How Do Degreasers Work?

Some jobsites rely on degreasers every day. But most people never stop to consider how degreasers actually work.

Today, Ram Products is going to explain the basic facts behind degreasers and explain why they’re so good at breaking down organic and inorganic soils.

What is a degreaser?

A degreaser is a fancy term for a cleaning solution. Degreasers simply “remove grease” from an object, surface, or material. In this case, “grease” is a general term for various organic and inorganic soils.

Three types of soils1

There are three broad categories of soils. Today’s degreasers are typically designed to tackle one or multiple types of soils:

Organic soils: Food soils, fat, grease, protein, carbohydrates, mold, bacteria, motor oil, axle grease, and cutting oils are all different types of organic soils.

Inorganic soils: Rust, minerals (silt, sand, and clay), hard water deposits, and scale are all different types of inorganic soils.

Combination soils: Combination soils are typically the most difficult mess to clean. A combination soil contains both organic and inorganic soils. Cleaning a combination soil typically requires a concentrated, high-powered cleaner which contains a solvent.

Surfactants: the secret power behind degreasers

Degreasers are powerful enough to separate grease from a surface. How do they do that? Well, the power lies in their surfactants.

“Surfactants” is a fancy term for “Surface Active Agent”. The “agents” are simply the chemicals that specially target the boundary between the soil and the surface of the material we’re trying to clean.

Surfactants involve two key components:

-The hydrophobe: This is the part of the surfactant that is attracted to oil, grease, and dirt and moves away from water.

-The hydrophile: This is the part of the surfactant molecule that moves toward water.

These two components work together to “pull” grease from various surfaces.

Which types of degreasers can I buy?

In a broad sense, hand soap and dish soap are degreasers. In fact, many of the cleaning products we use are degreasers. There are six broad categories of degreasers available today:

1) Ammonia-based degreasers

Ammonia-based degreasers have been used for decades in both homes and jobsites. In lower concentrations, ammonia-based degreasers can be used to clean stainless steel, time, chrome, and glass around the home. In stronger concentrations, they can 2be used to tackle heavier industrial applications.

2) Liquid degreasers

Full strength liquid degreasers are extremely effective at cleaning surfaces. Liquid degreasers are typically diluted for most applications, and many liquid degreasers are simply powder degreasers which have been mixed with water. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) liquid degreasers, for example, are simply powder concentrates mixed with water to increase their binding and lifting power.

3) Foam degreasers

Foam degreasers are commonly used in automotive and electrical applications. They can be used to clean electrical appliances, for example, when using a liquid degreaser isn’t recommended. Foam degreasers are also popular for cleaning car engines. In either case, you do not need to rinse foam degreaser residue with water.

4) Powder degreasers

Popular powder degreasers include talc and cornstarch. They’re particularly effective for cleaning larger areas of material, including tile or carpeting in your home. Typically, powder degreasers are spread across a material and gently go to work over a period of a few hours before being swept up or vacuumed.

5) Petroleum-based degreasers3

These degreasers contain ethanol and petroleum distillates and are particularly common in automotive applications. Petroleum-based degreasers are adept at dissolving the grease and sludge left behind from automotive applications. Whether you’re trying to clean up the mess left by gasoline, oil, or other lubricants, petroleum-based degreasers are an ideal option.

6) Environmentally-safe degreasers

Many of the above degreasers require careful disposal to prevent environmental damage. Instead of worrying about harming the environment, many cleaners decide to use environmentally compatible degreasers. These degreasers are not only safe for the environment, but they’re also extremely effective. Popular environmentally-safe degreasers include vinegar, cornstarch, baking soda, borax, and lemon juice.

Degreasers can be synthetic or organic, but they play a critical role in our world. Without degreasers, we wouldn’t be able to clean our dishes or remove “gunk” from our vehicles. Whether you’re looking for a natural citrus based degreaser or an engine cleaner to remove grease and grime, Ram Products has the tools you need to keep your jobsite clean.



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