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Importance Of The PH Scale To Detailing : Part 3 – All Purpose Cleaners


This is part 3 of a three-part series in which I cover the PH Scale. Click here to check out all of these articles!

When you look at laundry detergents, they require a rinse cycle for a reason.  A wash cycle is not sufficient enough to remove laundry detergent.  You will be wearing soap and dirt.  Without a rinse cycle your clothes will not get clean.  This is equally important with detailing supplies that are very alkaline.  Also, not all laundry detergents are created equal.  There are overall more gentle options for delicate clothes.  Some detergents are even advertised specifically for dark colors.  These products which come at a higher cost, preserve the vibrancy of your attire.  Your favorite shirt will not fade or fade as fast essentially!  You have the same options when choosing a selection of unique automotive all-purpose cleaners and or dedicated automotive cleaners.

Toyota Corolla

When I am evaluating an all-purpose cleaner or degreaser, I will research for safe use on a variety of surfaces.  Leather, for example, would be one surface I would evaluate for safety.  This is not because I want to use a nondedicated leather cleaner on that surface.  In fact, it would still be more of a last resort on perforated leather only.  But it is clue that this can be a safer option on more delicate engine bays, wheels, and some interior plastics when a more aggressive option is needed.  It is a clue as to whether or not I am dealing with a caustic and overall cheap product, potentially damaging the working area or surrounding area.  Even if it is a respected product from a reputable brand, if I am working with a very alkaline cleaner, I am going to be very mindful of where I spray the product and dwell time.  This is another reason why I like spraying products in towels or other applicators.

All Purpose Cleaners On Fabric

Sometimes the strength of all-purpose cleaner is appropriate for heavily soiled fabrics.  I tend to use dedicated Fabric Cleaners for the most part for two reasons.

With an only mildly alkaline product, removing any remaining surfactant (soap) residue would not require as much work to remove after cleaning.  Many people do not realize that using a high alkaline cleaner (PH 13) like Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner D101, means I will need to use another product to neutralize the product.  When using cleaners like D101 they require a Fiber Rinse product which neutralizes the higher alkaline cleaner.  Using this product to bring the PH back to neutral allows you to remove the soap.  Imagine washing your clothes without a rinse cycle.  Due to the nature of carpets and fabric, in general, this is a necessary process to remove the cleaner.

Meguiars Fiber Rinse & Tannin Stain Remover is not just a Fiber Rinse product.  It addresses coffee, tea, wine, some fruit juices, and similar type stains.  Meguiars recommend you use this product first.  Tannin stain a stain made up of the dye or certain pigments in foods.  These tannin stains can become permanent marks in your carpet if a strong APC is being used.  Many people go directly after stains with an aggressive all-purpose cleaner and consequentially set a tannin stain.

When cleaning interiors it is important to know what you are dealing with in regards to stains before using something VERY alkaline.

Steam cleaning can be great, as it can increase the cleaning power of the chemical used with it.  But if you are using an all-purpose cleaner on the wrong stain it will increase the likelihood of you setting a stain.  I have worked on many interiors where the car was worked on by the owner or likely had another detailer detail the vehicle, which had stains that appeared to be set. Those permanent stains could be the product of time spent on the surface.  But they could also have been set from the use of an aggressive alkaline cleaner.

unkown stain

Although Meguiars D101 is advertised to work on a variety of interior automotive surfaces, the product listed at a PH of 13 is very alkaline.  I personally only use it for heavily soiled carpets and fabrics that would ideally be suited for a strong alkaline cleaner (being mindful of overspray in nearby areas). I would not recommend directly spraying this product directly on plastics, or leaving on plastics via long dwell times.

Meguiars has a nice PDF download available when looking up the following products (below):  on how to effectively use their cleaners in a way address a variety of stains and not set them.

For door panel plastics that need and many other areas (interior and exterior) that require a more aggressive approach, I have been a big fan of Gtechniq W5 Citrus All Purpose Cleaner.  It is a milder product than Meguiar’s D101.  That does not mean, stray from the manufacturer’s instructions.  But I use this product more comfortably than other products with the label all-purpose type cleaner.


Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
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4 comments on Importance Of The PH Scale To Detailing : Part 3 – All Purpose Cleaners

  1. Steve says:

    Great series on product PH!
    It is a terrible feeling damaging your vehicle when you are working hard to improve it.
    Only thing worse would be to damage someone else vehicle, especially when its your livelihood.
    Thanks and keep the articles coming.

  2. Zack Bell says:

    On SDS sheets, the pH listed is for the product undiluted correct? If so, diluting the product would essentially lower the pH. I am thinking correctly?

    • Adam says:

      Correct on both, but pH is a logarithmic scale. To reduce the pH by 1 point you would have to dilute 10:1. To reduce by 2 points it would be 100:1, 3 points would be 1000:1.

      Realistically for detailing products you can only change the pH by a small amount via dilution.

  3. Dallis Gilbert says:

    I just bought a 2013 suburban from a dealership. The detailing job they did left the carpet stiff and it feels full of soap or residue. Also everything on the interior is sticky. The dashboard, steering wheel, all the vinyl and leather seats are sticky….. Do you think they used something that damaged the interior, or do you think I can fix it? What products should I use? Thanks in advance for any advice.

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