cleaning products defined

Green bucket filled with cleaning supplies on wood floor.

There are many new specialty surfaces in today's home, and 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 the job altogether.

Nonetheless, it' time to come clean. But how?

These tips for choosing cleaning products for your home's surfaces and your cleaning style can help simplify the process.

Choosing Cleaning Products

The first objective is to choose the correct cleaning products for your home. Take a look at the surfaces around your house. 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 in 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 exactly what the product will do.

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

Consider Your Cleaning Style 

Next, consider your style of cleaning. Are you a once-a-month, bucket-wielding cleaner? If so, you'll want to stock up on the 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-owl 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 essentials:

  • 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
  • A bottle of liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Window and glass cleaner in a spray bottle

A Word About "Natural" 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. 

Green cleaning products and tools on wood table.

An alternative list of cleaning supplies includes:

  • 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 cleaning products - notably bleach and ammonia - are dangerous when mixed. Read and follow precautions on 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.

Store-bought household products are required to meet standards for safe disposal down your drain, but alternative cleaning products 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. The single exception is home-mixed glass cleaner: 1/4 cup (60ml) of vinegar in 3 and 3/4 cups (900ml) of warm water.

Once you've assembled your cleaning products, build a user-friendly "tool kit." The following items will maximize the effectiveness of your cleaners - and will minimize your scrubbing time:

  • Cotton rags, all-cotton diapers, or white paper towels

  • Scrubber sponge
  • Large scrub brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Squeegee

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