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Cleaning & Business Dictionary (contributed by www.cleanpeers.com)

Beth n Rod


Abrasion - Wearing away by friction


Abrasive – A substance used to scour, scrub, smooth or polish. Abrasive particles are found in such products as cleanser, pumice stones, scouring pads and hand cleaners.


Accessories – Various tools that may be used in conjunction with cleaning machines and equipment. ( i.e. drapery tool on a vacuum cleaner)


Accrual – an accounting term for the increase over time of expenses incurred by your business.


Acid - A water soluble substance with a pH of less than 7 that reacts with and neutralizes an alkali.

Acid Test Ratio

Acid Test Ratio – Ratio of cash and accounts receivables to current liabilities.


Acrylic - Type of polymer in floor finishes

Acrylic Styrene

Acrylic Styrene - Type of polymer in blended floor finishes


Adhesion - A necessary component of a floor finish, which cause it to stick to the floor rather than peel, flake or powder off.


Aerobe – a microorganism that requires air (oxygen for growth)


Aerosol – an extremely fine mist or fog consisting of solid or liquid particles suspended in air. Also, term used for products which mechanically produce such a mist.

Aging Account Report

Aging Account Report - the amount of time measured in days that someone has owed you money. Most companies have 3-, 60 and 90 day categories.


Alcohol –a class of organic compounds containing one or more hydroxyl groups (OH). Alcohol is used in detergent formulations to control viscosity, to act as a solvent for other ingredients and to provide resistance to low and freezing temperatures.


Algae – Microscopic single cell plants that contain chlorophyll and require sunlight to live


Algaecide – Product which destroys algae


Algistat – Product which inhibits algae growth


Alkali – A chemical substance with ph greater than 7 that reacts with and neutralizes an acid.


Alkalinity – is useful in removing acidic, fatty / oily soils. Soap and soap based products are alkaline and perform well only in an alkaline medium. Detergent products can be formulated at any level of alkalinity determined by the cleaning task to be performed.

All Purpose Cleaner

All Purpose Cleaner – A powder or liquid detergent suitable for both general house cleaning duties and laundry. These products may not be as effective for specific cleaning jobs as products specially formulated for the task. I.e. stripping off old floor finish.


Amine - A class of organic compounds containing nitrogen. Amines are often used as buffering agents in liquid laundry detergents and as fabric softeners.


Ammonia – an alkaline gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3) 5% to 10% solutions of ammonia are sold as household ammonia. Ammonia is used to aid in removing grease and dirt from surfaces and to boost the cleaning powers in grease cutters, wax strippers and general purpose soil removers.


Amortization – The gradual elimination of debt through periodic payments. Also pertains to the periodic write off and expensing of assets classified as intangible such as patents, copyrights and good will.


Anionic – Negatively charged part of a molecule. Anionic surfactants are widely used in high sudsing detergents.


Antimicrobial – agent which inhibits or destroys bacteria, fungi, protozoa or viruses that are pathogenic

Antistatic agent

Antistatic agent – A substance that reduces static electricity by preventing friction. Friction causes fabric (especially man made fabrics such as nylon and polyester) to produce static electricity discharge.


Antiseptic – A chemical agent that prevents or inhibits the growth of microorganism microbes particularly on the skin


Antistat - substance which reduces static electricity


Appreciation – Increase in the dollar value of an asset over time.

Articles of Incorporation

Articles of Incorporation – A legal document that makes your company a registered legal entity. Various forms exist.


Asepsis – Refers to the absences of pathogenic microorganisms


Asset – May be cash, receivables, inventory, land, buildings ( tangible assets) which includes anything your business owns to produce goods, service or revenue


Audit – Independent review by a certified public accountant of your business and its records to determine whether its financial statements fairly represent the financial reports.


Autoclave – A steam and disinfectant method for sterilization in hospitals

Automatic Scrubber

Automatic Scrubber – Labor saving powered floor cleaning machine that dispenses cleaning solution to the floor, scrubs/agitates it and then vacuums it up into a recovery tank.


