Multi-purpose doesn't actually mean all-purpose.
woman cleaning wooden surface with cloth and spray
Credit: Getty / Images By Tang Ming Tung

If you're curious about how natural cleaning products work or why baking soda is such a powerful ingredient, you've come to the right place. We'll explain the science behind some of the most popular cleaning methods and tools, so you can you clean smarter—not harder. Follow along with Clean Science to see which technique we break down next.

If there's one cleaning product you're likely to find if you looked under your sink or in your pantry, it's probably a multi-purpose spray. It's a sensible buy seeing as, well, it's made to clean just about anything, right? Well, not exactly. It's true that multi-purpose cleaners are designed to be used on a myriad of different surfaces and for several cleaning tasks around your home, but they shouldn't be used on absolutely everything.

Because there is no "standard" set of ingredients for these types of cleaners, they usually act as either a disinfectant, detergent, degreaser, or solvent or a combination of some or all of those, explains Sean Parry, a cleaning expert at the house cleaning company Neat Services in the U.K. "Different brands of cleaners will usually have a different balance of ingredients, thus making them better or more effective on some surfaces than others," he explains. "If you try one brand and find that it isn't working on a particular surface, it might be a good idea to try another and see if that one does."

As for the materials that you can use a multi-purpose cleaner on in your home? Glass is safe, according to Parry. "Simply spraying the solution on and then wiping it off the glass with a dry cloth will do the trick," he says. He recommends rubbing windows and mirrors thoroughly after cleaning to prevent any leftover solution from creating smear marks on the glass. Laminate and steel can also be cleansed with a multi-purpose formula, and Parry recommends spraying and wiping it off with a dry cloth.

Believe it or not, floors are also fair game. "Dilute the fluid in a large bucket of warm water and mop away to take out or clean any dirt on your floors, leaving your house or apartment smelling clean," says Parry. And while certain types of wood can take a multi-purpose cleaner, Parry recommends spot testing first. "Leave the cleaner on for five minutes and if you don't see any color changes, you're good to go," he says. "If the wood becomes stained or looks wrong, wash away the cleaner immediately with a bit of warm water."

As for surfaces to avoid? Never use a multi-purpose formula on your oven: "Using this type of cleaner to clean the baked-on grime caked onto your oven probably wouldn't be harmful, but it wouldn't be very efficient or effective either," says Parry. For oven-related jobs, he recommends using an oven-specific cleaner. The same goes for your shower and bathtub: A multi-purpose cleaner alone won't be effective enough at scrubbing away buildup on your shower. Instead, Parry suggests using a more powerful scouring agent, like a mixture of dish soap and baking soda or a specialty tub and tile cleaner.

Unfinished surfaces are also a no-go ("All-purpose cleaner isn't a good match for unfinished surfaces like raw wood, concrete, or unsealed stone, as the cleaner can seep into the material and potentially leave discoloration," says Parry. "Unfinished surfaces can simply be cleaned with a microfiber cloth and water, or refer to the manufacturer's instructions."), as are upholstery or fabric. Parry warns that using an all-purpose cleaner on these can lead to discoloration. He recommends using a product that's specifically designed for cleaning upholstery, which is likely to have targeted ingredients that won't harm porous materials.


Be the first to comment!