Versatile and effective, all-purpose cleaners can help save money by performing multiple cleaning functions. As spray-on cleaners or concentrates, they can remove grime and germs from countertops, walls, floors, bathroom surfaces, upholstery, and more. While spray-on cleaners are generally best for smaller, specific areas like walls, windows, or countertops, concentrates that are diluted with water are usually more suitable for cleaning large areas like floors.
With so many options available, it can be tricky to select the right cleaner for you. The following top sprays, concentrates, and wipes were chosen based on how quickly they dissolve grime, how easily they rinse off, and which types of jobs they’re best suited for. Read on to learn about the features to consider when shopping for an all-purpose cleaner and find out which one we tested.
- BEST OVERALL: Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Mr. Clean Summer Citrus Liquid Multi Purpose Cleaner
- BEST FOOD-SAFE: Puracy All Purpose Cleaner
- BEST DEGREASER: CLR PRO Heavy Duty Cleaner
- BEST DISINFECTANT WIPES: Micro-Scientific Opti-Cide Max Disinfecting Wipes
- BEST PLANT CONCENTRATE: Biokleen Natural All Purpose Cleaner
- BEST GERMICIDAL SPRAY: Clorox Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Cleaner
- BEST SCENTED CLEANER: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner
- BEST STAIN REMOVER: Good Life Solutions Stain Remover and Odor Eliminator
- BEST FOR UPHOLSTERY: ForceField Fabric Cleaner: Remove, Protect and Clean
What to Consider When Choosing the Best All-Purpose Cleaner
An all-purpose cleaner helps simplify cleaning routines, as it delivers effective cleaning power for a variety of household surfaces. When choosing the best all-purpose cleaner for your home, consider the types of tasks and surfaces on the housecleaning to-do list as well as the form, ingredients, and application types for an ideal cleaning product.
An all-purpose cleaner is one that is safe to use on a wide array of surfaces and in multiple locations around a home, such as floors, countertops, laminate, stainless steel, and glass. Keep in mind that cleaners serve a variety of purposes related to the size, toughness, and surfaces of the cleaning jobs they perform. For example, cleaning outdoor trash cans requires strong ingredients, whereas keeping germs at bay in the kitchen’s food-prep area calls for a cleaner with nontoxic properties. Additionally, some all-purpose cleaners are formulated for specific purposes like killing bacteria or dissolving grease.
Daily maintenance tasks usually benefit from cleaners that are easy to apply and wipe off. Generally, sprays or wipes are often chosen for maintenance jobs such as cleaning the counters in the kitchen and bathroom or wiping down children’s play areas.
Some all-purpose cleaners are designed for stain removal, which is an inevitable housecleaning headache that crops up from time to time. Whether they’re from spilled foods and beverages, pet accidents, bodily fluids, or muddy footprints, ugly stains (and the odors that often accompany them) can ruin flooring, mattresses, carpet, athletic gear, and many more items around the home.
Larger areas with tough grime and dirt may be best tackled with a concentrated cleaner. For these big jobs, like mopping floors, a concentrated liquid cleaner can be dissolved in a bucket of water. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no all-purpose cleaner is optimal for every cleaning task, as ingredients, forms, and applications vary.
All-purpose cleaners contain ingredients that perform a variety of functions, such as loosening dirt, removing stains, dissolving grease and oil, and killing bacteria. An array of natural and chemical ingredients provide the necessary cleaning power.
Some all-purpose cleaners contain chemical ingredients, and users should be aware of safety guidelines such as wearing gloves and using them in well-ventilated areas. For example, the acids in some strong cleaners effectively remove stains, but they may be extremely toxic if ingested. Other chemical ingredients include chlorine bleach for removing stains, chemical alkalis for removing grease, soluble phosphates for loosening dirt, and sanitizers with antimicrobial ingredients that kill bacteria.
Alternatively, all-natural cleaning products may be labeled eco-friendly or green. These products rely on natural ingredients to perform cleaning functions. Natural ingredients include vinegar, castile soap, citrus oils, lemon juice, natural and soluble salts, bicarbonate sodium (baking soda), and hydrogen peroxide. Because most states do not have laws requiring manufacturers to reveal all ingredients on their cleaning products’ labels, it is possible that some cleaners labeled “natural” may contain artificial ingredients.
All-purpose cleaners are available on the market in two primary forms: pre-diluted liquids packaged in spray bottles and concentrated liquids that must be diluted for use. There also are abrasive powders, gels, wipes, and aerosol sprays that offer all-purpose cleaning functions.
For daily maintenance and less strenuous cleaning efforts, all-purpose cleaning sprays provide convenience and effectiveness. Most suitable for small surface areas, these cleaners do not require diluting, scrubbing, or rinsing. Simply spray on and wipe off. Disposable wipes treated with antibacterial cleaner also offer a quick and convenient way to zero in on small surface areas that need disinfecting.
Some concentrated all-purpose cleaners require diluting, scrubbing, and rinsing for optimal results. Suited for tough jobs that require the removal of stains, dirt, grease, and grime, these all-purpose cleaners work most effectively when elbow grease is applied.
