Chemical Cleaning: Solvents vs. Water-Based Automotive Cleaning Products

Chemical cleaning products, like solvents, are a more robust solution to removing dirt and grim in an industrial or automotive setting. Water-based cleaning products have advantages as well. Learning more about the differences and their appropriate applications can help you keep your car shining on the outside and operating at peak performance under the hood.

What Are Solvents?

A solvent cleaner comes in liquid form. You use it to remove impurities from your vehicle. Some are specifically for the exterior, and others clean the tougher stains on the engine and other parts. Chemical cleaners are preferable for issues like overspray, oil, grease, tar, grime, wax, and silicone. They keep your vehicle looking brand new, stripping away the bad without harming the paint underneath.

How Do Solvents Compare to Aqueous Cleaners?

Aqueous cleaners have a water base. They are non-flammable and often biodegradable. However, they are not as strong as solvent cleaners. With a water-based product, you can remove superficial impurities, such as dust, dirt, and mud, but they typically cannot remove oily or greasy messes as effectively.

The specific application is essential when deciding what type of industrial cleaner, you need. Aqueous cleaners do not work well on iron parts unless they have a rust preventative or you spray afterward with a product to displace the water from your cleaner. Additionally, many water-based cleaners have neutral pH levels, making them more corrosive than solvents. With drivers in the U.S. spending an average of $500 per occurrence and billions annually for rust-related damages, avoiding rust is crucial.

What Are the Advantages of Chemical Cleaning?

Some reasons you should keep an automotive chemical cleaning product in your garage or shop include:

  • They are often more effective at reaching all parts for a more uniform clean.
  • There is less waste because you need less product for an all-over vehicle application.
  • Decontamination takes half the time with a solvent than with a water-based counterpart.
  • Even when the personnel applying the cleaner has experience working with different products, the risk for damage is less with a chemical cleaner.
  • You can get a better cleaning job without needing to dismantle vehicle parts.

Solvents are great products to keep in an automotive servicing shop. You can impress clients with a detailed cleaning job after servicing their vehicles. However, anyone using chemical-based cleaners needs training to employ them safely.

Potential Limitations of Chemical Cleaning

Chemical cleaners have fewer limitations than water-based products. However, you cannot use them for circulatory cleaning. These risks damaging operational parts. Most limitations refer to possible human error. Corrosion or equipment damage does not happen often. However, using these products without knowing the directions for applying them effectively could result in damage. Buy from a company you can trust with quality products and thorough instructions.

The Right Solvents For the Right Application

Chemical cleaning is a careful process. You want quality chemical cleaners to produce the best possible outcome for yourself or your clients. That’s why solvents are highly recommended for the right applications.


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