pipes.

Dry – Anything that contains no water or moisture.

Durability – Refers to anything that can withstand pressure, tear and can last a long time.

Dust – Are tiny earth particles that are suspended in the air or lying in most surfaces.

Dusting Product – Refers to a material that comes in a spray or cloth to remove light dust and dirt.

Eliminate - Process of ending or removing or getting rid of something undesirable.

Emulsification – It is a process of combining two unmixable liquids together. Soaps and detergents works as emulsifier, where they breakdown oils with dirt and can be removed during rinsing.

Enzyme pre-soak -  Used as a pre-washing agent to remove stains containing protein like milk and soil, so when loading them during regular wash cycle, it will be easier to remove stains.

Epoxy - It is a polymer that is used as an adhesives, primer, insulation and more.

Fabric softener – These are liquid conditioners used to eliminate wrinkles and make fabric softer and smell better.

Film remover -  An agent that helps in removing hard water or mineral stains and unsightly film in glassware and dishwashers.

Finish – Refers to the final coating or plastering applied to ceiling and walls

Floor Machine – A cleaning device that performs scrubbing and polishing on non-carpeted floors.

Fluorescent whitening agent -  These are chemical agents or dyes that absorb UV light and help to increase whiteness in fabrics.

Foaming Agent – It is an agent than is used to facilitate foam formation.

Formulant -  Refers to inactive additives or substance added to a formulation.

Fragrance – A chemical additive used to provide pleasant smell in clothes and other surfaces.

Fungi – A group of microorganisms that reproduce spores and when ingested or inhaled may cause severe illnesses.

Fungicide – Refers to chemical agents that can destroy and prevents growth of fungus.

Furniture Cleaner/Polish – Comes in several forms-liquid, gel or aerosol, used to put in the surface of furniture to make it clean and shiny.

Germicide – A chemical substance that is used to effectively destroy harmful microorganisms.

Glass Cleaner – A cleaning agent that contains surfactant or solvent that clings to the glass surface and capable to remove dust and dirt leaving glass shiny and clear.

Gloss – Refers to a surface that is shiny and smooth.

Grease – A thick yellow oily substance rendered from animal fat.

Hand Cleanser – A chemical agent that is used to clean hands from grease, dirt and soil.

Hard Water Mineral Remover – Substances or agents used to remove hard water stain or mineral deposits on fixtures and equipment.


Hazard -  Refers to anything that can cause potential danger or threat.

Hydrochloric Acid – Also known as Muriatic acid is a water based solution that is used to clean tiles, toilet bowl to remove dirt and grime.

Hydrophobic Fibers – Contain materials like polyester and acrylic and resist water absorption.

Hydrophilic Fibers – Contain fiber materials that absorb water easily. Example are cotton, linen and wool.

Inorganic Alkaline Detergent – These are detergents that easily dissolves in water and contain no soap.

Irritant – A substance that cause slight discomfort or pain to the skin.

Lime and rust remover -  A formulated agent that is capable to remove hard to remove  lime scale or rust inside the dishwasher.

Low Sudzing – These are detergents that produce little to no foam to form

Mechanical Cleaning – Involves manual process of removing dirt using abrasives instead of chemicals.

Metal Cleaner and Polish  -  An agent used to clean and polish metal surfaces.

Milking- Refers to the cloudy stain on glass after removing chipped paint on window frames.

Mild Cleaner – A cleaning agent that is tough on stubborn stains but won’t cause surface damage.

Neutral Cleaner – Refers to a universal cleanser that is non-acidic or non-basic, as it cleans most water resistant surfaces.

Non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner – Either in a liquid or powder form, it is used on most surfaces due to its disinfecting capabilities without causing damage to surfaces.

Non-Chlorine Bleach – Agents that do not contain chlorine and are based on peroxides. The bleach is considered color safe.

