A degreaser is intended to clean a surface, so remove contamination. A degreaser is designed specifically to remove oils, greases, and lubricants. Sanitizers are intended to kill various pathogenic agents, like bacteria and viruses. There are materials that can do both, like 70% isopropyl alcohol (per CDC guidelines for hard surface disinfecting), but don’t assume all degreasers will kill pathogens.
The ingredients of a degreaser can vary wildly depending on the product. Generally speaking, they fall into 2 camps: 1) solvent cleaners: this includes alcohols (like isopropyl alcohol, or ethyl alcohol), hydrocarbons (like heptane and mineral spirits), ketones (like acetone and xylene), and more exotic compounds and blends. 2) water-based cleaners: these include ingredients dissolved or blended with water. Which is best for your application depends on the type of soil and various requirements like performance, evaporation rate, toxicity limits, and environmental regulations.
Windex (or other similar glass cleaners) could be considered a very light-duty degreaser. Glass cleaners can remove very light oils, like fingerprints, but will fall very short with heavier oils, greases and lubricants. Techspray offers a foaming glass cleaner (part #1625-18S) and water-based Eco-Shine (1505-QT) for light cleaning, and products like G3 Maintenance Cleaner (1630-16S), PWR-4 Maintenance Cleaner (3400-20S), and E-LINE Maintenance Cleaner (1620-10S) for more heavy-duty oils, greases and lubricants.
N-Propyl Bromide (nPB), Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (Perc) are highly toxic chemicals commonly used in degreasers to provide cleaning performance in a nonflammable formula. There are documented court cases where workers suffered major health effects when exposed to high levels of these chemicals. Workers reported headaches, dizziness, and even loss of full body control. There are also possible links to reproductive problems and cancer. All of this has caused maintenance facilities to reconsider their solvent choices, especially with manual cleaning when exposure tends to be higher.
Rigid plastics like ABS, polycarbonate (trade name Lexan), and acrylic materials like Plexiglass can be very sensitive to harsh solvents like toluene, xylene, and acetone. Alcohol and hydrocarbon based solvents tend to be better on sensitive plastics. Rubber, silicone or other seals or gaskets made of elastomeric (soft) materials can have a tendency to swell or shrink with exposure to harsh solvents. After the solvent flashes off, they may spring back to their original dimensions, or be permanently changed, impacting the effectiveness of the seal. Polyester or Teflon based gasketing materials are less prone to this type of damage from harsh solvents.
A degreaser is a cleaner designed to remove grease, oils, cutting fluids, corrosion inhibitors, handling soils, finger prints, and other contamination common in assembly, stamping, other types of metal fabrication, refineries, motor repair, airplane hangars, and many other applications. Degreasers go by a number of different names, including precision cleaner, maintenance cleaner, and specific for automotive repair, carb cleaner, brake cleaner. The objective for a degreaser is to remove the offending soil quickly, avoiding as much wiping and scrubbing as possible. Degreasing solvents are commonly packaged as an aerosol for convenience. Aerosols have the added advantage of providing a forceful spray that creates agitation and to penetrate all the crevices of the part.