Cleaning Glossary of Terms
Sharing Information, this is only a guide and is collated from various unconfirmed sources. We have checked the details as far as possible but hold no responsibility for its accuracy. You will have to confirm your own research on any particular term.
Alkalinity - Alkalinity is useful in removing acidic, fatty and oily soils. Detergent products can be formulated at any level of alkalinity to meet cleaning performance requirements.
Antistatic Floor polishing - Conductive Flooring - A type of floor which is constructed to form a pathway of moderate electrical conductivity between equipment, people and the floor. This floor is designed to prevent the buildup of hazardous electrostatic charges in areas where flammable gases are used. The resistance of such flooring must be maintained between 25,000-100,000 ohms. Special polish and maintenance products are available for this flooring.
Autoclave - An instrument that is pressurized by steam, without the inclusion of air, in which articles and/or liquids may be sterilized.
BICSc - The Institute, which has its headquarters in Northampton, is the largest independent professional and educational body within the cleaning industry. Founded in 1961, its mission is 'the raising of status and standards of the cleaning industry, through education'.
Biodegradable - Capability of organic matter to be decomposed by biological process.
Bleach - Sodium Hypochlorite - A low cost oxidizer that is effective in decontamination of blood or other potentially infectious materials. It is not very good for soil removal and is corrosive to metal. Inactivated by organic matter and it will not last when diluted. It is also deactivated by sun light.
Brighteners - Optical or fluorescent enhancers found in carpet and fabric cleaning products. Giving the appearance of brightening the look of a carpet.
Buffing – Often referred to using a rotary floor machine with a soft pad or bonnet to increase the shine level of a floor. A spray floor maintainer chemical with cleaner and polish in is used in conjunction to aid the process.
Build-Up - Heavy deposit of floor finish, wax, grime or dirt
Burnish - To buff a protective floor coating to give a hard finish
Carpet Spotting - Treating spills on carpeted surfaces with chemicals selected for the specific spill. In the health care facility, spots require special attention and disinfection.
Cationic Surfactant - Disinfectants and sanitisers such as alkyl dimenthyl benzyl ammonium chloride known as quaternary ammonium compounds
Caustic - Having a burning, corroding or dissolving chemical reaction
Chelating Agent - Additives in detergents for inactivating the minerals in water that interfere with cleaning.
CHSA - Representing more than 200 manufacturers and distributors across the UK, the Cleaning and Hygiene Suppliers Association is the Trade association of suppliers to the cleaning industry.
COSHH - COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. You can prevent or reduce workers' exposure to hazardous substances by: finding out what the health hazards are; deciding how to prevent harm to health risk assessment; providing control measures to reduce harm to health; making sure they are used; keeping all control measures in good working order; providing information, instruction and training for employees and others; providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases; planning for emergencies.
Contact Time - The published time that a disinfectant or sanitizing chemical must remain wet on the surface being treated. These chemicals are killing germs only when wet.
Daily Cleaning - Custodial cleaning procedures that are typically conducted every day.
Damp Mopping - Process of using a damp mop lightly wrung in detergent and water to remove lightly soiled surfaces.
Decontaminate - To remove pathogenic and undesirable microorganisms or soil from surfaces by chemical or physical means.
Defoamer - A chemical substance which reduces or eliminates foam.
Detail Cleaning - Special custodial cleaning procedures that are conducted less frequently; usually once each week or upon dismissal of patient or resident.
Deep Clean – Periodic thorough cleaning procedure.
Detergent - A chemical which is used for cleaning surfaces and which may possess various properties such as surface wetting, soil emulsification, soil dispersion, or soil suspending. These cleaning agents by themselves are not antimicrobial.
Dilution Rates - The rate at which products must be mixed with water to be effective.
Disinfectant - A chemical intended to destroy or inactivate microorganisms on inanimate surfaces. A disinfectant will kill 100% of most vegetative bacteria, but is not capable of destroying bacteria endospores. Substance intended for application on inanimate surfaces to kill or inhibit growth of microorganisms.
General Disinfectant - Disinfectant that is labeled for usage against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Efficacy demonstrated against both Salmonella choleraesuis and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Dolly Mop – Or socket mop. Traditional round mop usually with cut ends made from cotton yarn for mopping small areas.
