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cleaning products defined

Do you need separate cleaning products for the bathroom and the kitchen?

What's the best bathroom cleaner for getting rid of soap scum from your tub? Do you need a disinfectant cleaning product for the toilet bowl?

There is such a confusing array of specialized cleaning products on the market that it often seems easier to use the old tools and methods - or put off housekeeping altogether.

Nevertheless, it's time to come clean. But how?

Choosing the Right Cleaning Products for Your Home

To find the right cleaning product for the job, start by taking a quick look at the surfaces around your home.

Is there cooking grease on the stove? Mildew on the shower door? A rust stain around the tub fixture?

Identifying the dirt you see and anticipating the germs you don't are the first steps to determining which products you'll need to get the dirty jobs done without damaging the surfaces.

Product labels are your best source of information. All-purpose cleaner; oven cleaner; tub, sink, and tile cleaner - the name usually says precisely what the product will do.

If the name doesn't tell you, the cleaning product label will. Here you'll find the types of soils and surfaces the product can - or can't - be used on.

Your Housekeeping Style Will Determine the Products You Need

Next, consider your style of cleaning. Are you a once-a-month, bucket-weilding cleaner? If so, you'll want to stock up on heavy duty cleaners designed to tackle tough dirt and grime.

If you prefer more frequent, quick cleanups - the simplest way to keep cleaning time to the absolute minimum - the mild, all-purpose cleaners and a couple of site-specific cleaners, such as a toilet bowl disinfectant and a tub, sink, and tile cleaner, are all you'll need to keep the surfaces in your home sparkling.

Here's a list of the housekeeping essentials:

Essential Housekeeping Products

  • Nonabrasive, all-purpose cleaner, ideally in a spray bottle
  • Toilet-bowl cleaner
  • Disinfectant (try 3/4 cup [180ml] chlorine bleach per gallon [4l] of water)
  • Tub, tile and sink cleaner
  • Dish soap
  • Window and glass cleaner in a spray bottle

A Bit About "Natural" Household Cleaners

For those who prefer "natural" or environmentally friendly substitutes, the choices are mushrooming. Not only are suppliers creating new earth-friendly cleaners, but traditional products are containing more natural ingredients. 

An alternative list of household cleaners might include:

  • Baking soda with water, as an all-purpose cleaner
  • White distilled vinegar diluted in water, to clean windows
  • Borax, to clean and deodorize and to remove toilet bowl stains
  • Natural soaps (castile or glycerin-based) to wash dishes

A few things to consider when choosing between so-called natural and synthetic products: Whether naturally or artificially derived, all ingredients - even water - are chemicals. 

There are no nontoxic substances. 

Even salt can be deadly if taken in too high a dose. (Also, some products - notably bleach and ammonia - are dangerous when mixed. Read and follow precautions on all product labels.) 

Store-bought housekeeping products are required to meet standards for safe disposal down your drain, but alternative household cleaners aren't evaluated in that context.

Commercial products consistently outperform their home-mixture counterparts. Homemade cleaners generally require a great deal more time and elbow grease, however. 

The single exception is home-mixed glass cleaner: 1/4 cup (60ml) of vinegar in 3 and 3/4 cups (900ml) of warm water.

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› Household Cleaning Products Defined