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Helpful Hints - General Information

Cleaning Time Estimator Cleaning Chemicals Description And Usage
Equipment Selection Guide HEPA Filters FAQ
ISSA Terms Standard Cleaning Terms
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USDA Classifications Caring For Mops, Buckets And Pads

ISSA Terms

Official ISSA Dictionary of cleaning industry terms.

This Official ISSA Dictionary of Cleaning Industry Terms was designed to fill a need for a collection of terms used frequently in the cleaning industry. It is an “A” to “Z” collection of terms used frequently in the industry. The dictionary is part of a Study Course developed by ISSA to aid those who want or need to learn about the bewildering array of concepts associated with the professional use of cleaning products and equipment.

The official ISSA Dictionary of Cleaning Industry Terms contains both technical and common terms from the vernacular. But it is designed as a reference manual for laypeople. It is hoped that it will be helpful to salespeople, inside office workers, end-users and business owners. Anyone who is seeking information about the words and expressions used by cleaning professionals should benefit from this information.


ABRASION – Wearing away or cleaning by friction.

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

ABRASIVE PADS – There are three basic types. Metal are a mesh form fine #00 to #3 grade. Stainless steel are similar to metal but generally coarser and the stainless steel will not rust. Carbon silicate are coated over nylon, polyester or other materials.

ABSORBENT – A material that attracts substances from a surface to the absorbent material. Widely used in carpet cleaning and concrete cleaning.

ABSORPTION – The passage of a material through the skin.

ACCESSORIES – Various tools that may be used in conjunction with cleaning machines and equipment: i.e. a dusting tool with a wet and dry vacuum.

ACID – A water-soluble substance with pH less than 7 that reacts with and neutralizes an alkali.

ACRYLIC – Popular for floor finishes. Also, man made synthetic fiber used in spun yarn to resemble wool in carpet.

ACRYLIC STYRENE – Popular type for polymer blend for floor finishes.

ACUTE EFFECT – An adverse effect that develops rapidly from a short-term high-level exposure to a material.

ADHESION – A necessary component of a floor finish, which causes it to stick to the floor rather than peel, flake or powder.

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.

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 encountered in shipping, storage and use.

ALGAE – Microscopic single cell plants that grow in water, contain chlorophyll and require sunlight.

ALGAECIDE – Product used to inhibit algae growth.

ALKALI – A chemical substance with pH greater than 7 that reacts with and neutralizes an acid. Also called alkaline or base.

ALKALINITY – Alkalinity is useful in removing acidic, fatty and 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 preformed.

ALLERGIC REACTION – An abnormal physiological reaction to chemical or stimulus.

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER – A powder or liquid detergent suitable for both general house cleaning duties and laundry.

AMERICAN ORIENTAL – Woven American carpets of Axminister or Wilton weave in oriental colors and patterns.

AMINE – A class of organic compounds containing nitrogen. Amines are often used as floor finish strippers, 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 re sold as household ammonia. Ammonia is used to aid in removing grease and dirt from surfaces and to boost the cleaning power in grease cutters, wax strippers and general-purpose soil removers.

ANAEROBIC BACTERIA – Bacteria that thrives in the absence of air or oxygen.

ANHYDROUS – The active soap content of liquid soap.

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

ANTIDOTE – An agent that neutralizes or counteracts the harmful effects of poison.

ANTIMICROBIAL – Agent that inhibits or destroys bacteria, fungi, protozoa or viruses that are pathogenic.

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 that reduces static electricity.

A.O.A.C. METHOD – Association of Official Agricultural Chemists’ method of determining phenol coefficient and kill-effectiveness of disinfectant and sanitizing products.

ASEPSIS – Refers to the absence of pathogenic microorganisms.

ASPHALT TILE – A floor tile manufactured with a mixture of synthetic fibers, lime rock, mineral fillers and coloring. Asphalt is used to bind the materials together.

ASPHYXIANT – A vapor or gas that can cause unconsciousness or death is a potential hazard, particularly when working with certain chemicals in unventilated or confined areas.

AUTOCLAVE – A steam and disinfectant method for sterilization in hospitals.

AUTOIGNITION TEMPERATURE – The lowest temperature at which a flammable gas will spontaneously ignite without a spark or flame.

AUTOMATIC SCRUBBER – Labor saving powered floor cleaning machine that dispenses cleaning solution to the floor, scrubs it and vacuums it up into a recovery tank.