Dust Sweeping - Using a dust control flat mop with handle. 75 – 100mm wide varied lengths up to 80cm, also available in the shape of scissors opening to 2M wide for large floor surfaces.
Emulsification - Detergent action that breaks up fats and oils into small droplets.
Environmental Cleaning - The basic level of cleaning through removal of soils. This removes many microbes but does not specifically control any one.
Fogging – Electrical device that acts like a giant aerosol for adding a mist of fine droplets of disinfectant or odour neutralizer to the air. Sometimes be used in Cinemas, waste or bin areas.
Fungi - Advanced multicellular organisms that are infectious and harmful, examples are mould and mildew.
Fungicide - Chemical agent that destroys fungi
General Purpose Cleaner - A mixture of cleaning detergents that can remove soil.
Glass Cleaner - A mixture of solvents, detergents or alcohols that can remove soils and water spots and dry without residue. Glass cleaners typically do not claim disinfectant action.
Hard Water - Water containing soluble salts of calcium, magnesium and/or iron.
Hard Water Test - Efficacy test condition where hard water (generally 400 ppm) is used to dilute the antimicrobial product. Intended to evaluate efficacy under real life conditions.
High-level Disinfection - Process by which all forms of microbial life except high levels of spores are destroyed.
Hydrochloric Acid - an aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride strong acid used for the removal of lime scale from surfaces. It is a corrosive acid and care should be taken not to use near acid sensitive surfaces such as chrome – it will turn it black. Gloves and goggles should be worn.
Hydrogen Peroxide - Used for the disinfection of non-critical items. It is bactericidal, tuberculocidal, virucidal, fungicidal for a range of pathogens.
Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) - A highly corrosive inorganic acid often found in commercial rust removers and stain removes. Use with extreme caution.
Intermediate-level Disinfection - Process by which vegetative bacteria are destroyed.
I.S.S.A. - International Sanitary Supply Association
Kentucky Mop - Traditional mop usually with cut ends made from cotton yarn for mopping larger areas. The handle requires a metal clip to hold the mop in place. It is used with a gear press mop wringer and bucket. Newer versions can be made with non woven fibres.
Limited Disinfectant - Registered disinfectant with efficacy demonstrated against either Salmonella choleraesuis or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Microbe - Microorganisms.
Micron - A metric unit of linear measure. There are 25,400 microns in one inch. Bacteria usually measure about 1/2 micron wide and 5-10 microns long.
MRSA - Staphylococcus aureus pathogen resistant to antibiotic Methicillin.
MSDS - Material Safety Data Sheet - A form required by law which describes hazardous ingredients and risks in handling chemical products. These details should be available for all cleaning and other chemicals in the work place.
Neutral Cleaner - Neutral Detergent. A cleaning chemical with a Ph value of 7-8
Non-Chlorine Bleach – A product used in laundry for bleaching that contains peroxygen compounds which releases active oxygen in the water
Non-Critical Use - Refers to environmental surfaces that do not touch broken skin.
Phosphoric acid - Common acid used in older formulations for toilet bowl cleaners and in light duty detergents. It is not a particularly strong acid but is stronger acid than acetic acid, but weaker than sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. Sulphamic acid is a better and used in more modern formulations.
Pine Oil - Oil processed from gum trees, used in hard surface cleaning and disinfecting.
pH scale - measures how acidic or Alkaline a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is Alkaline.
PPE – Personal protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, face masks, overalls and safety shoes.
ppm - Parts per million - A measure of concentration of active ingredients.
Pre-Soak - A soaking operation before washing to remove stains.
Pre-Spot - Removal of obvious stains before general cleaning.
PSI – Measure of pressure. Pounds per square inch. 14.2 psi is 1 Bar. A 100 Bar pressure washer would be 1420 PSI.
Rinse Aid - A chemical agent which lowers surface tension of water and facilitates its rinsing ability holding soil in suspension.
Risk Assessment – A Risk Assessment is a systematic method of looking at work activities, considering what could go wrong, and deciding on suitable control measures to prevent loss, damage or injury in the workplace. The Assessment should include the controls required to eliminate, reduce or minimise the risks. For general office cleaning this means assessing the hazards, methods and precautions of each particular task in a specific work place. See www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/officecleaning.htm
Rotary Carpet Cleaning - A carpet cleaning technique in which a detergent solution is worked into the carpet pile by a brush or bonnet mop attached to a rotary slow speed (Aprox 150rpm)machine. Loosened soil is usually removed by vacuuming, commonly called shampooing.
