Cleaning chemicals are used in homes, schools and places of business on an everyday basis. Depending upon the ingredients the chemicals contain, they may be toxic. Many people choose to use safer cleaning products if they have children or pets in their households, to minimize the risk of exposure. These chemicals fit into one of seven categories: strong alkali, heavy-duty alkali, mild alkali, strong acid, mild acid, solvent, and soaps and detergents.
A cleaner that fits in the strong alkali category destroys microbes and dissolves proteins. Cleaning products such as oven cleaner, lye, and drain cleaners are this type. They are highly corrosive and cause chemical burns on the skin, and in the lungs, when inhaled. Products that contain sodium hydroxide are put in this category.
Heavy-duty alkalis are those that contain sodium carbonate. This type of cleaning product is used to remove fat from drains, greasy burners, and pans. Sodium carbonate is the building block for powdered detergents and washing soda. This type of cleaner is slightly corrosive, as it will burn skin and corrode aluminum products.
Cleaning chemicals that are put in the mild alkali category are ones that contain sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda. These cleaning products are used on areas that require a mild cleaning. Mild alkalis are safe to use around children and pets, as they aren't corrosive.
Strong acid cleaners are mostly used for cleaning toilets, bathtubs, and sinks. They remove hard water deposits, toilet rings, and soap scum. Strong acids are highly corrosive, especially to concrete, fabric, and metals. Cleaners that contain phosphoric and hydrofluoric acids are considered strong acids.
Mild acids are cleaners that contain levulinic, acetic, hydroxyacetic, citric, and gluconic acids. They are mostly used to remove hard water deposits from around the sink and on shower doors, rust stains, and tarnish. Mild acid cleansers made from citrus or acetic acids are safe for use around children and pets.
Solvents are cleaning chemicals that dissolve grease and oil. The ingredients in solvents include, but aren't limited to, acetones, denatured alcohols, and mineral spirits. Cleansers that contain solvents include spot removers, rug cleaners, and all-purpose cleaners. They are often flammable and combustible, so they must be kept away from extreme heat and open flames.
Soaps and detergents are used to emulsify fat and grease, and they are found in liquid dishwashing detergent and laundry soap. Liquid dishwashing detergent is safe for use around children and pets. The safety of laundry soap is dependent upon the brand and the additional chemicals it may contain.