A Glossary Of Cleaning Words

03/07/2012 08:58 am ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

We're not all chemists, but it seems like cleaning companies forget that sometimes. We've all been there: You're reading the directions on the label for a cleaning product and you're met with long puzzling words that are ultimately more confusing than helpful. Then at some point, you either end up guessing the meaning of a word or looking one up on Google.

But while it's always good to know what kind of chemicals and methods you're utilizing, we've found that many cleaning terms can be a little misleading -- like stearic acid, which only sounds like it could burn off your skin. So, to save you some trouble, we've rounded up 30 common cleaning and home improvement terms that can be somewhat confusing.

Acrylic Floor Finish. A water-based solution, which is often used on wooden floors, that dries hard and shiny.
Aerobe. A microbe, or bacteria, that requires the presence of oxygen for survival.
Anhydrous Soap. Water-less soap.
Antiredeposition Agent. An ingredient used in detergents to help stop dirt from coming in contact with surfaces or fabrics again.
Bacteriostat. A chemical agent that stops bacteria from spreading but doesn’t kill it.
Blushing. When paint looks milky or cloudy caused by high humidity and temperatures.
Burnish. To buff a protective floor coating for a glossy look.
Calcium Carbonate. An inorganic compound often used to make lime and cement. Its buildup causes hard water.
Chelating Agent. An ingredient in detergent that neutralizes certain minerals in water that interfere with cleaning.
Cidal. Kills bacteria.
Damp Mopping. Cleaning with a damp cloth or mop lightly soaked in a mixture of detergent and water.
Emulsification. The breakdown of one liquid when mixed with a second liquid that the first would not usually blend with. The most common emulsifying agents are soaps and detergents
Epoxy. A synthetic adhesive.
Hydrochloric Acid. A solution of hydrogen chloride in water and a common ingredient in cleaning products.
Hydrophobic Fibers. Fibers that do not absorb water easily.
Hydrophilic Fibers. Fibers that do absorb water easily.
Inorganic Alkaline Detergent. A water-soluble detergent that contains no soap or synthetics.
Milking. The result of removing worn paint on window frames, which leave a cloudy stain on the glass.
Miscibility. A term often used interchangeably with solubility, able to be blended.
Nonionic Surfactant. A active ingredient highly effective in removing oily dirt and grime.
Phosphates. A compound added to detergent to decrease water tension.
Phosphoric Acid. A safe acid commonly used to remove rust, and interestingly enough, gives colas their tangy flavor.
Redeposition. When something gets dirty again before you have a chance to fully clean it.
Saponification. The process of converting fat into soap or removing grease and oil.
Sodium Hypochlorite. A bleaching and sanitizing compound.
Stearic Acid. A common fatty acid often added to soaps and detergents to increase its sudsing or foaming properties.
Surfactant. An ingredient that decreases surface tension and increases foaming, spreading, emulsifying and wetting properties of a product.
Tack Rag. A damp cloth used to remove dust and lint on a surface before it's coated with paint or finished with another product.
Wet Mopping. Using a lot of cleaning solution.
Viscosity. The thickness of a liquid or its resistance to flow.

Are we missing any? Let us know in the comments.

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