Bacilli – Cylindrical or rod-shaped bacteria


Bacteria – single cell microorganisms not containing chlorophyll. (Germs )


Bactericide – A chemical agent that destroys bacteria


Bacteriostat – a chemical agent that prevents bacteria from multiplying and growing. (Does not kill)

Balance Sheet

Balance Sheet – A report produced for the purpose of measuring the net value of your company. It is a financial statement setting out assets, liabilities and ownership interest.


Base (see alkali) – A water soluble substance with pH greater than 7 Biodegradable – Capability of organic matter to be decomposed by biological processes.


Basis – Cost of an asset for tax purposes and for computing gain or loss. The basis is the purchase price, plus other expenses and less depreciation or amortization.


Bleach – a product that cleans, whitens, removes stains and brightens fabrics. It also removes stains on some hard surfaces. (Test before full area usage)


Blooming – a white deposit on the surface of a new concrete or magnesite floor, is either soluble salt or magnesium chloride

Bright work

Bright work – the chrome plumbing fixtures around sinks, fountains and the tops of toilets and urinals

Broad Spectrum

Broad Spectrum – Killing a wide variety of Gram- (Negative) and Gram + (Positive) organisms. Also in the landscaping and pesticide industries applying to the killing of a large variety of vegetation or insects.


Budget – In financial terms, this document establishes your income and expenses for a clearly defined future period.


Buffer - Any substance in a fluid which tends to resist a change in pH when acid or alkali is added. Also a term used in floor care to describe a machine used to scrub or buff a floor.


Buffing – polishing with a floor machine using a pad or brush


Builders – a material that enhances and maintains the cleaning efficiency of the surfactant. Used to improve cleaning performance.

Built Detergent

Built Detergent – a cleaning product containing both a surfactant and builder


Burnish – to buff a floor finish at high speeds to develop a hard surface and high gloss shine.


Butyl - a dangerous chemical, water soluble solvent used in degreasing products.

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium Carbonate – an insoluble compound that occurs naturally as chalk and limestone that results from the reaction of sodium carbonate and the hard water ion.

Capital Assets

Capital Assets – Assets of a long-life nature used in the production of income, such as machinery, buildings, equipment, land, etc. Must be distinguished from inventory.


Carnauba – Natural polishing wax which is derived from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree in Brazil

Carpet Freshener

Carpet Freshener – a product designed to counteract malodors in carpets


Carrier – a person in apparent good health who carries a pathogenic microorganism (germ)

Cash Flow

Cash Flow – Your profits before deductions of non-cash items such as depreciation, this figure shows the flow of cash through your company.


Castile – Originally soap made from olive oil in Castile, Spain. Now refers to any mild soap made from vegetable oils as well.


Catalyst – A substance which initiates a chemical reaction in which it does not take part.

Cationic Surfactant

Cationic Surfactant – a surfactant that is from a positively charge ionic group. The most common cationic surfactants are known as quaternary ammonium compounds such as alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. These are used as disinfectants and sanitizing products.


Caustic – Strong base (alkaline) substance which irritates the skin. When the term is used alone it usually refers to caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) which is used in manufacturing hard soap. It also refers to the caustic potash (potassium hydroxide) which is used in manufacturing soft soap. Always use PPE when working with caustics.

Chelating Agent

Chelating Agent – an organic sequestering agent used to inactivate hard water and other metallic ions in water


Chlorine - A Powerful oxidizing agent sometimes used as a germicide and in water purification process.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine Bleach – a group of strong oxidizing agents commonly sold in an approximately 5% solution of sodium hypochlorite. As a laundry additive, liquid chlorine removes stains, whitens and disinfects.

Chronic Toxicity

Chronic Toxicity - adverse affects caused by continuous or repeated exposure to a harmful organism over a period of time equal to ½ of the organisms lifetime.

