The 4 Elements of Cleaning

by Ken Buckley on 24-3-2017


Cleaning is a Science.

It's all about Chemistry, Physics and even microbiology, despite what many think and you should approach as a science.

The more you understand about the science of it, the more effective your clean will be. 

The 4 elements

What cleans? 

We like to break tasks into four basic elements:

  • Chemical Strength
  • Mechanical Action
  • Temperature
  • Contact Time


Chemical Strength

We generally use a chemical solution to;-

  • Allow solution to "wet-out" on the surface (Break the surface tension)
  • Help suspend soil in the solution so it can be removed
  • Prevent soil in the solution from reattaching to the surface

It is essential that any chemical solution is diluted corrected and not made too strong, otherwise the solution will be more harmful and may even leave a residue of the chemical behind, making the surface sticky and attracting back soil.

Download our free Dilution ratio calculator

Download our free Dosing Chart Template


 Mechanical Action

 There are many different forms of mechanical action, vacuum cleaners, Scrubber Dryers, Rotaries, pressure washers and, of course, your muscles!

Mechanical action cleans by;

  • Helps to distribute the solution evenly
  • Physically detaches soil from the surface
  • Draws soil into a solution

This could be as simple as scrubbing a floor with a deck scrub or a surface with a scouring pad.



Everyone knows that increasing the temperature of a solution makes it more effective. You wouldn't wash the dishes at home in cold water, would you?

Increased Temperature;

  • Speeds up soil suspension
  • Makes a chemical solution more effective

If you have the choice, always use warm water to make up a chemical solution. You may not always be able to do this, for instance in a large scrubber dryer you cannot use warm water.


Contact Time

Alas, the most neglected element, but the one that can, potentially, make the most difference.

Giving a solution contact time;

  • Allows solution to bring soil into suspension for easy removal
  • Re-hydrates dried on soil
  • Allows chemicals time to do their job

One task which often suffers because of a lack of contact time is toilet cleaning. If you don't give a toilet cleaner contact time, there is little point in using a toilet cleaner at all. Chemicals need time to work.


 The Cleaning Pie

I like to think of a task as a pie with 4 slices (umm!)

Cleaning Pie Image.jpg

The pie represents a cleaning task. The size of the pie doesn't change, but the size and number of slices can vary.

If you cut one massive slice, there will be less pie for the other slices. So, for example, if you cut a big slice of Contact Time, you will need less scrubbing and a weaker chemical solution.


Imagine a non-slip floor that is light in colour in a school washroom. It has a build-up of ingrained grime and dirt and you have been tasked with cleaning it back.

There are different ways of achieving the same result.

Saftey Floor image.jpg

Method 1

Make up a strong alkaline solution with cold water. Using a mop bucket apply the solution to the floor and scrub the floor with a deck scrub. Remove the dirty water. Rinse with clean water and dry.

Method 1 image.png


Method 2

Make up a weak alkaline solution with hot water in a mop bucket and apply to the floor, leave floor soaking for a few minutes and then pick up dirty water.

Method 2 image.png


These are over simplified examples, but hopefully show how you can use the pie.

Why not download our free guide below? 


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