All About All-Purpose Cleaners

The Purpose Of All-Purpose

All-purpose cleaner is perhaps the most versatile cleaning product, given that it can clean up messes and stains, disinfect surfaces, and in some cases deodorize your home. While it may be in the name that an all-purpose cleaner can be used anywhere, any time, for any surface, not all are created equally. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about all-purpose cleaners.

What is the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting?

When shopping for an all-purpose cleaner, you might find that different product labels have different functions: cleaning, sanitizing, and/or disinfecting. According to the EPA, cleaning involves removing organic matter (such as dirt) from surfaces using a soap or detergent; sanitizing means killing bacteria but not viruses; and disinfecting kills both viruses and bacteria.

What’s the difference between multipurpose and all-purpose cleaner?

The main different between the two is that they don’t both clean every surface in your house. However, one might clean more surfaces than the other will. The all-purpose cleaner can actually be used to mop floors, clean counter-tops, stoves, refrigerators, and even coffee tables and end-tables

Are there any surfaces you shouldn’t use all-purpose cleaners on?

While all-purpose cleaners are safe for most surfaces, particularly those that are non-porous and sealed, some materials such as quartz, marble, and certain types of wood may not be able to withstand an all-purpose cleaner, even if it is natural or plant-based. Do not use all-purpose cleaners containing bleach, citrus, ammonia, or hydrogen peroxide on marble countertops. These cleaners will corrode or burn the marble finish creating dull spots called etching. If you have surfaces such as granite or marble, purchase a product made specifically for those materials to avoid doing damage over time. It’s best to use all-purpose cleaners on treated wood, porcelain, stainless steel, tile, laminate, plastic, and ceramic. All-purpose cleaners should never be used on fabric, including carpet, leather, and upholstery.

How often should you wipe down surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner?

While different all-purpose cleaners have different instructions on how often it should be used or how long it should be left on before wiping it, a good rule of thumb to follow is to use the solution a couples times a day and leave it on the surface for a few minutes at a time, depending on the strength and surface. Spray the solution liberally all over the surface and let it sit for about five minutes, or as directed by the label. This lets the ingredients soften up grime and grease so you don’t have to scrub as hard, and you can spend time cleaning something else during this time.

Are all-purpose cleaners safe for the environment?

Every cleaner is different, however most all-purpose cleaners are sold in plastic spray bottles. Due to poor waste management systems around the world, the majority of plastic packaging that is sent to landfills ends up in our natural environments. Plastic particles are now outnumbering plankton in some parts of the ocean and are entering the food chain. However, all-purpose cleaners that are safe for the environment, do in fact exist! You can still safely use all-purpose cleaners in your daily cleaning routine by choosing to shop brands that opt out of wasteful plastic packaging and use sustainable alternatives, such as Refillable Cleaning Tablets which completely transform with water to make a full bottle of all-purpose cleaning solution, leaving behind zero waste.


While chemical cleaners are the most effective in killing more bacteria, viruses, and germs, there are plenty of natural options that can get the cleaning job done too. All-purpose cleaners may include more natural ingredients like essential oils, coco glucoside, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), decyl glucoside, and/or vinegar. Those with asthma, skin sensitivities, and allergies should avoid products with ammonia, bleach, synthetic fragrances, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), and chlorine, among other ingredients.

Cleaners with corrosive chemical solutions can harm the environment. Common, store-bought all-purpose cleaners can contain dangerous ingredients such as: ammonia, ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate, sodium hypochlorite and/or trisodium phosphate. In short, the chemicals in many of these cleaners are known pollutants that contribute to smog, reduce the general quality of drinking water, and are toxic to animals. You should look for cleaners that are safe for the environment, can be applied on multiple surfaces, and include plant-based ingredients.


Most all-purpose cleaners will contain some type of fragrance, whether it’s synthetic, naturally derived through essential oils, or a combination of both. Some natural cleaners might have a smaller amount of fragrance for a subtler scent, but if a scented all-purpose cleaner is not for you, it’s best to check the label for the “fragrance-free” stamp.

The “all” in all-purpose cleaner

All-purpose cleaners are cleaning essentials and should be a part of your daily home’s or office’s cleaning regime. Their variety, efficacy, and affordability have made them popular among households. Their multi-usability is convenient while effective when cleaning multiple surfaces in one space!

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