AXMINISTER – A carpet weave in which pile tufts are individually inserted from colored yarns arranged on spools, making possible an enormous variety of colors and patterns.


BACILLI – The various materials that comprise the back of a carpet that secures the face of carpet pile. They include Primary backing which is frequently a woven or non-woven polypropylene, a woven jute or on scatter rugs cotton duck. Secondary backing which is fabric (usually jute, woven or nonwoven polypropylene) laminated to the back of carpet to reinforce and increase dimensional stability. Construction yarns comprising chain warp, stuffer warp, and shot fill which are interwoven with the face yarn during carpet formation, are the backings of woven carpets.

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 (doesn’t kill).

BASE (SEE ALKALI) – A water-soluble substance with pH greater than 7.

BASE UNIT – The main power source for a “steam” type carpet cleaner.

BEATER BAR – A rigid bar on a vacuum cleaner brush that agitates and loosens soil from the carpet.

BIODEGRADABLE – Capability of organic matter to be decomposed by biological process.

BIRD’S EYE – Circular blemished on a polymer or wax surface caused by bubbles solidifying during application. Usually caused by agitation of the floor finish during the application or by applying heavy coats of finish. Also known as “fish eyes”.

BLEACH – A product that cleans, whitens, remove stains and brightens fabrics. It also removes stains on some hard surfaces.

BLEEDING – Removal of color from carpet or other floor tile material by a liquid. Some carpets may bleed with hot water. Floor tile (particularly asphalt) can bleed from an excessive concentration of stripper solution.

BLOOMING – A white deposit on the surface of a new concrete or magnesite floor. Is either salt or magnesium chloride.

BOILING POINT – The lowest temperature at which a liquid becomes a vapor.

BRIGHTENERS – Optical or fluorescent enhancers found in carpet cleaning products and fabric cleaners.

BRIGHTWORK – The chrome plumbing fixtures around sinks, fountains and the tops of toilets and urinals.

BROADLOOM – Term of measurement that designates the width of a carpet.

BROAD SPECTRUM – Killing a wide variety of Gram- (Negative) and Gram+ (Positive) organisms.

BROWNING (BROWN OUT) – A reaction that occurs in carpets when high pH solutions cause the carpet’s natural coloring in the backing (usually jute) to travel up the fiber strand and discolor the carpet. Easily cured with de-browning product applications.

BUCKLES – Deviations in a carpet where it does not lay flat; wrinkles.

BUFFER – Any substance in a fluid which tends to resist a change in pH when acid or alkali is added. Also a slang term for a floor buffing and scrubbing machine.

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

BUILT DETERGENT – A cleaning product containing both surfactant and builder.

BURNISH – To buff a floor finish before it dries or at high speeds to develop a hard shine.

BUTYL CELLUSOLVE – A trademark name for a water-soluble solvent frequently used in degreasing products. Actual name of slang term “butyl”.

BYPASS MOTOR – A wet/dry vacuum motor that employs two sources of air in the machine’s operation: i.e. working or vacuum air and cooling air.


C.F.M. – Cubic Feet per Minute. Describes the amount of air generated by a vacuum motor.

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.

CARNUBA – Natural polishing wax that is derived from the leaves of the carnuba palm tree in Brazil. Average yield per year from one tree is approximately four to five ounces of wax.

CARPET CUSHION – A term used to describe any kind of material placed under a carpet to provide softness when it is walked upon. Also called lining, padding and underlay.

CARPET FRESHENER – A product designed to counteract malodor in carpets.

CARPET SQUARES (TILES) – Loose-laid or self-adhesive backed squares of carpet.

CARRIER – A person in apparent good health who carries a pathogenic microorganism (germ).

CASTILE – Originally soap made from olive oil in Castle, Spain. Now refers to any mild soap made from vegetable oils.

CATALYST – A substance that influences a chemical action.

CATIONIC SURFACTANT – A surfactant that is from a positively charged ionic group. The most common cationic surfactants are known as quaternary ammonium compounds such as alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. These are widely used as disinfectant and sanitizing products.

CAUSTIC – Strong base (alkaline) substance that irritates the skin. Corrosive. 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 caustic potash (potassium hydroxide), which is used in manufacturing soft soap.

CERAMIC TILE – Clay tile with an impervious, usually glossy, layer on the surface.

CHELATING AGENT – An organic sequestering agent used to inactivate hard water and other metallic ions in water.

CHLORINE – Powerful oxidizing agent sometimes used as a germicide.

