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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cleaning Windows with Silphos A-100

Silphos A-100 is a silicone based superwetting anionic detergent.  Dawn is an ordinary carbon based detergent blend based on two different anionic surfactants;...sodium laureth sulfate and sodium laurel sulfate.  It also has not more than one percent sodium hydroxide (lye).  Anionics are typically used in glass cleaning formulas because they carry a negative charge.  Glass surfaces also have a negative charge.  So an anionic cleaning solution tends to be repelled by glass and will not leave as much of a film as even a nonionic detergent such as an LAE or what is also known as a linear alcohol ethoxylate.  

Silphos A-100 just like Dawn then does not leave hardly any film.  It also is a fantastic superwetter.  Which means that you only need to put a teaspoon in two gallons of water to get adequate glide and suds.  In contrast you would have to use way more Dawn to get the same results.  Of course Dawn is also way easier to get.  Just go to the local supermarket and buy a small bottle.  Over in the UK there are other products that are based on a very similar chemistry.  Other parts of the world the same I am sure.  But Silphos A-100 which is made and sold by  is only available in a five gallon pail or a fifty five gallon drum.  The cost runs around 85 to 90 dollars per gallon.  When you consider how incredibly little you would actually use in a bucket the total expense is very little.

After researching the four different surfactant families (which are the anionics, amphoterics, nonionics, and cationics) I discovered that Dawn was based on two anionics.  Then I learned the basic reason why the anionics are likely so effective at cleaning glass.  They also yield the most suds.  Of course I did test out the other families and did determine that they leave a totally unacceptable film.  Dawn really was the best.  This is what tempted me to look for a silicone (silicon based) anionic detergent.  I wanted to see if I would get "similar" results to Dawn.  

I actually did.  I have a rather large store route.  And I have a couple of stores that are rather problematic.  Meaning if any window will streak it would be those stores.  So I use them for testing.  It was summer time, rather hot, and the glass was dark.  I discovered as long as I used plenty of water there was no streaking with Silphos A-100.  But if the water dried too quickly streaking indeed became a problem.  Dawn on the other hand did not cause this problem.  The bottom line here is under extreme conditions when the glass is too hot Silphos A-100 will streak but with litle to no film.  Dawn will actually do this too but hardly ever.  

Many years ago window cleaners used to use TSP (trisodium phosphate).  Which creates fantastic glide.  No suds.  Although it does cause bleed out from the edges of the window.  Especially on humid days.  And will cause some streaking in the hot sun which leaves white lines.  These can be annoying but do wipe right off dry.  TSP also leaves no film.  So no film but some streaking.  Very interesting.  Very similar to Silphos A-100.  Little to no film but streaking under extreme hot sunny conditions.

The ultimate bottom line of course is we should use what we want to use.  Whatever works best for us.  I have experimented with SO many different commercial and pure detergents over the years.  I mean so many.  Then finally it has come down to Dawn.  Sometimes with a little clear ammonia for extra glide.  I like the lemon scented ammonia. 

Written by Henry Grover Jr.

Glass Smart Consulting

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