Floor strippers can be some of the most hazardous chemicals that a cleaning professional uses, and the reason why shouldn’t come as a surprise. Floor strippers need to literally strip floor finish from the floor, which often involves removing layers and layers of wax. To do this, it’s necessary for a stripper to be a powerful chemical; however, the components of a floor stripper that make it so effective can be harmful to the health of those using it.
Common ingredients in a floor stripper:
Also known as “butyl”, 2-butoxyethanol is a solvent that has both water soluble and oil soluble properties; this solvent emulsifies the floor finish so it can be more easily picked up. People using a floor stripper can be exposed to 2-butoxyethanol through skin absorption or inhalation. This solvent can adversely affect specific organs in the body, including the kidneys and the central nervous system, and overexposure can sometimes cause dizziness.
Caustics (Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide)
Caustic agents include sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). Caustics are responsible for the high pH of floor strippers, which are usually around pH 13-14. Caustics help to remove the floor finish by breaking down the bonds in polymers within the finish. While this high pH is usually necessary in order for the stripper to work, it also contributes significantly to the hazards of the stripper. Anything with a pH above 11.5 is considered corrosive, and getting a floor stripper on your skin or in your eyes can cause irritation or burns.
Ammonia, which is most commonly recognized by its strong odor, functions in a floor stripper by breaking up the zinc cross-linking between polymers. However, recently manufacturers have begun replacing ammonia with substitutes, such as monoethanolamine (MEA). MEA and other amines function comparably to ammonia in a stripper formulation, but without the awful odor.
Recently, there has been a push for safer, greener options for floor strippers, especially in schools. Third-party certifications such as Green Seal and EPA’s Design for the Environment provide requirements for manufacturers of strippers that result in products that safer for both the end user and the environment. This includes using safer ingredients. For example, benzyl alcohol is a safer alternative to 2-butoxyethanol and other solvents common in strippers.
Multi-Clean offers two safer floor strippers. Ultra Stripper is a non-corrosive, low-odor stripper and is Green Seal certified. Jolt is a powerful, 90% active stripper that can remove the heaviest buildup of finish. Both of these safer strippers have a pH of 10-11 and are formulated without butyl, caustics, or ammonia.
For more information about Multi-Clean’s floor strippers, visit the Floor Care Webpage.