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, aids in soil removal, whitens, disinfects, and deodorizes. Dry forms of chlorine bleach are frequently used in cleansers and automatic dishwasher detergents. Bleach should not be used with silk, woolens, dyes sensitive to hypochlorite, and on certain stains such as rust (which it can set). Chlorine bleach deactivates enzymes in laundry cleaners.

CHRONIC TOXICITY – Adverse affects caused by continuous or repeated exposure to a harmful organism over a period of time equal to ½ of the organism’s lifetime.

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 detergent, rinse, and sanitizing solutions under appropriate conditions of time, temperature, and physical action.

CLEANING HEAD – A tool used in carpet extraction cleaning, which sprays solution and vacuums it up.

CLEANSER – A powdered or liquid cleaning product generally containing abrasives, a surfactant and frequently a bleach.

COCCI – Spherically shaped bacteria.

COLONY – A visible growth of microorganisms on a culture medium.

COMMUNICABLE DISEASE – One whose causative agent is directly or indirectly transmitted from person to person.

CONCENTRATE – The undiluted form of a dilutable cleaning product.

CONDUCTIVE FLOORS – Special resilient tile that is designed to drain off or prevent static electricity. Frequently used in computer rooms.

CONTAMINATION – Entry of undesirable organisms into some material or object.

CONTINUOUS FILAMENT – Continuous strand of synthetic fiber extruded in yarn form, without the need of spinning which all natural fibers require.

CORROSION – Process of gradual eating away by chemical action.

CORROSION INHIBITOR – Substance which protects against oxidation of metal surfaces.

CORROSIVES – Substance which can cause skin and eye damage at the site of contact.

CROSS-CONTAMINATION – The process of transferring bacteria from one person or an object to another person. Similar term to cross-infection.

CURING – A chemical aging process that allows floor surface.

CUT PILE – The face of a carpet that has had the ends cut at the loops.


DAMP MOPPING – Mopping with a mop wrung out tightly in a clean solution containing mild detergent, disinfectant or sanitizing agent.

DEFOAMER – Substance used to reduce or eliminate foam.

DEGRADE – The loss of strength in bleach solutions.

DEGREASER – A product specifically formulated to remove grease, oil and greasy oils.

DEODORANT – A product for destroying, masking or eliminating offensive odors.

DETERGENCY – Cleaning efficiency.

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

DIGESTER – An enzyme used to break down stains caused by food products and blood.

DIMENSIONAL STABILITY – The tendency of a fabric to retain size and shape. Carpet receives additional dimensional stability from the secondary backing.

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

DOUBLE BUCKET PROCEDURE – A mopping technique that utilizes two buckets. The first bucket contains a disinfectant and the other, clear rinse water. The mop goes from the disinfectant to the floor, from the floor to the clear water rinse, to the wringer and back to the disinfectant. The procedure reduces disinfectant contamination.

DRAIN CLEANER – A chemically strong product formulated to clean plugs of solid grease and other varied materials embedded in drains.

DRY FOAM – A detergent solution with a small amount of water that is mechanically worked into a carpet. The loose soil is removed by a vacuum.

DRY ROT- A condition caused by an attack of microorganisms on fibers, textiles, carpets and other materials. An attack on natural carpet backing may cause loss of strength that leads to tearing and breaking up.

DUSTING PRODUCT (FURNITURE) – An aerosol or pump spray that dispenses ingredients in a fine spray onto surface of dusting cloth. Some cloths come already impregnated with active ingredients. These products attract, pick up and retain light dust and soil.



EMOLLIENT – An ingredient for making skin soft or soothed.

EMULSIFICATION – The action of breaking up fats, oils and other soils into small particles which are then suspended in a solution.

EMULSION – A dispersion of small oil particles in a solution.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – The possible adverse effect of the release of a material into the environment as listed in MSDS information.

ENZYME – Protein molecules produced within organisms that are used as catalysts for biochemical reactions. Often used to enhance cleaning products.

E.P.A. – Environmental Protection Agency of the United States Government. Has responsibility to regulate the environment.

EPIDEMIC – A condition in which a large number of persons in a community contact the same disease within a short time.

EPOXY – A very hard synthetic resin often used in floor finishes, paints and sealers.

ETCH – A chemically caused change on the outside of a smooth floor surface which causes the floor to be pitted or rough, and thereby improve, adhesion of floor finish.

EXPLOSION HAZARD – Hazard of some materials when they are exposed to heat or flame.

