Don’t be too quick to cut out elbow grease

May 2020

September 2019

Agitation – more or less?

Agitation is something that most of us try and get less of in our lives, however when it comes to cleaning we don’t want to cut this back. What we’re referring to as agitation is simply the scrubbing or the physical loosening of soiling on the surface and this can be anything from cleaning with a brush or scouring pad right through to blasting high pressure water at the soil. A lot of cleaning tasks can simply not be done without physical agitation – there are no other practical solutions without it.


The CHAT principle

Agitation is the third element in the CHAT pie which I’ll explain for you a bit further. What the chat acronym stands for is chemical, heat, agitation and time – the four elements make up the complete cleaning equation and what the general rule does if you lessen one you need to make up for it in the others – in other words if you’re trying to clean with no chemical or very little chemical – the heat, agitation and time need to form bigger parts of the pie to get a complete cleaning result.


Smart elbow grease

You don’t need to scrub hard or for a long time if you use the right product for a specific surface and soiling. That’s why it’s very important to understand the surface type you are cleaning – some can scratch very easily, and some rough or porous surfaces need more agitation.


Scraping first

Depending on soil and surface type, scraping first is usually an advantage as your aim is complete soil removal in the shortest time. This is especially good for hard stuck on soils. The objective is to remove as much as possible with scraping before having to use a more time-consuming method. Remember that not all scrapers are steel – we have a big range of plastic scrapers – some that will even handle 250°C without melting.


Wiping – a soft scraper

Wiping is the best principle because it covers a lot of surface area at once – the time per square metre of cleaning is less than detailed brushing or other methods of agitation. This won’t apply in every situation but is a general observation. The other good thing about wiping is that using a tool like a microfibre cloth collects the soil rather than just loosening it.


Scrub-a-dub-dub – using brushes for agitation

Brushes are good for stubborn soils without damaging surface however remember to use the right shape brush and the right bristle stiffness for the task you are doing. A common misconception with brushes is the harder you push, the better the agitation – this is true up to the point where the bristle starts folding over and the side of the bristle starts contacting the surface being cleaned. This means all the tension energy is lost on the bristles, your brush will be damaged if you keep using it in this way and you will get poor cleaning performance. This is especially noticed when cleaning inside pipes or tubes – DON’T use an oversized brush – the diameter of the bristles needs to match the internal ID of the pipe.


A good scratch

Scouring pads can be brilliant agitators or soil looseners, but please be careful of surface damage. We have seen so many food factories with freezer panel wall surfaces with no coating left – they’re right through to the metal, as it’s been scratched away by scourers. Using a surface scratcher gets you into a vicious circle – you scratch away the soil and damage the surface which makes it harder to clean next time. So, then you scratch harder to remove the ‘more stuck on’ soil which damages it further and around we go again. There are multiple levels of coarseness with scouring pads just like you get with sandpaper, so make sure you talk to your supplier about which one is best for your particular job.


Blast off

Using water pressure is another form of agitation which is quite different to the tool touching the surface. The benefits of this method, if the pressure is sufficient to remove the soil, is the quality of the job and speed of removal. Be careful though not to cause surface damage with too high a pressure and be warned about ‘aerosoling’ – the tendency of high-pressure water to spread soil everywhere. Your object might be clean, but you’ve just shifted the soil all over the surrounding environment.


There are numerous forms of agitation, many different surface types and even more soil types. Don’t be confused by all this though – simply enter a few details in the form below and one of our solutions team will be in touch with you ASAP.


Post by Dayle Senior