RPM – Revolutions per minute. Associated with rotary cleaning machines. Ranging from 100 rpm to 3000 rpm. Speeds are approximate. General use is Floor scrubbing 150-200 rpm. Floor buffing and spray cleaning 300-400 rpm. Burnishing 400-800 rpm and ultra high speed burnishing 800–1500 rpm. Some specialised burnishers range from 1500-3000rpm These are usually gas or battery powered.
Sanitise - The level of clean required to reduce the number of bacteria on a surface.
Scrubber Dryer – Machine with a cylindrical or rotary brush that will spray a chemical onto a floor, agitate the liquid then suck the soil back into a holding tank, leaving the floor clean and dry.
Shelf-life - Length of time an undiluted product can remain active and effective. Light, temperature, organic matter and metals can affect chemical stability.
Slip Coefficient - A measurement of the coefficient of friction as measured on the James machine, and instrument used to test the static coefficient of friction of a surface. U.L. considers 0.5 or above the safe limit.
Seal a Floor – To add a protective removable seal to a porous floor surface.
Slurry - A temporary suspension of insoluble solids or immiscible liquids in a carrier base. Usually refers to the suspension of dirt or the thick, dark, soapy mixture created when stripping a floor.
Socket Mop – Or dolly mop. Traditional round mop usually with cut ends made from cotton yarn for mopping small areas.
Sodium Hypochlorite - Bleaching and disinfecting agent.
Soils - A group of substances that attach themselves to surfaces creating a pollutant.
Solvents - A liquid which dissolves another substance, water being the most common
Spot Cleaning – Checking an area for soil marks and stains, cleaning these as necessary.
Squeegee - A tool with a rubber edge to remove water from floors also available for windows. windows.
Spray Buff - An intermediate floor care procedure which cleans, removes black marks and shines the wear areas of the floor. Utilises a sprayed solution, a floormachine and a synthetic floor pad.
Spray extraction – This is the process associated with carpet and upholstery cleaning machines. The method is to spray a diluted chemical under pressure in to a carpet. It is followed by sucking up the chemical and soil in to a holding tank by vacuum. Usually done in one process by the same machine. Pressures vary from 40 to 500 psi dependant on the machine. 70-100 psi is normal.
Steam cleaning – Using a machine that heats water to about 120ºC. This is then expelled under pressure on to the surface to be cleaned. This term is often given to Spray extraction which is a different process.
Sterilisation - Process of killing all forms of microbial life including fungi, viruses, spores and vegetive bacteria.
Strip and Seal – To remove old seal from a floor with chemicals or by mechanical means i.e. sanding. A suitable seal is then applied to the floor surface, to enhance the look and act as a hard wearing sacrificial surface to protect the original floor surface from wear. Floor Seals are often Polyurethane like varnish or oleo resinous. Floor polish is often applied on top of seals to further protect the floor.
Strip and Polish - To remove old polish from a floor with chemicals. A suitable polish is then re applied to the floor surface. It will enhance the look and act as a sacrificial surface to protect the original floor surface from wear. Floor polish is usually a water based emulsion of polymers and waxes that can easily be removed with the right floor polish stripper.
Sulphamic Acid - Is frequently used for removing rust and lime scale. It is used in good quality toilet and washroom cleaners with a blend of other chemicals. This can replace the more volatile, irritating and damaging hydrochloric acid. When compared to most of the common strong mineral acids, Sulphamic acid has desirable water descaling properties, low volatility, low toxicity and is a water soluble. It will vary in strengths from 3-15%
Sulphuric Acid - Highly corrosive acid made from sulphur dioxide. Used in drain opener chemicals. This is a dangerous chemical and all instructions and safety measures must be adhered to.
Surfactant - Surface-active ingredient that increases foaming, dispersing, spreading, emulsifying and wetting properties of a product.
Polish Undercoat – Micare Basecoat Is applied to a porous floor surface such as linoleum to seal the floor prior to applying floor polish.
Use-life - Length of time a diluted product can remain active and effective. Stability of the chemical as well as the storage conditions determine the use-life of antimicrobial products.
Viracide - A chemical agent that kills viruses.
Wetting Agent - A Chemical which allows water to spread more freely.