Top 5 Cleaning Chemicals You Should Never Use On an Aircraft

PT 3 M minute read
Top 5 Cleaning Chemicals You Should Never Use On an Aircraft

This is a post by guest author Stephen Clark, marketing manager of Immaculate Flight, LLC. Stephen was asked to contribute to this blog because of his expertise in aircraft cleaning. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Stephen’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.

Whether you’re in a pinch for a quick clean up or shopping to stock up your aircraft’s cleaning chemicals, today you have more choices than ever. Choices range from inexpensive household cleaning products all the way to extremely expensive specialty products. Although conveniently located at most local car and hardware stores, many of these choices may not only be ineffective for cleaning an aircraft, they may in fact cause damage to it.

Nonetheless, finding the correct chemical(s) for cleaning your aircraft shouldn’t cause you a headache, but careful consideration should be given to identifying your aircraft’s particular requirements and restrictions. We covered this in a prior post on "5 Things to Look for from an Aircraft Cleaning Company"; but if you ever question what product is acceptable or not, reference your aircraft’s operating manual or call a professional!

Don’t worry, while you’re digging through your manual library, we’ll keep you company with our list of the Top 5 chemicals you should never use on an aircraft:

1. Ammonia-based window cleaners

Windscreens are a "catch-all" for your aircraft, but proper care is needed to ensure you always have clear visibility out of it. Although perfectly tuned for household usage, window cleaners and other associated products are so damaging to your aircraft’s windscreen that they make number one on our list of chemicals you should never use on an aircraft!

With trademarks that guarantee a streak-free finish, it’s easy to see why so many use these products, but using non-aviation-approved window cleaners can cause "crazing," or micro-sized cracks on the surface of the windscreen. These cracks are not only an eyesore, they tend to badly obscure sightlines and may refract light in unpredictable ways, causing visibility issues that could leave the windscreen damaged beyond repair, thus resulting in the need to replace it.

2. Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)

While not technically damaging to your aircraft if used properly, MEK’s rise as a dependable solvent has come under fire within the last decade due to its extremely hazardous effect on its user’s health. These effects have been so negative that, according to the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), members have reported that long-time use has resulted in years of chronic headaches, asthma, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, general malaise and fatigue. These health issues, as well as the availability of effective alternatives, make MEK a chemical you should never use on your aircraft.

3. Chlorine bleach

Great for keeping the bathroom clean, this common product can become a maintenance nightmare if used in your aircraft’s lavatory. The main concern about utilizing chlorine bleach is the potential to cause damage to seals and (if equipped) the vacuum system itself by way of stripping the protective layer(s) of these items. In addition, if chlorine bleach is mixed with your lavatory’s "blue juice," not only could you be filling your cabin with toxic fumes, but you could be mixing two oxidizing agents.

4. Dish soaps

Not many aircraft owners/operators enjoy cleaning the underside of their aircraft, since these areas are usually full of grease, oils and dirt that are the direct result of multiple takeoffs, landings and taxing events. However, removing the built-up mess on an aircraft’s belly usually only takes a good cleaning agent and some elbow grease. Although perfectly suited for degreasing last night’s pizza pan, these finely scented products make for poor overall degreasers that can actually leave behind filmy/soapy residues. In addition, the fact that many of these products now carry anti-bacterial agents and even perfumes means they should be left where they belong – under the sink and not on an aircraft.

5. Wood care products

If the lemony fresh smell doesn’t give it away, wood care products round out our top 5 chemicals you should never use on an aircraft because they can actually be counterproductive to your cleaning needs.

Although a great way to shine fine woods, wood care products make poor aircraft cleaners thanks to the dimethicone "film former" found in many of these products. These "formers," coupled with the preservatives found in many of these products, can actually leave layers of wax that, over time, can build up and trap dirt and oils under them. What’s more, if these layers are not removed, they can leave an aircraft’s paint with a hazy look.

With the wide array of chemicals available today, just knowing this list of Top 5 chemicals you should never use on an aircraft eliminates a few of the ones you may commonly see. The most important thing to remember: If it’s not aircraft-approved, DON’T USE IT!


If you have any questions about this article or want to discuss proper cleaning maintenance for your aircraft, contact me at

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