What Gives CLEAN its ‘Oomph’? The Answer Is pH

Updated: Sep 1

How Acidity and Alkalinity – and Beer – Impact Cleaning

Cleaning different surfaces or grime requires a different approach. While this is fairly common knowledge, what is less commonly understood is the impact that pH has on your success. How acidic or how basic (or alkaline) a cleaning solution is can dramatically influence how well a cleaning product or approach works on different kinds of dirt or materials.

So, What Is pH?

pH stands for the “potential of hydrogen,” and indicates if a solution is acidic or alkaline, also known as basic. This is measured on a 14-point scale: a pH of 7 is neutral, with acids measuring less than 7 and alkalines measuring higher than 7. But where did pH come from? The answer may make you want to crack a beer.

Dr. Søren Sørensen, working as the head of The Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark, first introduced the pH scale in 1909, as the Science History Institute reports. Sørensen was working at the time to determine how ion concentrations impacted protein analysis and introduced this new standard scale.

The lab itself was named after its largest benefactor – Carlsberg beer. The brewery supported the lab’s operations, and in fact, the company still lists the lab on its website today:

“The principal task of The Carlsberg Laboratory shall be to develop as complete a scientific basis as possible for malting, brewing and fermenting operations.” – J.C. Jacobsen, founder of Carlsberg

So in some ways, the way we choose a detergent solution relies on innovations brought to us by beer.

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