EXPOSURE LIMIT – The limit set to minimize employee’s exposure to a hazardous material. Associated terms included Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) and Threshold Limit Value (TLV).


FADING – Loss of color caused by actinic radiation such as sunlight, atmospheric gasses an cleaning or bleaching chemicals.

FASTNESS – Retention of color by carpets and other materials.

FATTY ACIDS – An organic (most commonly tallow and coconut oil) substance which reacts with a base of form soap.

FIBERS – Natural or man-made objects that have lengths hundreds to thousands of times greater than their widths (high aspects ratio).

FILAMENT – A single continuous strand of fiber.

FILMING – The development of a thin covering or coating.

FISH ACUTE TOXICITY TEST (LC50, 96 Hours) – Test used to define toxicity and hazard potential to fish. Results reported as LC50, i.e. the concentration which will kill 50% of the fish.

FISH EYES – See “Bird’s Eyes”.

FLAGGED FIBERS – Brush or broom fibers that are split at the end to increase cleaning efficiency.

FLAMMABILITY – The capacity of a material to ignite easily and burn rapidly. This term is also used to classify certain liquids on the basis of their flash point.

FLOOR MACHINE – (Buffer) A powered machine used to scrub and buff floors that is equipped with a pad driver and synthetic pads or a brush.

FLOOR FINISH – The top layer of protective floor coatings.

FOAM – A mass of bubbles formed on liquids by agitation.

FOMITE – Any object or substance, other than food, that harbors or carries infectious organisms.

FORMALDEHYDE – Preservative: sterilizing and disinfecting agent (gas or liquid).

FUNGI (FUNGUS) – Vegetable organisms that lack chlorophyll and are filamentous. Fungus includes mold, mildew, yeast and mushrooms.

FUNGICIDE – A chemical that inhibits the growth of fungi.

FUNGISTAT – Chemical which inhibits the growth of fungi.

FURNITURE CLEANER/POLISH – A liquid, paste or aerosol spray designed to remove dust and stains from wood surfaces, confer shine and protection against water spots, and is formulated to reduce wax buildup with continued use.

FUZZING – A loose, hairy effect on a fabric surface caused by wild fibers or slack yarn twists. May be corrected by professional cleaning.


GAGE (GAUGE) – The distance expressed in fractions of an inch between two needle points in carpet knitting or tufting.

GEL – A colloid in a semi-solid state, having a “jelly”-like consistency.

GERMICIDE – Any substance that kills germs. A disinfectant.

GLUTERALDEHYDE – A chemical relative of formaldehyde, used in cold sterilization.

GRAINS HARDNESS – A measure of water hardness. The actual amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium salts measured in parts per million in a gallon of water.

GRAM POSITIVE AND GRAM NEGATIVE – Classification of bacteria by their reaction to staining. A dye is applied to bacteria, and those that remain permanently stained are Gram positive. If the stain is easily removed they are Gram negative. Staph and strep are examples of Gram positive bacteria. Pseudomonas and salmonella are examples of Gram negative bacteria.

GROUT – Matrix between ceramic tile on walls and floors.


HALOGENS – The elements chlorine, bromine, iodine, fluorine, which have strong disinfecting properties.

HAND CLEANSER – A cleaner designed to clean hands with an emphasis on removing oils, grease and other occupational soils.

HARD WATER – Water containing soluble salts of calcium and magnesium and sometimes iron.

HAZARDOUS MATERIAL – Any substance having the properties capable of producing adverse effects on the health or safety of people.

HEELING – Technique of applying pressure to the side of a floor machine to remove black shoe marks and persistent soil.

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

HIGH SPEED FLOOR MACHINE – Any floor buffing or burnishing machine that operates at RPMS over 200.

HIGH SPEED FLOOR FINISH – Floor finish specifically designed to be used with and respond to a high-speed floor machine.

HOLIDAY – A missed spot in cleaning. Refers to streaks or areas that were not overlapped.

HOSPITAL-TYPE DISINFECTANT – Kills most germs due to a special combination of disinfectant ingredients. More terminology than fact.

HYDROCHLORIC ACID (HCL) – Also known as muriatic acid. Used in toilet bowl cleaners in varying dilutions. Hydrogen Chloride.

HYDROFLUORIC ACID (HF) – A highly caustic inorganic acid often found in commercial rust removers and stain removers. Use with extreme caution.

HYPOCHLORITE – A powerful disinfectant containing chlorine.


ID50 – The dose (number of microorganisms) which will infect 50% if the experimental animals in a test series.