Nonionic Surfactant – These are commonly found in laundry and dishwashing detergent. These surfactants are widely used due to causing less formation of soap scum in hard water and its ability to remove stubborn grease.

Oven Cleaner – A chemical agent that is designed to deep clean ovens and remove food deposits from oven walls.

Oven Cleaning – It is a meticulous process of cleaning ovens using cleaning agents to ensure food safety.

Oxygen bleach -  A bleach made from sodium percarbonate that activates when mixed with water. Oxygen will be released in the process and so is dirt and stain.

Pathogens – These are microorganisms that cause harmful diseases.

Pesticide – Refers to chemical agents that are designed to kill insects, plants like weeds and other unwanted organisms.

Phosphates- A key ingredient in most detergents to prevent hard-water or lime scale deposits.

Phosphorus Acid – A formulated agent used to effectively clean and remove scum, scales and rust from toilet bowls and lifts grease and dirt from most surfaces.

Pine Oil – Derived from Pine trees, is a natural disinfectant, and protects paint on furniture and provides a pleasant fresh smell.

Pine Oil Cleaner – A cleaning agent that contains pine oil that disinfects, cleans and protects floor and furniture surfaces.

Polish – Process of making a surface shiny, dust free and smooth.

Pre-Soak – A method of soaking in a formulated liquid prior to washing helping to loosen stains and dirt.

Pre-Spot – Refers to treating visible spots and stains before they undergo a washing and cleaning process.

Redeposition – When soil from the clothes has been removed during the washing cycle and transferred to other fabrics making other clothes look dull.

Rinsability – The degree of ease of being washed and rinsed.

Rinse agent – It is a surfactant agent that reduces surface tension, leaving your dishes cleaner and dryer.

Sanitizer – A fluid agent that is formulated to reduce growth of disease causing organisms on surfaces.

Saponification – It is a process where lipids or fats reacts with lye product to produce glyceride or soap.

Sealer – An agent used to seal or cover a surface.

Shower Cleaner – It is a cleaning agent used to clean tile, shower areas, and fixtures that cuts through hard water, stains, soap scum, mold and mildew.

Soap – It is an agent when used with water, capable of washing and cleaning surfaces.

Sodium Hypochlorite – Commonly used to treat water and purify it, it is used to purify, bleach and remove unpleasant odor.

Soils – These are substances that make things unclean and unpleasant.

Solvents – It is an agent that dissolves a solute to form a solution.

Spray Buff – It is a cleaning procedure that utilizes aerosol or spray and is applied to the floor and helps in removing dirt and making floors clean and shiny.

Spring Clean – It is an annual general house cleaning carried out during spring season.

Squeegee – It is a rubber scraping gadget used in cleaning glass windows.

Sterilization – Refers to the process of eliminating the growth and destroying harmful pathogens like viruses, bacteria, spores and prions present in a surface.

Stripper – It is a laundry method that aims to remove minerals, oils and detergent residue that accumulates over time during laundry.

Suds – Refers to foam or bubbles that form when soap is mixed with water.

Surfactant – It is an active ingredient in a detergent that reduces surface tension when liquid is added into it.


Surface-active – Refers to any substance that when liquid or water is added, it lowers surface tension.

Suspension – These are cleaning agents that keeps grease and soil from going back to the surface.

Synthetic (Soapless) Detergents – These are detergents derived from petroleum products and are capable of degrading oil and dirt in hard water.

Tack Rag – It is a type of cloth that is lint-free and made with a tacky substance used to remove fine dust in wood surfaces before finishing.

Tackiness – State of being viscous or sticky.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner – It is a cleaning agent formulated to clean toilet bowls and remove, scales, rust and slime. It also mat disinfect and freshens the bowl.

Tub, Tile and/or Sink Cleaner – It is a multipurpose cleanser that cleans tile and various surfaces and helps in removing soap scum, mineral deposits, rust and grout.

Unclog – Process of removing an obstruction or clog in pipes.