Acidic Detergent in Wetcleaning

I have always emphasized the importance of chemicals in wetcleaning. With good chemicals, not only the quality goes up, but also the problems go way down. But the reality is that so many people find wetcleaning difficult due to lack of understanding of chemicals. So I will start a series in wetcleaning chemicals, starting with the detergent.

Problems with alkaline detergents

Most of detergents used in the shop are alkaline by nature. Alkaline detergents break down protein stains and are effective in removing food stains. They are also good for removing ground-in dirt. But alkalinity has two fatal flaws. First, its ability to break down protein stains can damage silk, wool and leather because all animal fibers are made of protein.

Secondly, alkaline detergents are likely to cause color bleeding. The higher the pH, the more dangerous it is to colors. This characteristic is the reason why so many new wetcleaners experience color-related problems.

To avoid such problems, many companies have developed detergents with lower pH but most still run on the alkaline side. Also water in most US cities run alkaline. That’s why even neutral detergents sometimes cause color problems in fine-colored silk, wool or cashmere.

Benefits of an acidic detergent

An acidic detergent is a relatively new concept. It is tricky to be acidic and have a good cleaning power. Aqua Master detergent that I’ve developed has a pH of 1.5. That means it is many times more acidic than acetic acids. Yet it is safe for skin, color and fabric. This detergent when mixed with water becomes mildly acidic with pH of 5~6. Its special formula offers several benefits.

▲ Breaks down mineral stains

The pictures shows the benefit of an acidic detergent clearly. Pennies when exposed to air and moisture turns dark due to oxidation. The picture on the right shows pennies in a alkaline soap solution. The one on the left shows pennies in Aqua Master solution. In as little as 10 minutes, the penny became shinier.

Many stains are made of minerals. For example, perspiration and urine contains calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These minerals can cause bad odor when exposed to air. And an acidic detergent is one of the most effective way of removing them.

I’m sure you’ve smelled an unpleasant odor when pressing and that tells you your cleaning process did not remove stains from our body. Yellowing in the underarm area also shows minerals in perspiration weren’t completely removed.

An acidic detergent is also very effective in processing smoke-damaged items. These items require a complete removal of smoke from the fabric. Most of the times, an acidic detergent can do that in just one wash.

▲ Prevent color loss

Color loss is a chronic problem for cleaners. One of the reason why it is so is because it is not easy to pick out a bad dye job. I bet a dress with white top with black bottom will make you nervous. Some of you might even refuse to clean it.

With an acidic detergent, color loss is seldom an issue because it helps set the dye. This also means you will have less fading problems in jeans and dark color shirts.

▲ Brighten colors

Keeping whites white and colors bright is easier said than done. In fact, most dry cleaners take some loss of brightness granted. But your customers won’t.

An acidic detergent will brighten the color as you see in the picture. Added optical brightener really makes them pop.

▲ Gentle on skin

Customers with sensitive skin can experience itchiness, especially around neck, underarm and crotch area. Human skin is acidic with pH of 5.5. And an alkaline detergent can cause allergic reaction.

An acidic detergent is skin-friendly. At my shop, I never had a complaint of itchiness in the last 10 years. Some customers who went to other shops came back because of this. Once I explain the benefits of an acidic detergent, they become a loyal customer. I think caring for customers’ health is one sure way of establishing a long-term relationship.

Yangsoo Kim

Yangsoo Kim

The author is the developer of Aqua Master wet cleaning chemicals and is currently operating Green Life Cleaners, a 100% wet cleaning service. You can contact him by phone (201) 699-7227 or email at

Click the ad to connect by phone