IMPERVIOUS – Incapable of being penetrated by a given material.

INCOMPATIBLE – Substances which cause adverse reactions from contact with each other.

INCUBATION – Maintaining cultures of microorganisms at a temperature favorable to their growth.

INERT – Substances not active in a formula.

INFECTION – A condition in which microorganisms have entered the body and produced an adverse reaction.

INGESTION – Taking a substance into the body by mouth.

INHALATION – Taking a substance into the body by breathing.

INHIBIT – Bacteriostatic action slows down or restrain an undesirable reaction such as corrosion.

INORGANIC – A substance not make of the combination of carbon and hydrogen.

IODINE – A disinfectant agent.

IODOPHOR – Combinations of iodine and detergent used in antiseptics or disinfections.

IONIC COMPATIBILITY – Electrical charges in chemical formulations similar to the North, South poles on a magnet. The charges indicate to the formulating chemist the compatibility of various ionic or non-ionic chemical products. Blending or cross use of chemical products that do not possess compatible ions will render the products useless for their intended purpose.

IRRITANT – Something that caused an inflammation reaction in the eyes, skin, or respiratory system.


JUTE – A material cellulosic fiber made from certain plants of the linden family which grow in warm climates such as India and Bangladesh. Jute yarns are used in woven carpet construction as backing for the yarns and twines. Woven jute is used in tufted carpet as primary and secondary backing. The latter are similar to burlap fabrics.


KNITTING – A fabric formation process comprising interlacing yarns is a series of connected loops with needles. Pile and backing are produced simultaneously with multiple sets of needles that interlace pile backing and stitching. A small fraction of total carpet production is produced by knitting.


L. D. POINT – Abbreviation for “Lethal Dose.”

LD50 – The dose (number of organisms) that will kill 50 percent of the animals in a test series.

LATEX – A water emulsion of synthetic rubber, natural rubber or other polymer used in carpet manufacturing to laminate the secondary backing to tufted carpeting, backcoating carpet and rugs.

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

LETHAL CONCENTRATION (LC) – The concentration required to cause death in a given species of animal or plant. Measured in milligram per kilogram of body weight (mg/KG).

LETHAL DOSE (LD) – The dose required to cause death in a given species of animal or plant. Measured in milligram per kilogram of body weight (mg/LD).

LEVELING AGENT – Substance added to coating which allows it to flow evenly in application and to help prevent “puddling.”

LEVEL LOOP – A carpet style having all tufts in a loop form and of identical height.

LIME – An insoluble mineral deposit found in water.

LINOLEUM – A flooring material composed of binders, oxidized oil and resinous material that is mixed with ground cork or wood flour and pigment. The composition is applied to a backing of felt, fabric or burlap.

LOOM – A machine which produces woven fabric.

LOOM PILE – Carpet style having a pile surface consisting of uncut loops of woven or tufted yarn. Also called “round wire” in woven carpet terminology.

LUDOX – Sand-like material added to wax to increase slip resistance.


MEDICATED SOAP – A toilet soap containing antibacterial ingredient to help reduce or inhibit the growth of bacteria on the skin, which might otherwise cause infection.

METAL INTERLOCK – Detergent and water-resistant type of floor finish with a metal salt in the solution. Removable with ammonia strippers.

MICRON – 1 / 25,000 of an inch.

MICROORGANISMS – Plants or animals visible only with the aid of a microscope.

MILDEW – A growth, usually white, produced by fungus.

MILK STONE – Calcium deposits on dairy or ice cream equipment.

MILLED SOAP – Soap processed by an operation in which soap chips or pellets are squeezed and kneaded by passing them through a series of heavy, closely set rollers.

MOLD – A woolly growth, produced by fungus.

MOLECULE – The smallest unit into which a substance can be divided that retains all of the chemical identity of that substance: i.e., one molecule of water.

MONTAN WAX – Mineral wax extracted from lignite or peat (brown coal). It is a hard polishing wax.

MURIATIC – Commercial name given to hydrochloric acid.

MUTAGENIC – Causes tissue changes in subsequent generations.


NEUTRAL – A chemical state that is neither acid or alkali (base); 7 on the pH scale.

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 – A laundry product containing peroxygen compounds, which release active oxygen in wash water. This type product produces gentler bleaching action than chlorine bleach.

NON-IONIC SURFACTANT – A surface-active agent that contains neither positively nor negatively charged (ionic) functional groups. These surfactants have been found to be especially effective in removing oily soil.

