We vigorously scrub with fragrant soaps, warm water, and well-used rags. We spray and wipe with strong disinfectants that claim to kill the majority of the present bacteria. We dust every exposed hard surface to reveal the true luster and color of the object beneath. We know that by thoroughly completing these cleaning tasks our homes will sparkle and shine once again, feeling fresh and inviting without the dirt and grime that ruins the ambiance as well as the germs that can make us sick.

 science graphic

But...have you ever wondered how soap and disinfectants really work? Besides the scrubbing factor, which obviously removes stuck on food, crumbs, liquid spills, craft messes, waste, and other various household filth, what is it about solvents and soaps that actually “clean” anything? And why is it important to dust? Stay tuned because we are about to nerd out and take an educational look at the Science of Clean!

Soap

Soap is basically made by combining oil/fats with water (and other lesser ingredients that add other components like fragrance), which is normally impossible because we all know oil and water don’t mix. But, when soap is made, lye, or sodium hydroxide, a very strong and dangerous alkalizing agent, is added to the water first, creating an ashy solution that will then easily combine with the oil due to a chemical reaction called saponification.

Soap molecules are amphiphilic, which means they are made up of two types of atoms: hydrophobic (water-repelling) atoms that don’t mix with water and hydrophilic (water-attracting) atoms that do. When you wash an object or surface the hydrophobic particles of the soap attract the oils and grease from foods and other substances and the hydrophilic particles bond with the water so that when you are rinsing the water is able to pull the dirt away from whatever you are cleaning. The friction of a rag against the object also aids in dislodging dirt and germs.

Disinfectants

Disinfectants such as bleach, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and alcohol are able to kill germs almost immediately on contact by oxidizing (a process where oxygen molecules are split into unstable and damaging free radicals) the cells of the bacteria, breaking down its walls and thus impairing vital proteins (complex molecules made up of amino acids that do most of the work in the cell) which interferes with the function of the bacteria, ending it’s life.

Dust

That thin layer of fuzzy gray matter covering your bookcase looks homogeneous but it, in fact, is composed of many different particles that somehow come together to form dust. Dust is made up of dirt brought in by your footwear, lint, fabric fibers, food crumbs, soil and sand that comes through various openings and cracks in your home, decomposing bugs, and many other substances. Dust also includes dead skin we have shed, which feeds dust mites. Sometimes there are harmful chemicals such as lead in the dust from old paint or from inside the walls. The dust can travel through vents and by drafts in your home to other rooms and settle. For some people, dust can be an allergen and cause breathing problems so it’s important to get rid of this unwanted filth by using either a very damp cloth so the particles don’t get stirred up or a dust cloth that uses static electricity to attract the dust to itself.

It’s amazing that so much is going on that we don’t see, intricate processes are happening right under our noses. We are so unaware of the microscopic world and chemical changes occurring at the cellular level while we finish our chores. So next time you do the dishes or scrub the toilet you can imagine all that’s going on while you clean!

Out of Sight Cleaning is all about these cleaning processes, they are the experts at making them happen so give them a call today!

Comment