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Even cleaning professionals, who daily mix (dilute) concentrated chemicals with water to produce working solutions, sometimes become confused by dilution ratios. Mix 1:4? 1:32? What do they mean?


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Rule #1: When working with these ratios, the lower number always represents the concentrated chemical and the higher number the volume of water into which it is to be mixed. Turn it around and there will be an enormous waste of chemical and other consequences such as overwhelming foam, surface damage, or even extreme product toxicity!

Rule #2: Remember the basic volume breakdown of a gallon. One gallon equals 4 quarts=8 pints=16 (8oz.) cups=128 ounces (oz.) Don’t forget the 128!

Rule #3: Divide using the ratio. For one gallon of concentrate, 1:4 would be 128 divided by 4, 128/4 or 32 oz. One quart (32 oz.) of chemical is added to 4 quarts (128 oz.) of water or 1:4. Another example: 1:32 would be 128 divided by 32, 128/32 = 4. Add four oz. of chemical to each gallon of water (128 oz.). This is the same ratio as 1oz. to a quart (32 oz.)


Now let’s move on to practical applications of dilution in the home.

Many widely used liquid soaps, detergents, and degreasers can be diluted with clean water without compromising cleaning effectiveness. Many modern formulations are concentrated well beyond the level needed for everyday tasks. Full-strength products are sometimes best reserved for the heaviest soils or the greasiest surfaces.

Hand dishwashing liquids, as an obvious example, can be greatly diluted and still be effective in cleaning dishes, flatware, and cooking utensils.


Solutions, at ratios of say 1:50, may be placed in a spray bottle and used as a mild degreaser and spot remover on a wide number of surfaces throughout the kitchen and beyond. Choose clear liquid detergent formulations for use on carpets or upholstered surfaces to avoid a secondary spot from the dyes used in many detergents.

Likewise, mild all purpose cleaners can be diluted with equal or greater parts water for routine cleanups. This helps stretch your cleaning-supply dollar.

A spray bottle filled with heavily diluted bleach – say, a 1:100 ratio, or a little more than 1 ounce (30 ml) of bleach in 1 gallon (3.8 l) of water – will disinfect a great number of surfaces in the kitchen and bath. At this level, irritating chlorine fumes are limited.


Caution: Be certain to label the bottle clearly and store it away from the reach of children, since bleach is toxic. Never mix any solution containing bleach with any other cleaning product. When combined, chlorine and ammonia, for example, give off a poisonous gas.

Certain household products shouldn’t be diluted. Don’t try to mix a cleaning agent using dishwasher detergent and water. Automatic dish detergents are too harsh to be used by hand. Don’t dilute drain cleaners, oven cleaners, toilet-bowl cleaners, and other cleaning products intended for heavy-duty tasks unless directed to do so in product labeling.


Dilution:  Created on November 3rd, 2009.  Last Modified on January 1st, 2010


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