December 08, 2023

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Cold Weather and Your Cleaning Chemicals

Cold Weather and Your Cleaning Chemicals

by Linda Chambers, Soap Warehouse/GCE Chemical,

With winter comes colder temperatures, which requires additional considerations and allowances when it comes to keeping your chemicals cleaning to their best capabilities.

How Cold Affects Chemicals

1. Solubility. No matter the weather, when you first mix up a chemical solution you should be sure to use warm, tepid water. What is “tepid?” It’s water that is at least body temp, or roughly 96 to 98 degrees F.

You need warm water to properly dissolve chemical ingredients into solution, even when mixing a liquid with water. But saying “dissolve” – when used in its most technical sense – may not actually be correct. That’s because some ingredients, such as those containing certain fats and oils, will not actually dissolve in water; however, they can be made small enough to be put into suspension to be considered “dissolved” since you will not be able to see them separate from the rest of the mixture.

Dissolving depends on the solvent, i.e., the molecules of the substance that is doing the dissolving. For the most part, this will only be water. The substance being dissolved is called a “solute,” which in your case will be a soap concentrate or the separate chemical ingredients you are putting together with water to make your cleaning solution. The extent to which a substance is able to dissolve is called “solubility.” Water is a good dissolver because of its large area of positive and negatively charged particles. Dissolution is caused by the mutual attraction between water molecules and other substances with equal positive and negatively charged particles. For many ingredients, mixing in cold water will greatly increase the mixing time needed and may never completely get you the results you need.

Think of trying to dissolve a packet of hot cocoa in a cup of cold tap water versus hot water. The powder just sits on top and no matter how long you stir the powder in the cup, you can still find small clumps of undissolved powder when you try to drink it. Same thing with chemical solutions. If not properly dissolved and mixed you will be losing a certain amount of the chemicals needed to properly give you the cleaning reaction you want and need.

2. Changes in temperature. When working in colder temperatures, you have to think about how the temperature of the water changes from when you mix it with your cleaning solution to the temperature it is when it comes in contact with the surface and dirt you’re trying to remove.

When mixing two liquids together – as you are doing when using a pressure washer – the plain water running through the machine and your chemical mix have different densities. These densities change based on temperature. so your mixture ratios will vary slightly when using the same cleaning mixture if you are using a cold water washer versus a hot water machine. Using hot water reduces the amount of chemical you will need.

A warmer solution also reduces the amount of cleaner needed because the heat also increases the cleaning reaction of the ingredients in the solution. Warmer water will also allow the dissolved dirts to be rinse from the surface you are cleaning faster as well.


3. Freezing Chemicals. If you read the SDS for your chemicals, many warn to not allow them to freeze. But what does this really mean? Should you just throw out any mixture that freezes? Should you let it thaw and then use it without issue? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you for sure one way or the other. Each product will be different. If it was bought as a made product, call and ask the manufacturer or the dealer you purchased that product from.

I can say you should never use a product that is in a partially-frozen state. In part, this is because some ingredients may have a lower freezing temp than others in the same mixture. In these cases, if you use it with some frozen slush in it you will not get the same cleaning results. In fact, it may be that the active ingredients are what frozen and you are only applying the inert and building parts of the product, so you’ll see little to no results.

You can even have a product separate out of solution due to cold above freezing. So, if you can see striations or different color levels in your product, you should warm it up and mix it thoroughly before use.

Many water-based cleaners will be ruined by freezing due to the fact that the product’s normal chemical bonds are destroyed or broken apart by freezing and will not go back together even when thawed. Other times, a product may continue to work after thawing but at a lower capacity. In other words, you have to use more of it to get the results of the original solution.

Products with a lot of polymers will never be the same and should be discarded according to the product label. These would be items like sealers, protective coating products, oil based stains, etc.

If you have been told a product can be used again after it has frozen and has completely thawed, you should still warm the solution a tepid temperature and thoroughly mix it again before trying to use.

Keeping Your Chemicals from Freezing

Bring your chemicals or your entire rig inside a heated (above 40 degrees) area when not being used.

Keep your chemicals from being chilled by air while driving. Remember, a wind chill will be colder than the air temperature. I have heard of containers starting to freeze at temperatures above 32 degrees, so have them in an enclosed lock box or behind a wind screen on an open rig. You can use insulation under and around containers to help to keep them from freezing but you should not put direct heating units like heating pads, heat sticks or heat lamps in or on containers as prolonged heat can also damage cleaning solutions.

I hope all of you that have to work during the winter will keep all these facts in mind so your cleaners will get you the results you need.


About the Author

Linda Chambers is the Brand & Sales Manager for Soap Warehouse brand soaps, part of Georgia Chemical Equipment Company. She enjoys writing articles, blogging, marketing for the company websites, and social media. To learn more, visit



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