Cleaner Times Chemical Glossary: Common Names and Abbreviations, Regulatory Agencies, Pertinent Laws and Phrases, and Related Organizations, Part 2

Cleaner Times Chemical Glossary

Common Names and Abbreviations, Regulatory Agencies, Pertinent Laws and Phrases, and Related Organizations, Part 2

June 2022

Editor’s note: Cleaner Times wishes to thank DECO Products Inc. and Vector Laboratories for their help in updating this Chemical Glossary in 2022, which previously was published in the August and October 2012 issue of Cleaner Times. 

     In 2012, the assistance of Cardinal Chemical; Dominion Restoration; Etowah Chemical Sales and Service; ITD Inc.; KO Manufacturing Inc.; Prosoc, Inc.; Royal Custom Products Inc.; and Xterior Sales and Service was greatly appreciated. Additional sources included the University of Montana MSDS Dictionary and The Soap and Detergent Association. 

     An asterisk signifies an ASTM definition. Many of the definitions are more focused on the cleaning setting than on chemical rigor.

     The first part of the Glossary, covering terms A-G, was published in the May issue, and can be found at www.cleanertimes.com.

     Effective pressure washing is a process that consists of five primary elements—pressure, flow, temperature, time, and chemicals. Because each individual cleaning application is a bit unique, the primary elements of pressure washing vary with each application. While the first four elements (pressure, flow, temperature, and time) can usually be determined on the spot, the fifth element—chemicals—requires some particular insights.

     Determining which chemical product to use in a particular cleaning application requires an understanding of the chemicals, and that begins with a basic understanding of chemical terms. The following listings are offered as a help.

– H –


HMIS (Hazardous Materials Identification System)—A hazard description that uses color bar labels to identify and provide information about chemical hazards. It is similar to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) diamond.

HMTA—Hazardous Materials Transportation Act

Hard surface cleaner—A product formulated for cleaning surfaces such as painted surfaces, washable floor coverings, plastics, metals, porcelain, and others.

Hazardous material—A substance or chemical that poses a health, physical, or environmental hazard.

Hydrolysis—A chemical reaction in which water reacts with another substance to form one or more new substances.

Hydrochloric acid—The aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride (HCl) gas. A strong acid, the major component of gastric acid, and of wide industrial use. Used for removing concrete and mortar. Highly corrosive. Historically referred to as muriatic acid.

Hydrofluoric acid (HF)—One of the most potent acids available. HF cleans aluminum by disintegration. It is an extremely dangerous acid to use, and proper safety equipment should always be worn.

Hydrophilic—Water-loving. A descriptive term applied to the group or radical of a surfactant molecule that makes or tends to make it soluble in water.

Hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB)—A rating that describes the oil- or water-loving nature of a

Hydrotrope—A substance that increases the solubility in water of another material that is only partially soluble.

Hypochlorite—In its sodium salt form, the active bleaching ingredient in liquid chlorine bleach.

– I –

IBC—International Builders Code—This is a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC). It has been adopted for use as a base code standard by most jurisdictions in the United States. The IBC addresses both health and safety concerns for buildings based upon prescriptive and performance-related requirements. The IBC is fully compatible with all other published ICC codes. The code provisions are intended to protect public health and safety while avoiding both unnecessary costs and preferential treatment of specific materials or methods of construction. 

ICC—International Code Council—The International Code Council is the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions that include product evaluation, accreditation, technology, training, and certification. The Code Council’s codes, standards, and solutions are used to ensure safe, affordable, and sustainable communities and buildings worldwide.

IDLH—Immediately dangerous to life and health

IPA—Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)

IRC—International Residential Code—Standardizes code for residential buildings that creates minimum regulations for one– and two–family dwellings of three stories or less, bringing together all building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy, and electrical provisions for one– and two–family residences.

ISO—International Organization for Standardization

Inert—A material that will not react with a particular cleaning compound.

Inorganic—Any material not made with carbon, except carbon dioxide and carbonates.

– L –

LD50—Lethal (to 50 percent of subjects) dose

LC50—Lethal (to 50 percent of subjects) concentration

LEL or Lel—Lower Explosive Limit

Laundry break—A component added to industrial laundry formulations to provide alkalinity and “break” or emulsify greasy and oily soils.

Laundry sour—Various acid compounds that are used in institutional laundries to condition the load of fabrics being washed to a desirable degree of acidity important to the finishing operations that follow.

