What Cleaning Professionals Need to Know About Chelating Agents

Cleaning professionals will hear more about chelating agents in the months ahead. This blog post is intended to help you understand:

  • What chelating agents are.
  • Why you should be aware of them.
  • What alternatives are available if you decide not to use traditional cleaning solutions?

But before we dig deeper into chelating agents, here is what we need to know first.

About 85 percent of us live in parts of the country with hard water. Hard water is water that has a high mineral content, containing such minerals as magnesium, limestone, chalk, and calcium. Soft water, on the other hand, does not include these minerals or has an exceptionally low mineral count.

The big problem with hard water, at least when it comes to professional cleaning, is that it makes it more difficult to clean surfaces. Plus, it can leave soap scum deposits on surfaces that can be difficult to remove and, in some cases, even scratch surfaces, including glass.

Here’s what’s going on.

When traditional cleaning solutions are mixed with hard water they often react with the minerals in the hard water. The reaction leaves that soap scum deposits on surfaces we just mentioned, making it more challenging and requiring more time to clean surfaces. Further, as ingredients in the traditional cleaning solution react with the hard water, the cleaning capability of the product is reduced.

Cleaning chemical manufacturers are aware of this, so to prevent the hard water minerals from interfering with the performance of the cleaner, manufacturers often add a chelating agent to cleaning products. The chelating agent effectively binds up the calcium and magnesium ions so that they cannot react with the cleaning product.

Frequently EDTA – ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid – is the chelating agent manufacturers select. Discovered by a German chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer in the 1930s, tons of EDTA are used in various products every year, including cleaning products.

What we need to know about EDTA:

1.       In low concentrations, it has limited toxicity.

2.       In large concentrations, it can prove toxic, and some studies claim it is carcinogenic.

3.       Cleaning professionals use far more cleaning solutions than those in other industries, potentially increasing our exposure to EDTA.

4.       EDTA is also widely found in household cleaning products. The concern here is that when used in the home, the products may be misused, increasing the chances EDTA will prove toxic or cause harm.

5.       EDTA is increasingly classified as a significant environmental pollutant.

6.       It is not readily biodegradable. EDTA can accumulate on land and in water, causing toxicity for plants, animals, sea life, and potential health problems for humans.

7.       Because of its possible harmful impacts, several countries in Europe and Australia have now banned the use of EDTA.

Instead of adding EDTA, some manufacturers of cleaning solutions are now adding citric acid as an alternative. Citric acid is a very safe chelating agent used in some traditional and environmentally preferable cleaning solutions.

But going a step further, cleaning solutions made with citrus, such as those marketed by ProNatural Brands, are now considered the highest performing and safest cleaning solutions to use. These LEXX® brand products clean, sanitize, and disinfect effectively, whether the water is hard or soft.

Along with containing very sustainable ingredients, citrus-based cleaning solutions are also readily biodegradable because they are made from citrus fruits. This means citric-based cleaning solutions break down, leaving little or no impact on the environment.

The big takeaway

When evaluating professional cleaning solutions, cleaning professionals need to determine the following four things about the products:

1.       If they perform and are effective.

2.       If they are cost-effective.

3.       If they are environmentally friendly and responsible.

4.       If they are made from sustainable ingredients.

Cleaning solutions containing EDTA or similar ingredients may perform, may be effective, and may be cost-effective. But they are not environmentally friendly and are made from chemical compounds that do not contain sustainable ingredients.  For your safety and the health and safety of your customers, it will be best to use citrus-based cleaning solutions.

ProNatural Brand’s products keep surfaces clean and our planet untouched. To learn more and how we can help you, click here.


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