May 2024

The Kauri-Butanol Number – Unconventional Wisdom

It would be terrific to have a numerical comparison of how effective various cleaning agents are at removing soils. Can you pick a single number to choose the best cleaning agent? Manufacturers have come to rely on the Kauri-Butanol (Kb) number as an indication of cleaning agent strength. Suppliers of […]
April 2024

Chemical Literacy

Chemophobia pervades our society. Should you fear 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde? Not in tiny amounts, not if you enjoy cookies. A shorter name is vanillin, the primary chemical in vanilla extract. We fear chemicals because they have complicated names and often have fancy structures. Fear of an individual chemical leads to demonization of […]
March 2024

Finding Cleaning Processes that Hide in Plain Sight: Ask “Why?” Ask “What’s That?”

To solve critical cleaning problems, be a preschooler. Ask: Why? Ask: What’s that? The source of the critical cleaning problems may be hiding in plain sight. A process might not be identified as cleaning; no one may think about it as cleaning. We were asked to improve a final aqueous […]
February 2024

Consumer Products for Precision Cleaning – True or False

[This article appeared in Clean Source, October 2016] Never use a consumer/automotive cleaning agent for precision cleaning high-value product. True or false Quick! True or false. This is a timed test, and you will be graded. I hate true/false tests; there’s no room for nuance. In critical and precision cleaning, […]
January 2024


The term “degreaser“ is confusing. Any cleaning chemistry or cleaning process that removes oils and greases is doing the task of degreasing. Degreasing chemicals might be water based with additives that promote dissolving non-polar substances. They may be organic solvents which inherently have solubility for oils. The term degreaser is […]
December 2023

Traditions of the Season and Process Change

To The Cleaning Lady, nostalgia includes hand-grating potatoes for Chanukkah latkes; and bandaging the inevitable minor knuckle scrapes. Nostalgia includes one lonely Menorah with orange candles set high on a mantlepiece (the elders were afraid that the Cleaning Lady would set fire to the house). Nostalgia for The Rocket Scientist […]
October 2023

Part 2: Real Costs of Changing the Cleaning Process – Shortcuts and Consequences

Product manufacturers are likely to change the product cleaning process in the next two to five years. Regulatory happenings, notably from the U.S. EPA Amended TSCA and PFAS concerns may mean that well-established cleaning agents are not available. As a result, manufacturers may be drawn into a frenzied effort to […]
September 2023

Real Costs of Changing the Cleaning Process

Changing to a new product cleaning process costs time and money. Do it correctly, and manufacturing becomes more productive – quality improves, customers are happy, defect rate decreases, the company makes more money. Fail to consider the scope of the effort, and process change is likely to be a frustrating, […]
August 2023

Why Clean?

When we see clients, one of the first questions we ask is: Why? Why are you cleaning the part or component or product? How did you come to choose the cleaning process and cleaning chemicals? Why are you changing the process? Why are you looking at a particular type of […]
July 2023

Is There Perchloroethylene in my Aqueous Cleaning Agent?

After a recent program, a concerned attendee wanted to know: “Is there perchloroethylene in my aqueous cleaning agent?” Barbara’s first thought was to respond that it’s like asking “Is there chicken soup in my cupcake?” Perchloroethylene (PCE), an organic solvent, used in liquid/vapor degreasing, has a different skill set – […]
July 2023


[This article first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Clean Source] Yellow, Orange, Gold – Rust! Beautiful as autumn colors, desirable as a patina on some sculptures, terrible on manufactured parts. Corrosion compromises product quality, both by direct impact on surface quality and by contributing to contamination. In critical cleaning, […]
May 2023


It’s an emergency! Regulators decide that the cleaning agent is unsafe for workers, neighborhoods, and/or the environment. Manufacturers are faced with the capital costs, testing, and performance verification associated with finding a substitute chemical and changing an established effective cleaning process. Within a few years, there’s another emergency. Regulators decide […]