Neutralizer and neutral cleaner for floors

Cleaning Chemicals – Neutralizer or Neutral Cleaner?

It seems neutralizer and neutral cleaners get confused a lot.  Using the correct product, in the correct manner, can save you hours of hard work and frustration. For years, I have heard the terms “neutralizer” used to describe a general purpose floor cleaner, which would be incorrect. Like wise, there are many cleaners that use a “neutral floor cleaner” when they should be using a neutralizer. Here are the correct uses for each.

Neutral Cleaner for Floors

A neutral cleaner describes a cleaning solution that is pH neutral or a 7 on the pH scale. It is neither an acid or alkaline, there for will not damage any surface that is safe to use water on. Water is, in fact, neutral. Cleaners that are neutral can still be very effective cleaning products.

Floor cleaning chemicals use the term neutral most often, indicating that it will not damage floor finish. Floor finish stripper generally is on the alkaline side of the pH scale, or greater than 7. This is useful when removing floor finish, but can cause problems if your are just wanting to clean the floor or if your skin is exposed to it. Alkaline cleaners can be very dangerous.

On the other side, acidic cleaning chemicals are used to remove minerals and heavy organic matter. For example, an acid toilet bowl cleaner can be used to remove scale from the porcelain of a toilet or sink. It can also damage chrome fixtures as well as cause health concerns for the users. These products should be used sparingly.

Neutralizer For Floors

When a cleaning chemical is called a neutralizer, it means that it is anything but neutral. In the cleaning world, a cleaning chemical that is termed a “neutralizer” will most often be acidic or in the pH range of 2. This is because neutralizers are used to bring alkaline liquids or residues back to a pH of 7 or neutral.

Examples Of When To Us A Neutralizer

To remove salt residue from floors – Because salt is highly alkaline, a normal floor cleaner is ineffective. The dirt just smears around the floor and becomes a sticky mess. But when an acidic neutralizer is used, the alkaline residue is easily removed. This can also help remove salt residue from carpeting as well.

To rinse carpets after cleaning – Many carpet cleaning chemicals are, at least, slightly alkaline. When a carpet is cleaned with an extractor, any water left in the carpet also contains the cleaning chemical. Once the moisture evaporates, a chemical residue is left behind and causes the fibers to be sticky. By rinsing the carpet with a neutralizer, the chemical residue is removed and reduces the opportunity for re-soiling.

To prepare a newly stripped floor for re-finishing – When you use a chemical floor stripper, there is a certain amount of residue left behind on the floor. This film, if not removed, will damage new floor finish. There have been many floors that have had to be completely redone because of stripper residue. As I mentioned above, floor stripper is highly alkaline. In order to make sure that all of the residue has been removed, it is a good idea to rinse a floor immediately after stripping with a neutralizer, then rinse again with plain water. I suggest using an automatic floor scrubber for the final, clear water rinse.

Understanding The Difference

When you understand the difference between a neutralizer and a neutral cleaner, floor care becomes much easier. If you are able, test the area that needs to be cleaned with pH testing paper. This will help you make the right cleaning chemical choice.

As with any cleaning chemical, make sure to read all labels and use as instructed. It is also a good idea to check with the floor manufacturer about the types of cleaning chemicals they suggest as well. Some flooring warranties can be voided by using the wrong cleaning products. Always better safe than sorry.

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19 replies
  1. Teresa Worley
    Teresa Worley says:

    Your article on neutral floor cleaning was great! I do have one question I’d like your opinion on. It has been somewhat difficult to get a clear answer from anyone other than the people who just want to sell you their cleaning product.
    I have a small office I clean that has a piece of non-static flooring in it. I am unsure what to use to get up the horrible chair marks and dirt left in that area. Any suggestions? or would a “neutral” floor cleaner work? I have used vinegar before but it still is somewhat difficult getting up the scuff marks. Your info would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Teresa,
      Thank you for your comment, kind words and question.
      Non-static floors can be a little tricky to maintain. The best bet would be to use a microfiber flat mop to clean with on a regular basis. This serves 2 purposes. The first is that you will be able to remove a lot more of the dirt from within the scratches caused by the chairs. The second is that you will need a lot less moisture or cleaner to do this. Once you get it clean, there are floor finishes specifically designed for non-static floors. I would recommend contacting a janitor supply distributor and asking for a Static Dissipative Floor Finish. By applying this to the floor, you will find it much easier to clean on a regular basis.
      Hope this helps!
      BGC

      Reply
  2. Gary Schultz
    Gary Schultz says:

    Currently we are using a ride on floor scrubber to clean our tile floors, with so much salt residue what is recommended cleaner? We have used just a neutral cleaner and it seems to do a good job. Can or should a neutralizer be added to the mix?

    Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Gary,
      Thank you for your comment. You are struggling with a very common issue. I would suggest using a neutralizer only for a while. Skip the neutral cleaner. They will counteract themselves if used together. Neutral cleaners tend to be slightly alkaline even though they are billed as neutral. They are in what most term “neutral range” which is generally between 7.5 and 6.5. When you add the neuralizer to the mix, it takes the 7.5 of most neural cleaners and lowers it to around 7. And that will not do much of anything to remove the salt residue. When used alone with water, a typical neuralizer will move the pH of water to about 6.5 to 6. Thus neutralizing the alkalinity of the salt allowing it to be removed in solution.

      Hope this helps!

      BGC

      Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Thank you for your question. When it comes to neutralizers, there can be some differences, but from what I have found, any floor neutralizer that does not have any fragrances or detergents added work fine on wood floors. The biggest thing you need to be careful of is the dilution rates. Because most are made to neutralize floor stripper, the dilution recommendations are often higher than needed for typical salt and chemical film build up. Usually about half of the recommended dilution or less is all that is needed to be effective in these cases. This product is one I have used on hardwood gym floors with success.

      Reply
  3. Ocha
    Ocha says:

    Your information about neutral floor cleaning chemicals is spot on. I just wish more people would understand how important it is to use neutral cleaners. Especially when it comes to floors with finish or “wax” on them. It just kills me when I hear people talking about mopping their floors with something like bleach.

    Reply
  4. Jim Selway
    Jim Selway says:

    Great article, but only one comment regarding neutralizing strip jobs before refinishing. Most modern, commercial strippers now are far closer to neutral than the old ammoniated ones. In my entire career (38 yrs), I never neutralized, and never once had a problem with finish adhesion. Actually with some of the newest strippers, I only do a damp mop of clear water. No flood rinse. Also, for the rinse, I don’t like scrubbers, since there’s more chance of squeegee blade marks. I use either a blend string mop, or microfiber mop. Other than that, great job.

    Reply
  5. Shelly Garcia
    Shelly Garcia says:

    I heard that you can use vinegar as a floor neutralizer. Is that true? How exactly would I rinse the floor with neutralizer after stripping it? I dont have an auto scrubber. Would I just mop with it or what?

    Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Yes Shelly, you can use vinegar as a floor neutralizer. I prefer to use a floor neutralizer simply because it is specifically designed for the application and documentation is easily accessible. If you do not have an auto scrubber, you can use a mop. After removing the stripper from the floor, rinse the floor using a mop. Then I always do a second rinse with plain water.

      Reply
  6. Hayley
    Hayley says:

    I work in a vet clinic and we are currently using a Neutral pH 7 floor cleaner. We use this cleaner to protect the flood and the polish. My question is does this kill bacteria, viruses and mirco organisms. I would like to switch to something that will kill all of the above but don’t want to strip the floors in the process. Please and thank your for your time and info

    Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hayley, Thank you for your question. The answer is ‘no’ as most neutral cleaners do not kill bacteria, at least at the level you need to be concerned with in a vet clinic. For your setting, you will need to use a product that has a parvovirus claim. These are readily available from most vet supply companies.

      Reply
  7. Lois Blood
    Lois Blood says:

    Would a steam vacuum get rid of the black scuff marks on tile? My sister and I clean our church and the tile floors in the hallways is really bad. Sometimes it takes us a couple of hours just to get the black marks off.

    Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Lois. Thank you for your question. It probably would work, but honestly, a tennis ball on a stick or even a microfiber cloth under your foot would do just as well and in a lot less time.

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] clean the floor using a pH neutral cleaning product that’s safe for usage on materials such as limestone, marble, […]

  2. Why Floor Finish Yellows | Carpet Cleaning Buzz says:

    […] proof solution to this is to re-strip the floor and make sure that the proper steps are taken to prep the floor for new finish. Sorry, this is not one of the causes that have a simple solution. This is why it is […]

  3. […] proof solution to this is to re-strip the floor and make sure that the proper steps are taken to prep the floor for new finish. Sorry, this is not one of the causes that have a simple solution. This is why it is […]

  4. […] couple of weeks ago, I briefly mentioned removing salt residue from floors when talking about neutralizer cleaners. But I wanted to address it more directly because it is such a problem for so many custodians. […]

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