Although many of us are happy to just pick up cleaning products from our favourite brands without much consideration of what’s in them, sometimes you might need to dig deeper into their ingredients.
One potential concern might be the product’s pH level – the measure of whether it’s acid, alkaline, or neutral. Specifically, you might be looking for pH neutral cleaners to use around the home for various jobs.
However, few products list their pH because it’s not something we usually need to know. If you’re on the lookout for such products, though, here is a list of pH neutral cleaners.
What Is pH?
You might remember this from school chemistry classes. In short, pH is a measure of whether something is acidic or alkaline on a scale from 0 to 14.
Acids are lower numbers and alkalis are higher numbers, while a neutral pH is right in the middle of the scale at 7.isopropyl alcohol
The closer the number is to either end of the scale, the more acid or alkaline it is. Some examples include:
- Battery acid: less than 1
- Black coffee: 6.5
- Pure water: 7
- Sea water: 7.5-8.5
- Household bleach: 12.5
Why Does pH Matter in Cleaning?
It’s helpful to know a cleaning product’s pH level because it dictates what the product is good at.
For example, vinegar, a mid-range acid, is useful for polishing metal and removing mineral deposits.
On the other hand, alkalis such as bleach can break down fatty and oily deposits. This is why most laundry detergents are mildly alkaline.
Why Use pH Neutral Cleaners?
So, if acids and alkalis are good for different cleaning jobs, why might we want to use pH neutral cleaners?
The main reason you’d want a pH neutral cleaner is because you don’t want to introduce an acid or alkaline to the thing you’re cleaning.
For example, natural stone countertops such as marble or granite can be damaged by acidic cleaners.
At the other end of the scale, cleaning your carpet with an alkaline shampoo can leave salt deposits.
There are loads of surfaces around the home that can be damaged by acidic or alkali cleaners, such as:
- Natural stone
It’s worth noting, though, that pH neutral cleaners shouldn’t completely replace acidic or alkali cleaners.
They’re not able to deal with stains and grime outside of a pH range of 6-8. In real terms, this means they won’t work on things like rust, limescale, fat, and so on.
List of pH Neutral Cleaners
Now that we know why we might want a pH neutral cleaner, let’s jump into the list of available products.
Bear in mind that some of these won’t specifically mention they’re pH neutral, but we can use a bit of chemistry logic to figure out if they are.
Also, pH neutral cleaners are very rarely (if ever) a pH of exactly 7. Instead, they usually fall between 6 and 8.
1. Mild washing up liquid
Pretty much any washing up liquid listed as “mild” or “gentle” will be close to pH neutral.
These products are generally designed to be kind to your skin rather than your dishes, so fall into the same pH range as most skincare products.
You’ll usually find that mild washing up liquid has a pH of 7-8, so it does lean slightly alkali. However, it’s close enough to neutral that it’ll be fine for cleaning more delicate surfaces as well as unglazed terracotta and ceramics.
Again, you won’t see a pH mentioned on the product but you can generally assume that any washing up liquid listed as being kind to skin will be close to pH neutral.
2. Natural stone cleaners
A lot of natural stone cleaners will be pH neutral for the reasons mentioned above. However, you’ll want to look for one that specifically mentions its pH level, such as Fila Surface Cleaner.
This is because most cleaning products will be mildly alkali. While this won’t be a problem for natural stone, it’s pointless buying a product on the assumption it’ll be pH neutral if it isn’t.
Regular cooking salt (sodium chloride) is pH neutral because it’s the result of a chemical reaction between an acid and an alkali.
Salt can be surprisingly useful as a cleaning product because it can absorb spills and be used as an abrasive cleaner.
For example, you can use salt to clean up fatty or oily spills, or to remove rust or coffee stains.
Although it doesn’t have the same kind of power as dedicated stain removers, it’s a good pH neutral alternative.
4. Rubbing alcohol
Both rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are pH neutral. That said, products can range between 6 and 8 but, as mentioned, this is a standard bracket for pH neutral products.
Importantly, they’re both very chemically unreactive too, which makes them great solvents.
You can use rubbing alcohol to clean loads of things around the home, including:
- Phones, tablets and other tech
- Jewellery and other metal
- Mirrors and glass
- Removing sticky residue
- Disinfecting surfaces
Isopropyl alcohol at a 70% concentration is an incredibly effective disinfectant – it’s the active ingredient in most hand sanitisers. If you’re planning to use it around the home, go for isopropyl alcohol because it’s purer than rubbing alcohol, which can include perfumes and colours.
As you can see, there aren’t loads of pH neutral cleaning products available. This is because they’re generally less effective at targeting grime and dirt than acids or alkalis, as cleaning usually comes down to a chemical reaction.
However, if you’re after a pH neutral cleaner, you’ll be able to find one with a bit of searching.
Just watch out for products that mention it specifically if you want to clean something delicate.
Otherwise, look for products described as “mild” or “gentle” (particularly if they’re meant to come into contact with your skin) because this usually implies a neutral pH.
Hopefully this list will help you narrow down your options for finding the right pH neutral cleaner for your needs.
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Wales, where he lives with his partner and two dogs. All his work is fuelled by extensive research and buckets of coffee.