Multi-purpose cleaners are designed to be used on multiple types of surfaces, meaning you don’t need a specific cleaner for a specific area of your home. In our test of 15 multi-purpose cleaners, one wiped out the competition.
Snapshot: Dettol Anti-bacterial Surface Cleanser with Fresh Lime and Mint is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Home recipe Baking Soda and White Vinegar is a powder & spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Ecostore Citrus Multi-Purpose Cleaner is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Select Disinfecting Surface Wipes Lemon Scented are multi-purpose cleaning wipes. How well do they clean?
Snapshot: Dettol Healthy Clean Disinfectant Wipes Sparkling Lemon & Lime are multi-purpose cleaning wipes. How well do they clean?
Snapshot: Homebrand Multi Purpose Cleaner Lemon is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Dettol Multi Purpose Complete Clean Sparkling Orange is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Earthwise Multi Surface Cleaning Spray Citrus & Mint is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Easy-Off Bam Power Cleaner Grease and Sparkle is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Simple Green Ready-to-Use All-purpose Cleaner Orange Scent is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Ajax Spray n’ Wipe Divine Blends Orange Mountain Blossom is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Ajax Spray n’ Wipe Multi-purpose Apple & Citrus is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
Snapshot: Ajax Spray n’ Wipe Multipurpose Wipes Sparkling Fresh Antibacterial are multi-purpose cleaning wipes. How well do they clean?
Snapshot: Glitz Spray On Wipe Off Multi-Purpose is a spray multi-purpose cleaner. But how well does it clean?
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For spray cleaners, where instructions stated, we applied the cleaner to the tile and left it for the designated time before scrubbing the tile clean. Not all cleaners had application directions. In those cases, we applied the cleaner to a damp sponge before placing the sponge on the tile and scrubbing the tile clean.
For wipe cleaners, we attached the wipe to a sponge on the mechanical scrubbing arm and then scrubbed the tile.
A few products in our test are marketed for specific purposes, such as spot or stain removal, grease removal and bleaching. But all of the cleaners in our test can be used on multiple surfaces. We think you should see through the name and use them as multi-purpose cleaners.
You might want a dedicated kitchen or bathroom cleaner for those areas of the house. Check the ingredients list: a dedicated cleaner can have the same ingredients as a multi-purpose cleaner, and just be labelled differently.
Pre-treated cleaning wipes have become more prevalent in the cleaning aisle. They’re easy to use, the packs are generally resealable, and there’s little mess. But our test found wipes consistently performed worse than spray cleaners.
Three wipes in our test garnered 3 of the lowest scores and we’ve made them “don’t buys”. We also found they often performed much worse than sprays of the same brand and they’re less economical. The wipes we tested come in packs of 36 or 40 and cost an average of 13¢ per wipe. In comparison, the spray cleaners we tested have, on average, 584 sprays per bottle. So, for example, if you use 5 sprays to clean an area, such as your kitchen bench, it’ll only cost 6¢ and you’d have an average of just under 117 applications per bottle.
You should never flush wipes down the toilet, even if they state they are flushable. Our previous testing of wipes found “flushable” ones don’t break down as readily as claimed. None of the wipes in our test claimed to be flushable.
Pour some vinegar into a spray bottle. They are available from supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centres, or you can re-use a clean bottle. Make sure to clearly mark it as vinegar or cleaner and keep it out of reach of children. We recommend storing the baking soda in an air-tight container, like a spice shaker. This makes it easier to apply and being air-tight means the baking soda won’t absorb moisture from the air. We also suggest having a second spray bottle of water, for rinsing off after cleaning.
Don’t use malt or red wine vinegar. White wine vinegar won’t stain any surfaces, but other vinegars might.
Don’t pre-mix the ingredients. The baking soda will dilute in the vinegar mixture, its effervescence will be lost and you’ll probably recreate that school science experiment of making a volcano.
Most cleaners are designed to leave a pleasant smell. Our home-made cleaner had an obvious vinegar fragrance, but you can mask it by adding ingredients such as citrus juice, vanilla or an essential oil. We tried all of these and found adding citrus juice worked the best (we used lemon). However, adding anything to the mixture affects how well it cleans, so try a test batch first.
Baking soda is known by many names, but it’s all the same product:
Follow the instructions on the label and spray a small amount the size of a coin onto the surface you want to clean (do this in an area where it won’t matter if it gets damaged). Wait a few hours to see if the product harms the surface.
Always check the pack to see which other surfaces should be avoided – we found a wide variety of “unsafe” surfaces listed.
Unless the product’s label specifically says you can, you shouldn’t use multi-purpose cleaners on these surfaces:
Surfactants can have adverse effects on the environment, but “biodegradable” ones will break down and have little effect. There is an Australian standard, AS4351, some manufacturers may follow but this only applies to surfactants. There are no guarantees the other ingredients are biodegradable.
If you have a septic tank, it can be hard finding household cleaners that are safe to flush down the drain. Cleaners can contain harsh chemicals that can damage a septic tank. We suggest contacting your septic tank manufacturer to see what it recommends.
This means the waste, or “grey”, water is safe for other uses, such as watering the garden. If you are using grey water in your garden, we suggest not using it on food that will be eaten raw.
Some cleaners state they kill a certain percentage of bacteria, but there is little evidence antibacterial cleaners stop the spread of bacteria in a home. There is even the risk they contribute to antibiotic resistance in the environment.
This claim may only apply to some ingredients in the cleaner, and may not mean the entire product is made from plant-based products. There’s no standard against which to measure these claims.
Usually listed on laundry detergents, this claim is best accompanied by a minimum phosphate percentage. See our article on unhelpful “green” claims for more about phosphates in dishwashing liquids.
Always keep your cleaners away from children — ideally in a high or locked cupboard.
If anyone swallows cleaning product, immediately rinse out their mouth with water and phone your doctor or the National Poisons Centre (0800 POISON).
Don't waste money on cleaning products that don't do a good job. See which ones come out on top in our tests.
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