Cidal or Cide

Cidal or Cide – Generally refers to agents with the ability to kill microorganisms


Cleaned-in-Place (CIP) – The cleaning and sanitizing of food and dairy processing equipment in its assembled condition by circulation of detergents, rinse and sanitizing solutions under appropriate conditions of time, temperature and physical action


Cleanser – a powdered or liquid cleaning product generally containing an abrasive, a surfactant and frequently a bleach agent.


Cocci – Spherical shaped bacteria


Colony – A visible growth of microorganisms on a culture medium or food source

Communicable Disease

Communicable Disease – One whose causative agent is directly or indirectly transmitted from person to person.


Concentrate – The undiluted form of a dilatable cleaning product.

Conductive Floors

Conductive Floors - Special resilient tile that is designed to drain off or prevent static electricity. Usually coated with a zinc free / metal free floor finish


Contamination – entry of undesirable organisms into some material or object.


Contract – An agreement between 2 or more parties/companies that create or modify a legal relationship. Generally based on offer and acceptance. Oral contracts may be binding but are difficult to enforce


Corporation – A legal entity created through “articles of incorporation” usually within the state the company is located.


Corrosion – Process of gradual eating away by chemical action

Corrosion Inhibitor

Corrosion Inhibitor – substance which protects against oxidation of metal surfaces


Corrosives – substance which causes skin and eye damage if exposed.

Cross Contamination

Cross Contamination – the process of transferring bacteria from one person or surface to anther person or surface.


Crystallization – a method of polishing marble floors to remove light scratches and restore luster using an acid and steel wool bonnets on a weighted floor machine.

Damp Mopping

Damp Mopping – mopping with a mop wrung out tightly in a clean solution containing mild or neutral cleaners, detergent, disinfectant or sanitizing agent

Debt-Equity Ratio

Debt-Equity Ratio – A comparison of your total debt to your total equity (or net worth)


Defoamers – substance used to reduce or eliminate foam in recovery tanks of carpet cleaning machines and sometimes automatic scrubbers


Degreaser – a product specifically formulated to remove grease, oil and greasy soils.


Delegation – The process by which you assign jobs, responsibilities and authority to individuals within your organization.


Deodorant – a product for destroying, masking or eliminating offensive odors.


Depreciation – The estimated cost of a capital asset over the expected life of that asset. A capital asset costing $10,000 that is expected to last for 5 years can be depreciated at the rate of $2,000 per year.


Detergent – Synthetic cleaning agent (other than soap) which is useful in physical removal of soils.

Direct Costs

Direct Costs – The amount you spend that can be related to a service of your business.


Disinfectant – An agent that destroys harmful bacteria and / or viruses on inanimate surfaces (except spores). Most common types include Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Phenolic compounds, Pine Oil at 70% or higher. Products making a disinfectant claim must be registered with the EPA and state it on the label with a registered EPA number


Distributor – A firm that buys and resells merchandise to other merchants for commercial use. Normally does not sell direct to consumers.


Diversification – Investing in various areas so that adverse results in one area will not threaten the success of the overall program.

Drain Cleaner

Drain Cleaner – a chemically strong product formulated to clean plugs of solid grease and other varied materials embedded in drains.


Dusting - the process of removing light soil particles from any surface


Emollient – an ingredient for making skin soft or soothed. Used in lotions and hand soap.


Emulsification – The action of breaking up fats, oils and other soils into small particles which are then suspended in a solution for easier pick up and removal


Emulsion – a dispersion of small oil particles in a solution


Enzyme – Protein molecules produced within an organism that are used as catalysts for biochemical reactions. Often used to enhance cleaning products and now are designed for specialty jobs such as oil spill clean ups.

Equity or Net Worth

Equity or Net Worth – Assets, minus liabilities; what you actually own of your business once your financial obligations are taken into account.


Etch – a chemically caused change on the outside of a smooth surface which causes the surface to become rough


Factoring – The selling of your company’s accounts receivables. The purchasing firm is called a ‘Factor’

Fatty Acid

Fatty Acid – an organic (most commonly tallow & coconut oil) substance which reacts with a base to form soap.


