Cleaning & Maintenance

What does the pH value mean for cleaning products?


The pH value plays an important role in the effective removal of dirt or deposits. It is different for each situation when you should use an acidic, neutral or alkaline product. Do you know when to choose which cleaning product?

pH-scale Cartec

What is pH?

The pH is a value on a scale between 0 and 14 and indicates whether a product is acidic, neutral or alkaline. A strongly acidic product has a value of 0 and is used, for example, to remove lime and fly rust. PH-neutral products have a value of around 7 and are safe to use. Tap water, for example, has a pH value of 7. A strong alkaline product has a pH value of 14. These products are very suitable for removing grease, oil and (street) dirt.


A strong acidic product has a low pH between 0 and 3. These products are suitable for removing calcium deposits and rust particles, such as brake dust. These products can also be used to remove extreme dirt. For example, an acid cleaner is used to clean a washing hall where there is a lot of chalk. But also for heavy brake dust on rims. Because acid dissolves chalk well, it is even used to remove cement or concrete. Sometimes you can see immediately on the floor of a wash bay whether an acidic product was used to wash it, because the concrete is damaged. This is the reason why Cartec has developed a powerful alkaline wheel cleaner for the removal of brake dust. See also the section on pH value range 11 to 14.

The pH value of products is measured with precise equipment in Cartec’s laboratory.

One must be careful in the use of strong acidic products. Sensitive parts of a car, such as aluminum frames and chrome parts can be damaged by improper use. Therefore, always use these products according to the instructions and rinse well with water afterwards.

Examples of Cartec products within this range are Acid Clean, AC-80 and Royal Clean.

See the catalog for all products within this range.


A slightly acidic product has a pH value between 3 and 6. This is where wax-based products are found in particular. The slightly acidic pH improves the stability of wax products and increases their durability. This is a positive development, because everyone wants a wax layer on their car that lasts as long as possible.

Examples of Cartec products within this range are Splash Shampoo and Royal Shield.


Neutral products have a pH value between 6 and 8. These are mainly mild car shampoos, products that are used when washing the car manually. Because of its neutral pH, it is not harmful to the skin or to the materials of the car. Cartec Iron Wash, however, is an ingenious product. This product is pH neutral, but does dissolve iron particles such as brake dust.

Examples of Cartec products within this range are Iron Wash and Royal Foam.


A slightly alkaline product has a pH value between 8 and 11. These are cleaning products which on the one hand work safely, but on the other hand also dissolve road dirt or grease well. You see this type of dirt during a normal car wash, but also during interior- or glass cleaning.

Examples of our products within this range are Glass Cleaner and Interior Cleaner.


A strong alkaline product has a pH value between 11 and 14. These products can be aggressive but also very suitable for the removal of oil, grease and traffic dirt. The products work fast and effectively, but in case of improper use, fragile parts of the car can be damaged. Therefore, always use these products according to the instructions and rinse well with water afterwards.

Examples of Cartec products within this range are Wheel Cleaner and Royal Forte.

Safe handling of acid and alkaline cleaning products

With acidic and alkaline cleaning products it is very important to wear suitable protective equipment such as gloves. The products are corrosive to skin and eyes and can lead to serious physical damage if used incorrectly. In addition, it is also important to be careful with materials on the cars. Untreated aluminum, for example, is very sensitive to acid and alkaline agents. The rule of thumb is often; the more expensive the car, the greater the chance of sensitive parts, such as alloy wheels, door frames, exhausts, and so on. So working safely is very important.

Furthermore, never mix acid and alkaline agents. Both cleaners lose their effect, but worse than that is that a violent chemical reaction can takes place which leads to heat and in the most extreme case, to danger of explosion. In addition, the vapor that is released can be very harmful to your health. So don’t do it…

Handschoenen schoonmaken Cartec

Conclusion: choose the right pH value and the right cleaning product

The pH value provides important information for finding the right product for the pollution. By being aware of this you can save time and money, achieve a better end result and prevent unnecessary damage. Note that the pH value does not say everything about the result of a cleaning product. The most-important factors are the raw materials that a product is made of and how these raw materials relate to each other in a formula. For example, a product to remove rust, normally with a pH value of 0 to 3, may now suddenly have a pH value of 6 to 7, like the example of Cartec Iron Wash. So don’t only look at the pH value, but also read carefully the commercial description of a cleaning product to find out how it works.

Ready for more tips? Read more about washing the car here.

Bram Willemsen

Responsible for the online marketing at Cartec. He likes to write about new product introductions and keeps a close eye on developments in the car care branche. Is a lover of good content.


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