Multiple and varied applications make all-purpose cleaners the champions of cleaning day. They remove dirt, grease, and grime in kitchens, bathrooms, playrooms, and other locations in a home. All-purpose cleaners work best on nonporous surfaces, including laminate, tile, glass, and plastic.
For disinfecting surfaces, a localized application of an all-purpose, antibacterial cleaner presents the most effective solution. Spray on a diluted cleaner in a focused area, or use disinfectant wipes. All-purpose cleaners containing bleach work well to kill mold and mildew and remove the stains they cause. Cleaners with disinfecting properties may be especially useful in showers and bathrooms.
For the toughest cleaning jobs, a strong, concentrated, all-purpose cleaner might be the ideal choice. First, follow the manufacturer’s directions for diluting with water. Then, apply the diluted cleaner with a brush, sponge, or scouring pad. Scrub the surface, and follow up by rinsing thoroughly with clean water. Don’t forget to adhere to the manufacturer’s directions for safe use of strong cleaning products, as they may contain toxic ingredients. Before using a cleaner on an unfamiliar surface, test it in a small area that is usually hidden from view.
Ease of Use
Because users can apply all-purpose cleaners to multiple surfaces and messes, they are easy to use, eliminating the necessity to carry numerous cleaners around the house. All-purpose cleaners deliver tip-top cleaning results with minimal effort. Although concentrated cleaners require dilution in a bucket of water and application with a mop, sponge, or cloth, wipes and sprays offer the greatest ease of use.
Disposable wipes are handy in the kitchen, bathroom, car, and around the house to accomplish quick and easy cleaning tasks. As a bonus, some wipes offer antibacterial properties for extra peace of mind.
Additionally, pre-diluted, all-purpose cleaners in spray bottles are easy to use. Diluting and rinsing are unnecessary with spray cleaners. Simply spray on and wipe off with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.
Our Top Picks
Reliable and effective all-purpose cleaners make cleaning day easier. The following top picks are based on a variety of categories, including natural and chemical ingredients, diluted and undiluted forms, spray-on and wipe-on applications, and ease of use. These products represent some of the best all-purpose cleaners for multiple cleaning tasks around a home. Plus find out which one we tested to see just how multi-purpose this cleaner is.
Made from a mild abrasive called oxalic acid, Bar Keepers Friend is nontoxic, environmentally friendly, and safe to use around pets and children. Because the product is acid-based, it is highly effective against rust, mineral scale, hard water stains, limescale, tarnish, and other stains. Bar Keepers Friend is also biodegradable and safe for septic systems.
In our testing, we used Bar Keepers Friend to clean sinks, countertops, outdoor grills, tile, and so much more. We found it did an excellent job of cleaning and removing stains on all types of nonporous surfaces. It removed coffee and tea stains from ceramic mugs and black streaks on the side of a fiberglass boat. As a multipurpose cleanser, we found that this budget-friendly powder was tough to beat.
Mr. Clean can handle tough cleaning jobs, getting rid of dirt and odors while fighting household germs and bacteria. This cleaner offers great value in concentrated form, so users get more cleaning power for less money. Mr. Clean can be diluted with water and applied with a mop on floors or put into a spray bottle to clean counters, sinks, toilets, or kitchen appliances with a sponge.
Mr. Clean kills 99.9 percent of bacteria and has demonstrated effectiveness against Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli, and Proteus mirabilis. It also kills the influenza A2 virus and the herpes simplex type 1 virus that causes cold sores.
Puracy’s plant-based formula is safe for use around kids and pets. It’s biodegradable, vegan, hypoallergenic, nontoxic, and never tested on animals. It works on all household surfaces to remove messes without streaking or leaving a residue.
Use Puracy on any solid surface in a home, including kitchen countertops, appliances, showers, toilets, floors, toys, smartphones, and tablets. It’s a cleaning powerhouse with a fresh scent of green tea and lime, containing no harsh fumes or chemicals. It cleans glass without streaking, too. The formula is made from plants and water, so it’s safe for gray water and septic systems.
CLR Pro is strong enough to cut through grease with heavy-duty foaming action that lifts out oil, lime, rust, and other soils from indoor and outdoor surfaces around a home. This cleaner was formulated for industrial use but is safe to use in a home. CLR Pro is nontoxic, biodegradable, and contains no acids, abrasives, or petroleum solvents.
This cleaner can be used outdoors without harming grass or shrubbery. CLR Pro comes in a ready-to-use, full-strength spray. Apply to floors, tile, pool decks, machinery, and equipment. CLR Pro can remove oil deposits and gunk from car and lawn mower engines or other machinery.
Opti-Cide Max wipes kill germs, fungus, and bacteria—even some multidrug-resistant organisms. Quickly clean up the surfaces in a home with these powerful wipes soaked with a broad-spectrum disinfectant that is antibacterial, fungicidal, and virucidal. It works fast; lab tests showed Opti-Cide Max killed most organisms in 30 seconds to one minute.
