History of Why Neutral Detergents Were Developed
Most Likely…Its Not What You Have Been Told
Some 30+ years ago, most floors were protected with natural waxes. The most used natural wax was made from carnauba, also called Brazil wax or palm wax. The wax is harvested from the leaves of the carnauba palm.
Carnauba wax was soft and scuffed easily. High traffic areas required daily buffing. In the 1960s, the push began for less labor-intensive and more durable synthetic floor finishes.
The morning after one of the first floor finishes was applied, the water-like shine brought joy to the hearts of a custodial team… By the end of the day, panic erupted as facility owners and administrators besieged the custodial team with complaints about floors that became coated with dust that, similar to graphite powder, made the floors slippery and dangerous.
Mopping the floors with a good detergent would leave a floor clean as always, but ugly scratches caused by floor traffic were horrid and could not be buffed out as was done with soft waxes.
The Birth of Neutral Detergent
Custodial managers complained bitterly about the ugly scratch problem. Manufacturers quickly blamed the use of high pH detergents. Neutral detergents were touted as the cure-all to the ugly scratch problem. Sales people would promise that scratch marks would disappear.
A neutral detergents cleaning power was cut back from that of a high pH general detergent by lowering the pH to just above 7, or neutral. The neutral mopping solution dissolved the soil-filled finish powder into a “sludge-like” material that would cling to the floor as it was spread by the custodians wet mop. The floor finish “sludge” filled the scratch grooves to give the look that the scratches had disappeared.
The scratches may have disappeared, but the shine was hidden under the sludge film caused by the neutral detergent. To restore the shine, custodians had to add a spray buffing step using an added chemical and pad setup.
175 RPM spray-buffing became a labor-intensive task. Spray-buff liquid would mix with soil-filled left-behind neutral-detergent-film to cause early floor finish darkening which forced frequent floor finish strippings.
Because conscientious custodians pass their wet mops over the baseboards to ensure soil removal, they are usually the first to be fingered for the “dirty wax” buildup.
In addition to causing dirty, soil-ladened, baseboards, the repulsive left-behind mopping residue may appear on the bottoms of doors, grout, chair and table legs, and as a dulling film on floors. A safety concern about the film is that when wet feet make contact, the film becomes like “wet soap” to cause falls and serious injuries.
Advent of High-Speed Floor Burnishers
When the above was taking place, high-speed burnishing machines had not been invented. 175 RPM floor machines were used for spray-buffing and the soil pulled from the floor would build up in the pad to be removed by hand-washing.
As high-speed burnishers became the machine of choice for restoring the shine, pad speed and friction caused the pads to get hot and super-dry the left-behind detergent film. The velocity of the pad acted as a fan and pushed the dry germ-filled soil dust into the air to cling to walls, tables, air ducts, etc., or get ingested into peoples bronchial systems.
Endless Floor Care Success is Simple
Housekeeping/Custodial success must begin with virtually 100% soil removal. When you remove soil, you minimize the availability of dust and germs.
We guarantee your cleaning results!
As always, thank you for allowing me into your day. The Gabriel Team looks forward to serving you.
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