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Best Cleaning Supplies for Different Types of Messes

Grainger Editorial Staff

The workplace can get very, very messy. This can be small office messes like spilled ink or toner to hard-to-manage grease and grime in an auto shop. To decide which are the best cleaning supplies for your job, you should understand the different types of solvents available. Accessing a guide to cleaning solvents can help understand your cleaning needs. For some messes light soap and water will do the trick, for others, a lubricant is called for. Every type of mess calls for its own solution.

Adhesive Residues

Items like duct tape or mounting tape can be great when you need them, but they can also leave a sticky (and ugly) mess behind. Many professional cleaners suggest a simple solution of warm, soapy water to remove the excess residue they leave behind. Some users, however, suggest removing this residue using a lubricant such as WD-40®. You could also use a light oil and clean the surface as you normally would afterward.


Blood is one of those items that sets deeply into fabrics if it isn’t cleaned up right away. This could be on upholstery, carpet, or linens if you are in the healthcare or hospitality industries. Always make sure to use disposable gloves when cleaning blood stains. Use a firm brush on the dried stain before applying detergent; this may shake some of it loose, reducing heavy scrubbing. Use a light detergent and cold water to blot the stain out.


Your method for removing will vary depending on the type of material the stain is on. For many materials like tile, grout, ceramics and stainless, removing rust stains is going to require a rust remover and some deep scrubbing. Alternate ideas for removing rust stains frequently include lemon. Sometimes a simple lemon wash can get some of the rust off before beginning your commercial treatment.


Commercial degreasers know how to tackle grease. Grease is a tough item to clean because it doesn’t like to mix with water. To clean grease, you need a solvent that can loosen up the grease and allow it to be washed away. Grease cleaners are usually a mild to strong alkali, which can be caustic. Be sure to follow the safety recommendations on the product before use.


An oil spill or stain will need the same types of cleaning solvents as grease. These are mild to strong alkali cleaners that are made for cutting grease. Try to clean an oil spill before it emulsifies; this makes it much easier to clean and prevents impossible stains.


You would think ink stains would only happen in offices, but they happen everywhere. Your pen could explode in your fleet vehicle, or in your coveralls, or even in your toolbox. Wherever your ink is spilled, you’ve now got a stain on your hands. (Yes—it also stains your hands.) If your ink spills on leather or suede, you will need a specialized leather cleaner to remove it to help prevent damage. Otherwise, a general mild cleanser should do the job.


The best cleaning supplies for paint depends on the type of paint you are using. For example, an oil-based paint will require an oil solvent while water-based paints will respond to alcohol. The label on your paint can should specify which type of cleaner you need to remove that particular kind of paint. Paint is very difficult to remove once it has dried, so make sure that if you spill paint you clean it immediately. If it has already dried, try scraping it off before resorting to chemical treatments.


Asphalt much? Many workers are exposed to hot asphalt and tar in their daily routines. Aside from being dangerous, these can get in your shoes, on your truck—maybe in places you’ve never even thought of before. You can start by peeling off as much as possible. Some professional cleaners recommend using ice to harden any soft tar first, then scraping it off with a tool. A lubricant can be used to remove any remaining tar.

Check It First

With any cleaning agent, make sure to test a small area before you begin your cleaning to ensure that it won’t damage the stained surface. Some types of solvents may discolor or otherwise ruin your floors, fabrics or other materials. Some products, like paint, will suggest the best cleaning supplies right on the label, so always check your product guidelines first.


Engineering360: Cleaning Agents and Surface Treatments

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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