These wipes can be used on nonporous surfaces like sinks, countertops, tubs and showers, tile, and electronics. Opti-Cide Max has the scrubbing power of high-alcohol formulas, even though it contains only 20 percent alcohol. The formula is designed so that the wipes won’t cloud or streak.
Biokleen Natural All Purpose Cleaner has no artificial ingredients, fragrance, colors, or preservatives. Its eco-friendly cleaning power comes from plant-based surfactants with citrus and grapefruit seed extracts, so there are no harsh chemicals or fumes.
A surfactant is a compound that loosens the bond between dirt and a surface, thereby acting as a detergent that lifts away the dirt. Biokleen uses only those surfactants that are derived from plant sources.
This all-purpose concentrate is gentle enough to use safely on most nonporous surfaces, but it gets rid of grease, goo, and grime quickly. One 64-ounce bottle makes up to 64 gallons of cleaner, so there’s less packaging, making it more earth-friendly.
Clorox Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Cleaner makes quick work of cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces in a home. Germicidal cleaners kill viruses and bacteria that are known to cause illnesses in humans. This cleaner is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to kill 50 microorganisms, including influenza A and B viruses, measles virus, and norovirus.
This Clorox cleaner meets the 1:10 bleach dilution specifications set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for disinfecting the surfaces in health care facilities. It contains an anti-corrosion agent for broad surface application. Use this spray on glass, porcelain, stainless steel, plastic, glazed ceramic, laminated surfaces, and vinyl.
Mrs. Meyer’s sprayable cleaner blasts household dirt and leaves a home smelling fresh with the scent of the lemon verbena herb. Use this cleaner to remove dirt and grime from a variety of nonporous surfaces such as porcelain tile, laminate, synthetic stone, and bathroom fixtures.
This cleaner is safe to use on countertops in food-preparation areas but strong enough to clean floors and walls. Plant-derived cleaning ingredients make Mrs. Meyer’s cleaner a viable choice for users who are wary of the overdependence on chemical cleaning agents.
Mrs. Meyer’s is made from plant-based ingredients like essential oils and birch bark extract. It does not contain parabens, artificial color, glycol solvents, or formaldehyde. This natural cleaner leaves behind no chemicals or residue and is not tested on animals.
Removing stains is easier with the Good Life Solutions spray-on stain remover and odor eliminator. It delivers a natural remedy for stains while offering peace of mind regarding its safety around children and pets. Use it on machine-washable fabric, vinyl, plastic, hard flooring surfaces, concrete, and more.
This stain remover relies on bio-enzymatic ingredients to break down any organic staining substance so that the stain and odor are removed. It contains specific bacteria, enzymes, and microbial nutrients that target the staining substance and digest it. Essentially, the ingredients in this spray-on stain remover break down the molecules in the stain to eliminate it, along with its odor.
ForceField fabric cleaner removes stains, dirt, and grime and provides a protective treatment that repels subsequent staining and soiling. Use it on any water-safe fabric, such as upholstery, carpet, rugs, and clothing.
Nonionic and anionic surfactants in this upholstery and fabric cleaner promote the chemical reaction that breaks down dirt on fibers. A surfactant is a surface active agent containing amphiphilic molecules that effectively release substances (dirt and stains) from the fibers in fabric and upholstery.
Some upholstery cleaners leave behind a residue that attracts and holds soiling substances, so dirt and stains seem to reappear. Alternatively, the surfactants in ForceField fabric cleaner perform a deep cleaning of the fibers and leave no residue behind. This feature allows upholstery and other materials to stay cleaner longer.
By definition, all-purpose cleaners are safe and effective for use on multiple surfaces around the house. Because of their versatility, all-purpose cleaners may allow users to save money on cleaning products rather than requiring the purchase of numerous diverse cleaners for targeted surface materials. Additionally, all-purpose cleaners are quick and easy to use, making cleaning day less of a hassle. As you research the best all-purpose cleaners, you may have questions. Here are a few answers to help you get started.
Q. What is the difference between an all-purpose cleaner and a multipurpose cleaner?
Generally, all-purpose cleaners provide effective cleaning on a wider variety of surfaces. For example, they may be effective on glass and stainless steel as well as floors. Multipurpose cleaners work for defined sets of surfaces. Always read labels before purchasing cleaners, as no cleaner is completely appropriate for all surfaces.
Q. How do you use an all-purpose cleaner?
Always read labels and follow directions for safe and effective use of all-purpose cleaners. For concentrated liquid cleaners, follow manufacturers’ directions for diluting and rinsing. For spray cleaners, spray on and wipe off with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.
Q. How do you clean the carpet and the upholstery using an all-purpose cleaner?
Read the label on your all-purpose cleaner to be sure it’s safe for use on upholstery or carpet. Test it in a small area that is usually hidden from view. Vacuum first to remove loose dirt from the carpet or upholstery. Then, follow the directions on the all-purpose cleaner’s label.