NON-SELECTIVE – A term applied to disinfectants that kill a wide variety of organisms including bacteria and fungi.

NON-WOVEN – Any fabric manufactured by a method other than weaving.

NYLON – Synthetic thermoplastic of the polyamide family. It is the dominant fiber in tufted carpet pile yarns.




PASTE WAX – Wax in a thick form. Always needs buffing.

PATHOGEN – Any disease-producing organism.

PATHOGENIC – Disease-producing.

PESTICIDE – Agent that prevents, repels, destroys or mitigates pests types include insecticides, disinfectants and sanitizers, rodenticides and herbicides.

pH – A simple 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 being 10 times more acidic than 2, etc. 0-3 is strongly acidic, 4-6 moderately acidic. Above 7 is the alkaline side. 8-10 is moderately alkaline, 11-14 is strongly alkaline. Alkalinity is 10 times greater at each full number rise along the scale.

PHENOL COEFFICIENT – A comparison of germicidal effectiveness of disinfectant products with phenol. Usually considered on obsolete comparison.

PHOSPHATE – A widely used water softener, builder and sequestering agent used in detergents.

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

PILE CRUSH – Loss of pile thickness in a carpet due to traffic and heavy furniture. The tufts collapse into the air space between them.

PILE HEIGHT – The length of the extended tufts of a carpet, measured from the primary backing top surface to their tips.

PILE LIFTER – A machine that loosens soil, vacuums it and stands the pile up prior to deep cleaning.

PILE DENSITY – Refers to closeness of fibers in a carpet to each other. High density increases weight and quality.

PILE SETTING – A carpet cleaner’s term for the process of erecting damp, disheveled pile following shampooing or extracting, through the use of pile brush or pile lifting machine.

PINE OIL – An oil processed from the gum of pine trees. Used in hard surface cleaning and disinfecting and distinguished by a characteristic aroma. As a disinfectant it is inactive against staphylococci.

PINE OIL CLEANER – A liquid hard surface cleaner containing detergents and pine oil. Used to dissolve oil, fatty acids, paints and tars while disinfecting/sanitizing and deodorizing with a pine odor.

PITTING – Small craters on the surface of concrete and terrazzo floors which will grow in size, with traffic and chemical exposure, unless coated with a protective floor finish.

PLASTICIZER – An ingredient added to wax, varnish, and polymer floor finish to make it flexible rather than brittle.

PLY – The number of single strands of fiber which have been twisted together to form a yarn; i.e. 3 ply, 4 ply.

POLYESTER – A fiber-forming thermoplastic synthetic polymer used in some carpet that is essentially staple and spun yarn.

POLYPROPYLENE – Synthetic thermoplastic polymer that is used for carpet fiber whish is solution dyed and usually contains ultraviolet stabilizers for outdoor use.

POLYMER – A large molecule of multiple units formed into a single 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.

POLYMER EMULSIONS – Polymer materials that are chemically emulsified into a water base. When these formulations are applied to surfaces they form a smooth, continuous finish.

PORCELAIN ENAMEL – A coating of ceramic type material that is fired or fused to a steel base and used in sinks, bathtubs, etc. This differs from the vitreous china used in toilets and urinals.

POWDER – A carpet cleaning preparation consisting of absorbent granules impregnated with dry cleaning fluids, detergents and other cleaners. The powder is sprinkled on the carpet, worked into the pile with a brush and left to absorb soil for a short time, and finally removed with the absorbed soil by vacuuming.

POWDERING – An unfortunate condition of polymer-type floor finish being removed from a floor in the form of fine, white dust. Usually caused by abrasion occurring from buffing, heavy traffic and inclement weather.

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.

PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENT – Warnings on product labels to alert users to potential harmful hazards associated with using the product.

PRECIPITATE – Material settled out of solution.

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

PRESOAK – A soaking operation, to remove stains, that precedes the regular laundering process.

PRE-SPOT – Removal of stains before more extensive carpet cleaning.

PRIMARY BACKING – The carrier fabric for the pile yarn of a carpet into which the yarn tufts have been inserted.

PROPELLANT – An agent used to expel contents from an aerosol under pressure.

PSEUDOMONAS AERUGINOSA – A pathogenic bacteria used to assess hospital-strength activity of a disinfectant.

PUMICE – Porous volcanic rock frequently used as an abrasive.


QUATERNARY AMMONIUM COMPOUNDS – A class of chemicals used as disinfectant, antistat 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 appeared streaked or dull.