Filming – the development of a thin covering or coating

Fixed Asset

Fixed Asset – Machinery, furniture or fixtures used in the service or production of other assets or services. Their service life extends beyond the limits of a single accounting year or tax period.

Fixed Expenses

Fixed Expenses – Costs that remain constant within a narrow range, regardless of your company’s sales volume.

Flash Point

Flash Point – the temperature at which the vapor from a product will ignite

Floor Machine

Floor Machine – (buffer) - a powered machine used to scrub or buff floors.

Floor Finish

Floor Finish – a floor coating used on vinyl composite tile and other related surfaces to create a sacrificial surface to protect the tile, also adds to the beauty of the tile and overall building appearance by having a high shine or deep gloss.


Foam – a mass of bubbles formed on liquids by agitation


Fomites – any object or substance, other than food, that harbors or carries infectious organisms


Fungi – Vegetable organisms that lack chlorophyll and are filamentous after such a structure. Fungus includes mold, mildew, yeast and mushrooms


Fungicide - A chemical agent that destroys fungi


Fungistat – Chemical which inhibits the growth of fungi


Germicide – Any substance that kills germs. A disinfectant.


Gluteraldehyde – a chemical relative of formaldehyde, used in cold sterilization

Gram Positive or Negative

Gram Positive or Negative - Classification of bacteria by their reaction to staining. A dye is applied to bacteria, those that remain permanently stained are Gram +. If the stain is easily removed they are Gram -. Staph and strep are examples of Gram + bacteria. Pseudomonas and salmonella are examples of Gram- bacteria.

Gross Income

Gross Income – The total income, either actual or estimated derived from your business.

Gross Margin

Gross Margin – Net sales of a business, minus the cost of goods sold; often expressed as the percentage of gross profit.

Gross Profit

Gross Profit – Profit after the deduction of all costs of material, labor and overhead but before selling and administrative costs.


Grout – Matrix between ceramic tile on walls or floors.


Halogens – the elements chlorine, bromine, iodine, fluorine which have strong disinfecting properties

Hand Cleanser

Hand Cleanser – A cleaner designed to clean hands with an emphasis on removing oils, grease and other occupational soils

Hard Water

Hard Water – Water containing soluble salts of calcium and magnesium and sometimes iron


Heeling – Technique of applying pressure to the side of a floor machine to remove black shoe marks and persistent soil or wax build up


Hexachlorophene – One of the synthetic phenol compounds currently used in prescription antiseptic soaps

High Speed floor machine

High Speed floor machine –any floor buffing or burnishing machine that operates at over 750 rpm. Can be electric, battery or propane powered

Indirect Costs

Indirect Costs – Expenses for labor and incidentals that are necessary for doing business but which do not vary directly with the volume of sales.


Inert – Substance not active in a formula


Inhibit – Bacteriostatic action is to inhibit the growth of bacteria rather than kill the bacteria


Inorganic – A substance not made of the combination of carbon & hydrogen


Lather – foam consisting of very small bubbles formed when soap or detergent is agitated with or in water.

Leveling Agent

Leveling Agent – Substance added to coatings which allow it to flow evenly in the application process


Liabilities – Amounts that a business owes to suppliers and to other creditors for financing purposes.

Marginal Contribution

Marginal Contribution – How much (in dollars) the sale of one service contributes towards the profits and the payment of fixed expenses.

Market Research

Market Research – The organized study of information relating to the marketing of your goods or services.

Metal Interlock

Metal Interlock – Detergent and water resistant type of floor finish with a metal salt in the solution. Removable with various strippers.


Micron – 1/25,000 of an inch


Mildew – A growth, usually white or black, produced by a fungus.


Mold - A woolly appearing growth produced by fungus


Molecule – The smallest unit into which a substance can be divided that still retains all of the chemical identity of that substance.


