Basic principles in cleaning. 
With thanks to Dr Robin Temmerman, PhD in Microbiology

Why cleaning?

Two main reasons for cleaning: 

  • Esthetical aspect: The visual attractivenessaof a surface. Think of cleaning windows, cars… 
  • Functional aspect: Th ecleaning of a surface before a specific threatment can be applied. Think of degreasing before painting. 

Wat is “cleaning”?

Cleaning is the displacement of dirt, grime. The dirt has tob e moved from point A (where it does not belong) to point B (where it belongs)

To be able to do this, the dirt has to:

- be detached from the surface
- be made transportable
- be transported.

To do this, 4 principles are important. These are summarised in “The circle of Sinner”.

Circle of Sinner:

De effectiveness of the cleaning is always determined by 4 factors:  

  • Chemical action
  • Time
  • Temperature
  • Mechanical action 

These parameters are presented by the German chemicus Sinner in a circle. The circle represents the cleaning process. In an ideal situation, all 4 factors are equally important. (figure 1). Such a situation is very rare. The emphasis is mostly on a or a few factors combined.

circle sinnerFigure 1 - Circle of Sinner

Chemical action (detergency)

This is about the detergent used. De chemistry of detergents is handled in detail in  the next chapter.


This means the total time needed to perform the cleaning. This includes:

- the preparation
- the application of the product
- the incubation time
- the operating time
- the rinsing
- the drying
- the cleanup


This concerns the temperature of the applied product, the temperature of the surface to be cleaned, the rinse water temperature, the ambient temperature, ...

Generally, the higher the temperature, the better the cleaning. Of course there is a maximum on the temperature, depending on the application..

Mechanical action

This is the method of cleaning:

- Atomising and take up
- Edit with sponge
- Pressure washer
- Degreasing baths
- Scrub and mop
- Sweepers
- Carpet cleaning machines
- ...

The choice of proper mechanical action largely determines the result of the cleaning.

An optimal completion of the circle of Sinner ensures efficient cleaning. It should always be borne in mind that if one reduces the proportion of one factor (eg time), this must be combined with the increase of another factor (eg temperature). be continued