REFINISHING – To apply a new coat of wax or floor finish to a floor.

RESIDUE – Cleaning chemicals or soil left in a carpet after the cleaning process.

RESILIENT TILE – Tile that will withstand shock without permanent damage; includes rubber, cork, asphalt, linoleum, vinyl, vinyl asbestos. This tile will give under impact and certain loads and then return to its original form after the load is removed.

RESINS – The basic solid content of gym and concrete floor finishes that are solvent-born.

RINSE AGENT – A wetting agent used in the last rinse during dishwashing to improve the draining of the water from dishes and utensils.

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

ROTARY BRUSH CARPET CLEANING – A carpet cleaning technique in which a detergent solution is worked into the carpet by a brush attached to a rotary buffing machine. Loosened soil is usually removed by vacuuming.

RUST REMOVER – A specialty cleaner used to remove rust stains from carpet yarn.


SANITIZER – An agent that reduces the number of bacteria to a safe level, but does not completely eliminate them, as judged by public health requirements. Usually in food service areas.

SAPONIFICATION – The process of converting a fat into soap by treating it with an alkali. Also the process used by some cleaners to remove grease and oil.

SCALE – Calcium or mineral deposits in steam boilers and in steam and water pipes.

SCOURING PAD – A hand-sized pad that supplies the cleaning action of an abrasive.

SCRUB – The use of a brush or synthetic floor cleaning pad and detergent solution to clean a floor without removing the floor finish.

SEALER – A coating designed to penetrate and provide the initial protection to a floor surface by filling in the tiny holes. Also, a product which prevents color bleeding.

SECONDARY BACKING – The fabric reinforcement that is laminated to the back or bottom of a tufted carpet to provide strength and stability.

SEPSIS – Poisoning due to absorption of pathogenic bacteria into the bloodstream.

SEPTICEMIA – Condition in which bacteria in the blood have multiplied. (Referred to as “blood poisoning”)

SEQUESTERING AGENTS – Chemicals that tie up water hardness and prevent the precipitation of hard water salts. This action caused clarity in liquid soap.

SHELF LINE – The time between manufacturing and the time that a product becomes spoiled, unusable or ineffective because of age.

SIZING – A product that provides a coating such as starch.

SLIMICIDE – Prevents or inhibits the growth of biological slimes which contain combinations of algae, bacteria or fungi.

SLIP COEFFICIENT – A measurement of the angle of the point at which a person’s foot begins to slip on the James machine (an instrument used to test the static coefficient of friction of a surface). U. L. considers 0.5 or above is the safe limit.

SLURRY – A temporary suspension of insoluble solid or immiscible liquids in a carrier base. Usually refers to the suspension of dirt or the thick, dark, soapy mixture created when stripping a floor.

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

SODA ASH – Sodium carbonate.


SODIUM HYPOCHLORITE – Bleaching and disinfecting agent.

SOIL RESISTANCE – A condition of the floor that occurs due to the application of protective coatings. A finished floor will remain cleaner than an unfinished floor exposed to the same traffic and soil. Finishes are applied to be resistant to dirt, oil, grease, soap, acids, bleaches, solvents, and boiling water.

SOIL RETARDANT – A chemical finish applied to carpet and fabric surfaces, which inhibits attachment to the soil fiber.

SOLID CONTENT – The amount of ingredients in a floor finish that do not evaporate or volatilize at 105*C.

SOLUBILITY – A uniformly dispersed mixture of two or more fluids.

SOLVENT FINISH – Finish in which the solid content is borne in solvent, rather than water.

SOLVENTS – Substances used to solubilize other materials.

SPALLING – The process of concrete or terrazzo breaking apart into dust and pieces.

SPORE – A special hard shell-like cell structure of a rod shaped bacteria which has an inactive form, and is the most resilient of all living things to heat, chemical and drying. Can only be destroyed by sterilization.

SPOTTER – A carpet stain remover.

SPRAY BUFF – An intermediate floor care procedure that cleans, removes black marks and shines the wear areas of a floor. Utilizes a sprayed solution, a floor machine and a synthetic floor pad.

STAIN – A visible discoloration.

STAIN REPELLENT – A product applied to carpets that helps the yarn resist stains.

STAPHYLOCOCCUS (STAPH) – Highly resistant Gram + (Positive) organism used in the evaluation of disinfectants. Is pathogenic.

“STAT” – Inhibitor.

