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Technical Terms

ABRASIVE NYLON MESH DISCS These discs are circular and are supplied in a range of diameters to fit most floor maintenance machines. They consist of nylon fabric mesh coated with resin-bonded silicon carbide.

ACCELERATOR A substance which increases the speed of a chemical reaction. By common use, the name has become associated with two-pot surface coating materials. The accelerator usually occupies the smaller container and must be added to the larger container, the base, before use.


ACRYLIC RESINS Manufactured from acrylic acid. They are transparent, water-white and thermoplastic. An acrylic resin conveys the characteristics of toughness, lightness of colour and excellent water resistance.

AEROBE A microbe that requires the presence of oxygen for growth.

AEROBIC Using oxygen for respiration.


ALKALI-SOLUBLE RESINS A resin soluble in an alkaline solution. Alkali-soluble resins are widely used in water emulsion floor waxes.

ALKYD VARNISHES Manufactured from glycerol. They are normally pale in colour and dry rapidly to a glossy, durable film with excellent adhesion. Alkyd varnishes are used in many interior, exterior and stoving paints, and in floor seals.

ALL-RESIN EMULSION WAX An emulsion wax manufactured from resin constituents. The term applies to those emulsion waxes which consist of a synthetic wax, which could be called a resin, an alkali- soluble resin and a polymer, which is also a resin. The term ‘allresin’ distinguishes this type of material from an emulsion floor wax containing a natural wax, an alkali- soluble resin and polymer resin.

AMPHOTERIC DETERGENT One in which an anionic and a cationic group are in the same molecule and has both alkaline and acidic properties.

ANAEROBE A microbe that grows only, or best, in the absence of oxygen.

ANAEROBIC Using no oxygen for respiration.

ANIONIC DETERGENT One in which the active part of the detergent molecule has a negative charge when in solution in water. Generally manufactured from strong alkalis and weak acids, with a pH value between 7 and about 9.

ANTISEPTIC An agent that destroys bacteria or prevents their growth.

ASEPTIC Free from bacteria.

AUTOCLAVE An apparatus for sterilisation by high pressure steam.

BACTERIA One-celled microscopic organisms, multiplying rapidly by splitting into two.

BACTERICIDE A substance capable of destroying bacteria.

BACTERIOSTAT A substance which has the power of preventing bacteria from multiplying.

BASE One component of a two-pot surface coating material. It usually occupies the larger container of the two-pot material. It will not, by itself, form a film and requires the addition of an accelerator before use.

BIODEGRADABLE Can be broken down by bacteria or other biological means.

BOTULISM Poisoning due to eating flesh or decaying vegetation which has been infected with Bacillus botulinus (Clostridium botulinum).

BUFFABLE FLOOR WAX This term is given to a floor wax which, when buffed, will give greater gloss than when not. The waxes can be rebuffed from time to time, as required.

BUTTON POLISH A solution of a button lac in an alcohol solvent, usually of the methylated spirit type. Button lac is produced from shellac, the excretion of an insect and is so called because when the raw shellac is refined, the end product has the appearance of buttons.

CATIONIC DETERGENT One in which the active part of the detergent molecule carries a positive charge when in solution in water. Generally manufactured from weak alkalis and strong acids, with pH value below 7.

CATALYST A chemical substance which is used to accelerate a chemical reaction without itself being permanently changed.

TECHNICAL TERMS 8 | TOMORROW’S CLEANING YEARBOOK 2011/2012 | The future of our cleaning industry

CAUSTIC Destructive or corrosive to living tissue. This term is usually used in connection with caustic soda and caustic potash, two alkaline materials.

CELSIUS A synonym for Centigrade. 0°C is the freezing and 100°C is the boiling temperature of water. The scale between is divided into 100 equal parts, each called a ‘degree’.


CLEANING The removal of dirt, soil or unwanted matter from a surface.

COMPATIBILITY The tolerance of one dissolved substance towards another dissolved substance. For example, in the process of applying a new seal onto an old seal a greater degree of intercoat adhesion is achieved if the two seals are compatible. If the new seal is incompatible with the old seal, special preparation may be necessary to ensure that the new seal will adhere satisfactorily to the old.

COPOLYMER A very large complex molecule formed by the reaction together of a great number of small molecules of different types. An example is vinyl acetate-acrylate copolymer, a material used in adhesives.

CORROSION The slow wearing away of solids, especially metals, by chemical attack. In the latter case the mechanism is probably electrochemical.

CULTURE Growing microbes on a nutrient plate.

CURE Frequently used in the same sense as the word ‘harden’. For example, a film that has fully hardened can be said to be fully cured. The word is usually used in connection with materials hardened by artificial means, such as a chemical reaction or stoving at high temperature. It is not used in connection with air-drying materials, eg oleoresinous seals.

DEODORANT A chemical capable of eliminating or minimising unwanted odours.

DETERGENT A cleansing agent, which may be solvent or water based, for removing dirt, etc. It has the advantages over soap in that it is just as effective in hard water as in soft, and does not form scums.

DILUTE The verb ‘to dilute’ means to reduce in strength by addition of water or other appropriate solvent.

Technical Terms reproduced with kind permission of J.E. Edwards, FBICSc.

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