What is a solvent-based cleaner?

Home and Garden

A solvent-based cleaner is a type of cleaning product that uses solvents as its main active ingredient. Solvents are chemical substances that have the ability to dissolve or disperse other substances. They are commonly used in cleaning products due to their ability to break down and remove various types of dirt, grease, oil, and other contaminants.

The role of solvents in cleaning

Solvents play a crucial role in the cleaning process by effectively dissolving and removing unwanted substances from surfaces. They work by breaking down the molecular bonds between the dirt or stain and the surface, allowing it to be easily wiped or rinsed away. Solvent-based cleaners are particularly effective at removing tough stains and residues that water-based cleaners may struggle to tackle.

Advantages of solvent-based cleaners

There are several advantages to using solvent-based cleaners:

  • Effective on a wide range of substances: Solvent-based cleaners can effectively remove various types of contaminants, including oils, greases, adhesives, paints, and inks.
  • Quick and efficient cleaning: Solvents work rapidly, allowing for fast and efficient cleaning of surfaces.
  • Deep penetration: Solvents have the ability to penetrate deeply into porous surfaces, ensuring thorough cleaning.
  • Non-aqueous: Solvent-based cleaners do not contain water, which can be advantageous for cleaning delicate surfaces that may be sensitive to moisture.
  • Evaporates easily: Solvents typically evaporate quickly, leaving little to no residue behind.

Common types of solvents used in cleaners

There are various types of solvents used in solvent-based cleaners, each with its own unique properties and applications. Some common types of solvents include:

1. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. They are commonly used as solvents in cleaning products due to their ability to dissolve a wide range of substances. However, VOCs can contribute to air pollution and may have health and environmental risks, so their use is regulated in many countries.

2. Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons are compounds made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms. They are commonly derived from petroleum and are used as solvents in many cleaning products. Hydrocarbon solvents are effective in removing oils, greases, and other hydrophobic substances.

3. Alcohols

Alcohols, such as ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, are commonly used as solvents in cleaning products. They are effective in dissolving oils, greases, and other organic substances. Alcohols are often used in disinfectant cleaners due to their antimicrobial properties.

4. Glycol ethers

Glycol ethers are a group of solvents that are commonly used in cleaning products. They are effective in dissolving various substances, including oils, greases, and paints. Glycol ethers are known for their low toxicity and excellent solvency power.

SP20 Solvent-based Cleaner & Degreaser

HB42 How To: Use Solvent Cleaner

Applications of solvent-based cleaners

Solvent-based cleaners find applications in various industries and household settings. Some common applications include:

1. Industrial cleaning

Solvent-based cleaners are widely used in industrial settings for degreasing and cleaning machinery, equipment, and parts. They are effective in removing heavy oils, greases, and other contaminants that can hinder the performance of industrial equipment.

2. Automotive cleaning

Solvent-based cleaners are commonly used in automotive cleaning products, such as engine degreasers and tar removers. They are effective in removing stubborn stains, grease, and grime from automotive surfaces.

3. Paint and coating removal

Solvent-based cleaners are often used for removing paints, varnishes, and other coatings from surfaces. They can effectively dissolve and soften these substances, making them easier to scrape or wash off.

4. Household cleaning

Solvent-based cleaners can be found in various household cleaning products, including stain removers, adhesive removers, and oven cleaners. They are effective in removing tough stains, sticky residues, and baked-on greases.

Safety considerations

While solvent-based cleaners can be highly effective in cleaning, it is important to use them with caution and follow safety guidelines. Some key safety considerations include:

1. Adequate ventilation

When using solvent-based cleaners, ensure that the area is well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of vapors. Open windows or use ventilation systems to ensure the proper exchange of air.

2. Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection, when using solvent-based cleaners to minimize skin contact and eye irritation.

3. Storage and disposal

Store solvent-based cleaners in a cool, dry place away from sources of ignition. Dispose of any unused or expired products according to local regulations.

4. Compatibility with surfaces

Some solvent-based cleaners may be incompatible with certain surfaces or materials. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations and test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area before use.


Solvent-based cleaners are highly effective in removing various types of dirt, grease, and contaminants from surfaces. They utilize solvents as their main active ingredient, which have the ability to dissolve and disperse unwanted substances. By understanding the different types of solvents used in cleaners, their applications, and safety considerations, users can make informed decisions when selecting and using solvent-based cleaning products.

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