STERILIZATION – The process of killing all forms of microbial life, including vegetative bacteria, fungi, viruses and spores.

STREAKING – Signs of improper application of floor finish. Generally lines or ridges in rows of uneven floor finish.

STREPTOCOCCUS (STREP) – Common disease organism that microscopically appears as Gram + (Positive) chains.

STRIPPER – Specially formulated detergent which break the bond of floor wax and finish, when used as directed, without damaging flooring material.

SURFACE TENSION – The attractive forces which water molecules have for each other.

SURFACTANT – Surface-active agent which increases the emulsifying, foaming, dispersing, speading and wetting properties of a product.

SUSPENSION – The process of a cleaning agent holding insoluble dirt particles in the cleaning solution and keeping them from redepositing on a clean floor.

SYNERGISTIC – Chemicals that when combined have a greater effect than the sum of the two independently.

SYNTHETIC DETERGENT – A washing or cleaning product that utilizes synthetic surfactants rather than traditional soaps.

SYNTHETIC FIBERS – Man-fibers, as opposed to natural fibers such as wool, that are used in most carpets today.


TACKINESS – A sticky or adhesive condition that is a property of applied floor finishes, when not completely dried.

TACK RAG – A cloth, dampened in solution, that is used to remove surface particles (lint, dust, floor pad abrasive) prior to refinishing a surface.

TELESCOPE HANDLE – An adjustable length pole that extends by pulling out, one inside the other.

TERRAZZO – A non-resilient floor material composed of marble and Protland cement.

TOXIC – Substance causing adverse effects in the body like a poison.

TOXIN – Poisonous substance produced by bacterial cells.

TUBERCULIN – An extract of the tubercle bacillus, capable of oliciting an inflammatory reaction in the animal body which has been sensitized by the presence of living or dead tubercle bacilli. Used in a skin test for tuberculosis.

TUCKER POLE – Special multi-story outside window-washing tool.

TRAFFIC LANE – High traffic areas that show worn or soiled “lanes.”

TRI-SODIUM OHOSPHATE (TSP) – A water softener sometimes used as a cleaning agent.

TURKISH TOWEL – Towel similar to terry cloth.


U. L. – Underwriters Labratories. An organization that test manufactured products for safety.

U. S. D. A. – United States Department of Agriculture, which approves disinfectants and sanitizers.

URETHANE – A synthetic resin, ethyl carbamate, used in protective coating for wood, concrete and metal.

USE-DILUTION – The final concentration at which a product is used.

USE-DILUTION TEST – Test used to determine antimicrobial activity of a hard surface dinisinfectant in its final use concentration.


VEGETATIVE BACTERIA –Those able to multiply; the term is used to exclude spores.

VINYL ABESTOS TILE (VAT) – Floor tile composed of vinyl resin, plasticizers, asbestos fibers, minieral fillers and color pigment formed into a given thickness and cut into tile sizes.

VIRUS – A group of filterable infective agents that require the presence of living cells in order to multiply.

VIRUCIDE – A chemical agent that kills viruses.

VIRULENCE – The disease-producing ability of an oranism.

VIRUSES – Microorganisms smaller than bacteria which cannot grow outside living cells.

VISCOSITY – The thickness of a liquid which determines pourability. The resistance to flow is measured in relationship to water in centipoises (cp). Water has a viscosity of 1 cp.

VIRTEOUS CHINA – Ceramic, non-porous material used in toilets and urinals.

VOLATILE – The part of a product that evaporates during drying.


WAREWASHING – Washing of dishes, utensils, glassware, pots, pans, etc. In the institutional market.

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

WATERLIFT – An efficiency rating for vacuums used to pick up water. Tells how many inches the water would be taised or “lifted” in a measuring column.

WATER HARDNESS – A measure of the amount of metallic salts found in water. Hard water can inhibit the action of some surfactants and reduce the effectiveness of the cleaning process.

WATER SOFTENER – Substance which removes or counteracts the hardness of water,

WAX – A natural protective coating for hard surfaces.

WEAR – A distortin of the surface of a floor coating die to traffic and abrasion.

WET MOPPING – Appluying a liberal amount of cleaning solution. Used in disinfecting, through cleaning, scrubbing, and stripping. Requires removing excess solution.

WETTING – The ability of a solution to disperse or spread over an oily or otherwise water-repellent surface.

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


YEAST – A form of fungus.

YELLOWING – Discoloration of a floor finish due to aging. A common complaint regarding carnuba wax.