Muriatic – Commercial name given to hydrochloric acid

Neutral Cleaner

Neutral Cleaner – non-alkaline, non-acid cleaner. The pH of mild neutral cleaners may be as high as 10 and not contain harsh alkalis



Neutralizer – Chemical to change the pH of a surface so that residues will not interfere with floor coating adhesion

Non-Chlorine Bleach

Non-Chlorine Bleach – A product containing peroxygen compounds, which release active oxygen in water. This type of product produces gentler bleaching action than chlorine bleach.

Non-ionic Surfactant

Non-ionic Surfactant – A surface active agent that contains neither positively or negatively charged (ionic) functional groups. These surfactants have been found to be especially effective in removing oily based soils.


Oncogenic – Produces or induces tumor formations in living animals


Opacifier – Substance which does not permit the transmission of light. A clouding agent. It is used to reduce soap’s translucence or to make a bar of soap white or another desired color.

Operating Costs

Operating Costs – Expenditures arising out of current business activities. Operating costs for any period of time represent what it costs a company to do business—the salaries, electricity, rental, vehicles, etc. –involved in performing the business dealings.

Optical Brightener

Optical Brightener – Substance which makes color appear brighter in the presence of sunlight and ultraviolet light. Common additive in carpet cleaning chemicals


Organic – A substance composed of carbon and hydrogen, commonly referred to being ‘natural’


Organism – Any individual animal, plant or bacterium


Overhead – What you spend that is not directly related to production and sales of your service. Rent is a primary example.


OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Agency established to enforce laws relating to worker safety and worksite safety.


Oxidation – The reaction of oxygen with a metal, rusting.


Oxidized – To bleach.


Pathogen – Any disease producing organism


Pesticide – Agent which prevents, repels, destroys or mitigates pests and includes insecticides, rodenticides and herbicides


pH – A chemical scale which expresses the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. 7 is the neutral point. Numbers below 7 indicate acidity with 0 being 10 times more acidic than 1, 1 is 10 times more acidic than 2, etc… Basically, 0-3 is strongly acidic, 4-6 is moderate acidic. Above 7 is the alkaline side of the scale. 8-10 is moderately alkaline, 11-14 is strongly alkaline. Alkalinity is also 10 times more at each full number rise on the scale.


Phosphates – A widely used water softening, builder and sequestering agent used in detergents.

Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric Acid – The most common acid based on phosphorus sometimes called orthophosphoric acid. Used a mild bowl acid and in formulations of light duty detergents.


Pitting – Small craters on the surface of concrete and terrazzo floors which will grow in size with traffic and chemical exposure unless protected.


Plasticizer – An ingredient added to some floor finishes, varnish and polymer floor finishes to make it flexible rather than brittle.


Polymer – A large molecule of multiple units formed into a singe building block linked together. The formation of multiple units of these molecules is called polymerization. Common types of polymers include styrene, acrylic, polyethylene, urethane, bakelite, vinyl and epoxy.


Powdering – a condition caused by poor adhesion of floor finish to the surface. Affect is like seeing small crystals on your hand when rubbed on the floor surface.


PPB – Parts per billion. One part per billion equals 1 pound in 500,000 tons


PPM – Parts per million. One part per million equals 1 pound in 500 tons


Precipitate – Material settled out of a solution


Preservative – A chemical agent that inhibits aging such as decay, discoloration, oxidation and microbial growth.


Pre-soak – A soaking operation to remove stains that precedes the regular cleaning process

Profit Margin

Profit Margin – The difference between selling price and costs, often expressed as a percentage of the selling price. A reasonable profit margin is necessary for survival in business

P.S. I.

P.S. I. – Pounds per Square Inch ( Pressure indicator)

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds – A class of chemicals used as disinfectants and softening agents ( Quats)


Re-emulsification – A chemical process that occurs when a film of floor finish has not completely dried and is re-liquefied by a subsequent application of finish. It doesn’t appear until the floor has dried and then appears to be streaked or dull.


