The Science Behind Solvents:
In order to better understand the difference between solvent and “non solvent”, or aqueous-based, hand cleaners, it is important to have a rudimentary understanding of the underlying chemical principles of each. In it’s simpliest form, a solvent is a substance that is able to dissolve another substance, whereas the solute is the substance being dissolved. When solvents and solutes of the same kind are mixed together and distributed evenly you get a solution; the keyword here being ‘same‘. In chemistry, molecules are distinguished as polar or non-polar depending on their electrical or magnetic properties. Polar molecules attract other polar molecules and repel the non-polar ones. Technically, water is a solvent because virtually anything can be dissolved in it. However, due to it’s positive and negative charge, water is classified as a polar molecule. On the other hand, oil is not. As a general rule, polar solvents dissolve polar solutes, and nonpolar solvents dissolve nonpolar solutes. These two substances are chemically divergent and cannot absorb each other’s molecules.
What This Means For You:
What does all of this mean and what does it have to do with industrial hand cleaners you may ask? Well, the simple answer is that it has everything to do with industrial cleaners and why manufacturers have long since depended on the use of nonpolar solvents such as benzene and tetrachloroethylene to effectively remove heavy-duty contaminants such as oil and grease from hands. Such “organic” solvents, as considered by the general population, are excellent at breaking down and dissolving contaminants like oil in the cleaning solution, something that water cannot do well. However, use of these solvents over time has not been without consequence. Increasing concern over workers’ health, ozone depletion, air pollution, and safe disposal of such substances have ignited efforts to find alternatives to conventional cleaning solvents in the form of aqueous, or ‘nonsolvent’ cleaners.
Surfactants As An Alternative:
Aqueous Cleaners rely on a blend of ingredients designed to enhance the cleaning ability of water. Known as surfactants, these additives may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants, reducing the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved. Surfactants help water get “wetter” lifting dirt and oil away from the skin’s surface and surrounding it with water so that it can be washed away. Traditionally, water-based detergents have been viewed as a less effective solution to their solvent-based counterparts, but the development of products such as Greven Active Force MP, MP-ECO, and Blue Wash are quickly putting this theory to the test. In addition to being safe for workers, these ‘nonsolvent’ cleaners are biodegradable, contain no crude odors, and perform as well, if not better, than their competition proving that indeed social responsibility and effectiveness can go hand in hand.