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Water-Based vs. Solvent-Based Cleaners: When to Use Each

The debate between water-based and solvent-based cleaners is as old as the products themselves. But, which type of cleaning product is best for you? Below, we’ll explain the similarities, differences, and distinct performance properties of each to help you make the best decision for your next cleaning project.

What is a Water-Based Cleaner?

Water is the primary component of water-based cleaners. For the most part, they’re used for everyday cleaning tasks and are much more environmentally friendly compared to solvent-based cleaners.

In case you’re wondering where to find the best water based cleaners, you won’t have to look far. Some of the most popular types include all-purpose cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor cleaners, dishwashing liquids, upholstery cleaners, and more.

Common Ingredients in Water-Based Cleaners

Similar to water-based paint, water-based cleaners don’t just consist of plain water by itself. Rather, their make up usually includes a mix of water, detergents, pigments and specific additives. Though, the exact ingredients depend on the individual products and their manufacturers.

One of the most significant advantages of water-based cleaners is their lack of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In chemistry, the term “volatile” refers to a substance that can vaporize at low temperatures, allowing dangerous particles to evaporate into the surrounding air.

The lack of VOCs makes water-based solutions a preferred choice in environments where air quality is a concern or if cleaning must take place in an area that is not well ventilated. This helps to ensure users aren’t exposed to potentially harmful chemicals.

What is a Solvent-Based Cleaner?

A solvent is the main active ingredient of a solvent-based solution. But what is a solvent? Generally speaking, a solvent is a substance that can dissolve another substance. There are many types of solvents defined & differentiated by their chemical structures, specifically the presence or absence of carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds.

If you’re dealing with tough, stubborn, greasy, and oily residue, solvent-based cleaners are typically the most efficient solution for the task.

Common Ingredients in Solvent-Based Cleaners

Solvent-based cleaners usually have ingredients like solvent paints, alkyds, urethanes, and epoxies. Due to these properties, these solutions typically have higher levels of VOCs in comparison to their water-based counterparts.

In many cases, this makes them highly effective (in certain situations) while simultaneously making them more potentially dangerous. This is why experts recommend caution and adequate ventilation when using them.

What are the Differences Between Water- and Solvent-Based Cleaners?

Both of these cleaners can get the job done, but they’re generally used under different circumstances. Further, a person might choose to use a water based cleaner over a solvent-based solution due to their health, their animals, and environmental concerns.

Generally, here are some key differences between the two types of products:

Determining the Ideal Cleaner for Your Fabric

Choosing the right type of cleaner all comes down to the project itself. Some situations are more suited to water-based cleaners, while others require solvent-based solutions. Let’s take a look at when each type is most beneficial.

When are Water-Based Cleaners Most Effective?

For starters, if you have environmental or health concerns, water-based cleaners might always be your go to option. Water-based cleaners are typically best in scenarios where:

  • The fabric being cleaned is delicate & may react adversely to harsh chemicals
  • The environment is low ventilation, or requires you to maintain low VOC emissions
  • Safe, straight-forward, multi-purpose cleaning is the goal

Trivantage offers cutting-edge, water-based cleaner technology like Sunbrella® Clean Multi-Purpose Fabric Cleaner, ideal for everyday dirt & grime while helping to maintain the look, feel, and features of Sunbrella fabric.

When are Solvent-Based Cleaners Most Effective?

For starters, if you have environmental or health concerns, water-based cleaners might always be your go to option. Water-based cleaners are typically best in scenarios where:

  • The fabric being cleaned is resilient and won’t react negatively to the solvent
  • Intensive cleaning of hard to remove, greasy, or oily stains is necessary
  • You want to add a protective layer or clear coat after cleaning the surface
  • Quick drying is essential

Trivantage is stocked with a variety of highly-effective, solvent-based cleaners including Sunbrella Extract Oil Based Stain Remover, a fantastic choice for removing tough, set-in oil-based stains from Sunbrella fabric. 303® Multi-Surface Cleaner is another tried-and-true, solvent-based product trusted to clean virtually any water-safe fabric & rinse free of residue.

In the wide and ever-changing world of cleaning agents, your choice between water-based and solvent-based cleaners usually depends on the task at hand. When you have a clear understanding of the type of stain, surface, and ideal outcome, it’ll be easy to decide which is best for you. Though, you should be sure to always stick to manufacturer guidelines and keep environmental considerations at the top of mind.

Want to learn more about choosing the right cleaners and protectants? Check out our comprehensive cleaning guide today!

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