Why we need soaps and detergents to clean properly
Ever tried to clean a dirty pan with just water? The phrase water and oil don’t mix is more than just a saying to explain different personalities.
Due to being held together with hydrogen bonds, water has polar ends. This means one end of every water molecule is positively charged, while another end is negatively charged. In contrast, oils and fats are not polar. Because there is no attraction between the molecules, oils and fats do not have the ability to dissolve in water.
This is where soaps and detergents comes in. Amphiphilic in nature, both soaps and detergents are made up of molecules that have a dual nature, meaning one end of the molecule is attracted to water and repelled by fats and proteins (hydrophilic), while the other side is attracted to fats and is repelled by water (hydrophobic). When you add soap or detergent to water while you clean, it allows the fat and grease molecules to be broken apart and dissolved in water.
Bacteria and viruses like COVID-19 are similar to oil in that they are genetic information surrounded by fat and protein. When you wash your hands with soap, or surfaces with detergent, the side of the molecule that is attracted to fat and repelled by water breaks its way through the bacteria or viruses’ fat and protein shell, effectively destroying it, and allowing it to dissolve in water. Even if the soap or detergent you use is unable to destroy all the viruses and bacteria present (some are too strong), it will still effectively remove them and wash them away.
Can I just use a microfibre cloth and water to clean?
To begin, let’s take a look at what microfibres are and how they actually work. Microfibre cloths are made up of – you guessed it – microfibres! One-hundred times finer than human hair, microfibres have a frizzy end which is ideal for picking up and trapping dust and dirt, as well as bacteria and viruses.
However, microfibres are not able to effectively clean very dirty or greasy, non-porous surfaces. For the reasons mentioned previously, a detergent or soap is needed to break down the fats and grease and effectively wash them away. Microfibres also do not have the ability to break down chemical bonds. This means when it comes to getting rid of soap scum or hard water stains, they are powerless.
Plus, while microfibres can remove germs, they have no ability to destroy them like detergents and soaps do. When cleaning areas prone to bacteria, including bathrooms and kitchens, it’s imperative you use detergent and disinfectant.
Microfibres also need to be constantly cleaned in order to work properly. Otherwise, the any of the dust, bacteria or viruses it picks up will just be moved to other parts of your home or workplace.
So, how do I clean surfaces properly?
While it may be tempting to just grab the bleach, it’s important to remove any visible dirt and grime by using detergent or soap before disinfecting. Otherwise, the disinfectant won’t be able to effectively kill any germs present. You can choose between mildly acidic, neutral or mildly alkaline detergent. For most general cleaning tasks, a neutral detergent with pH between 6 and 8 should be used.
When you’re ready to disinfectant, one of the following should be used:
- Alcohol wipes with 70-90% alcohol (ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol)
- Chlorine and chlorine compounds – sodium hypochlorite (household bleach), sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC) and calcium hypochlorite (bleaching powder)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides)
- Phenolic disinfectants
All of the above disinfectants are proven to kill both bacteria and viruses.
It’s important you follow the instructions on the product label to ensure the disinfectant is effective in killing germs. This includes applying it to a clean, dry surface; using it at the right concentration; and giving the disinfectant enough time to work, which may take anywhere between 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. All of this information can be found on your chosen product’s label.
The PetraClean standard
At PetraClean, we’ll never just use water to clean your office or workplace. To keep you, your employees, and your customers safe, we use hospital grade detergent and disinfectant, paying particular attention to horizontal surfaces (e.g., desks and tables) and the high-traffic touchpoints (e.g., door handles and light switches) to limit any potential spread of germs.
Not only does PetraClean supply all the equipment needed to clean your office to the highest standard, it stays with onsite. This gives you the peace of mind that the mop we use to clean your kitchen isn’t the same mop that’s been used to clean another client’s restroom.
With over 50 years of experience in the Perth cleaning industry and hundreds of happy clients, there’s plenty of reasons to choose PetraClean as your preferred office or commercial cleaner.