Resins – the basic solid content of wood and concrete floor finishes that are composed of solvents.

Rinse Agent

Rinse Agent – A wetting agent used in the last rinse during washing to improve the draining of the water from surfaces.

Rinse Aids

Rinse Aids – Surfactants which aid in the rinsing property of water by lowering its surface tension.

Sales Analysis

Sales Analysis – An aspect of market research that involves computation of sales statistics by customer or territory.

Sales Forecast

Sales Forecast – Projected estimate of sales under a proposed marketing program for a specified period of time.


Sanitizer – An agent that reduces the number of bacteria, usually in food service areas, to a safe level as judged by public health requirements.


Saponification – The process of converting a fat into soap by treating it with an alkali


Sealer – a coating designed to penetrate and provide the initial protection to a surface.

Slip Coefficient

Slip Coefficient – A measurement of the angle of the point at which a person’s foot begins to slip on the instrument used to test the static coefficient of friction of a surface. U.L. considers 0.5 or above as the safe limit.


Soap – A natural cleaning agent produced by the reaction of a fat or oil and an alkali.

Soda Ash

Soda Ash – Sodium carbonate

Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium Bicarbonate – Baking soda

Sodium Hypochlorite

Sodium Hypochlorite – Bleaching and disinfecting agent

Soil Load Capacity

Soil Load Capacity – The amount of soil a chemical may hold in suspension before these soils effect the efficiency of the product.

Solid Content

Solid Content – The amount of ingredients in a finish that do not evaporate or volatilizes at 105◦ C

Solvent Finish

Solvent Finish – Finish that the solid content is carried in a solvent rather than water.


Solvents – Substances used to solubilize other materials. A liquid that can dissolve another liquid

Spray Buff

Spray Buff – A procedure to clean and shine wear areas of a finished floor. Utilizes a sprayed solution, a floor machine and a synthetic floor pad. Usually a machine with higher speeds than a standard floor machine.


Spore – A special hard shell-like cell structure of a rod shaped bacteria which has an inactive form and is the most resistant of all living things to heat, chemicals and drying. Sterilization is normal method of destruction.


Stain – A visible discoloration


Streaking – the appearance of residue on a surface, or uneven application of a product or cleaner.


Stripper – Specially formulated detergents which break the bond of a finish when used as directed.


Surfactant – Surface active agent which increases the emulsifying, foaming, dispersing, spreading and wetting properties of a product.


Suspension – An evenly dispersed mixture of insoluble particles in a liquid

Synthetic Detergent

Synthetic Detergent – A washing or cleaning product that utilizes synthetic surfactants rather than traditional soaps.


Tackiness – A sticky or adhesive condition that is a property of applied finish that is not completely dried.

Telescopic Handle

Telescopic Handle – An adjustable length pole used with window washing tools or dusting tools to extend reach beyond normal arms reach.

Trend Analysis

Trend Analysis – Analysis of financial or other data to identify patterns over a period of time. This statistical technique may be used to determine changes in sales situations and to forecast sales or costs.

Traffic Lane

Traffic Lane – High traffic areas that show worn or soiled lanes on flooring or carpeting.

Tri-sodium Phosphate ( TSP)

Tri-sodium Phosphate ( TSP) – a water softener used as a cleaning agent, banned now in many states as environmentally damaging.


Use-dilution – the final concentration at which a product is used.

Variable Costs

Variable Costs – Those costs that vary directly with the level of business activity.


Virucide – a chemical agent that kills viruses

Water conditioner

Water conditioner – A material that improves the quality of water for a given application or use.

Water Softener

Water Softener – Substance which removes or counteracts the hardness of water.


Wax - A natural protective coating for hard surfaces

Wear and Tear

Wear and Tear – The gradual deterioration of property, resulting from use, passage of time and weather.

Wetting Agents

Wetting Agents – A chemical which reduces surface tension of water, allowing it to spread more freely.

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