Lime soap—The insoluble salt formed by the interaction of soaps and fatty acids with the minerals in hard water (also called soap curd or bathtub ring).

– M –

MAC—Maximum Allowable Concentration, see also TLV.

MCA—Manufacturing Chemists Association, currently the American Chemistry Council (ACC)

Material safety data sheet (MSDS)—This has been reclassified as Global Harmonized System Safety Data Sheet (GHS SDS) as of June 1, 2015. 

Metal cleaner/polish—A paste or thick, opaque liquid that may hold a fine abrasive in suspension and usually contains an organic acid.

MSHA—Mine Safety and Health Administration

Muriatic acid—A traditional name for hydrochloric acid.

– N –

NMP (N-methylpyrollidone)—A common solvent used in vapor degreasing or graffiti removal.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)—An international membership organization which promotes/improves fire protection and prevention and establishes safeguards against loss of life and property by fire. Best known on the industrial scene for the National Fire Codes—17 volumes of codes, standards, recommended practices, and manuals developed (and periodically updated) by NFPA technical committees. Among these is NFPA 704, the code for showing hazards of materials as they might be encountered under fire or related emergency conditions, using the familiar diamond-shaped label or placard with appropriate number or symbols. Also responsible for the National Electrical Code.

NIOSH—National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); among other activities, tests and certifies respiratory protective devices and air sampling detector tubes, recommends occupational exposure limits for various substances, and assists OSHA and MSHA in occupational safety and health investigations and research.

NTP—National Toxicology Program. The NTP publishes an annual report on carcinogens.

Neutral cleaner—Cleaner with a pH of 6 to 8.

Noble metal scale—The more “noble” a metal, the less reactive to chemical products. Examples: platinum is a noble metal and therefore very unreactive. Aluminum is very low on the noble scale and therefore very reactive.

Non-chlorine bleach—A laundry product containing peroxygen compounds, which releases active oxygen in wash water. This type of product produces gentler bleaching (oxidizing) action than chlorine bleach.

Nonionic surfactant—A surface-active agent that contains neither positively nor negatively charged (ionic) functional groups; such surfactants have been found to be particularly effective in removing oily soil.

– O –

OC—Open Cup

OSHA—Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Optical Brightener (optical bleach; colorless dye; fluorescent brightener)—A colorless, fluorescent, organic compound that absorbs UV light and emits it as visible blue light. The blue light masks undesirable yellow in textiles, paper, detergents, and plastics.

Orange peel—Orange peeling refers to the formation of uneven, rough irregularities in the surface of a coating film. It often occurs when a binder fails to flow uniformly across an object’s surface. Orange peel may develop on painted and cast surfaces, even screen protectors. The texture resembles the surface of the skin of an orange, hence the term “orange peel.”

Organic—A substance containing hydrogen and carbon in its composition.

Oxidation—A substance is oxidized if it gains oxygen, loses hydrogen, or loses electrons. Oxidative aging, as a major distress mechanism of concrete pavements, causes the concrete to stiffen and embrittle, which leads to a high potential for cracking in pavers.

Oxygen Bleach—A laundry product containing active oxygen that produces a less powerful bleaching (oxidizing) action than chlorine bleach. The most frequently used oxygen bleach is sodium perborate (usually referred to simply as perborate), with potassium monopersulfate, sodium percarbonate, and hydrogen peroxide used less frequently. Oxygen bleach can be used safely on most fabrics, colors, and fabric finishes, including those where chlorine bleach is not recommended. 

– P –

PEL—Permissible Exposure Limit. An exposure limit established by OSHA’s regulatory authority. It may be a time weighted average (TWA) limit or a maximum concentration exposure limit. See also TLV and IDLH.

PFC— Perfluorocarbons

Penetrating sealer—A penetrating sealer is a sealer that penetrates deep into the surface of the concrete or masonry where it chemically reacts below the surface from within the pores. Penetrating sealers do not leave behind a visible surface film, and most of them will not change the look or color of the surface.

Peptizing—The breaking up of solid particles into extremely small particles—so small they act as if they were in a true solution.

pH—A chemical symbol expressing the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Technically speaking, it is the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration in a water system. On the pH scale, most products run from 1 to 14; the lower numbers are considered on the acidic side and the higher on the alkaline side. A pH of 7 is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline.