In this report
January 2011 Ratings
Test results
75 Years of CU
Consmers Union 75th Anniversary 75 years bold

A retrospective of Consumer Reports and its place in the American consumer landscape.

Can one cleaner do it all?

Last reviewed: January 2011

To find out, we applied cooking grease, ketchup, mustard, and grape juice on tile or glass; sprayed or poured on 16 all-purpose cleaners; and let them sit for up to 5 minutes, according to label instructions. We then wiped a uniform number of times with paper towels or a sponge. We also used each cleaner on caked-on soap scum. After that, we let the cleaners sit overnight on painted wall panels, bronze, and 11 other surfaces, as they might after an unnoticed spill, and then looked for damage.

Skip antibacterial ingredients

Antibacterial products might help create forms of bacteria that are harder to kill, and the government says they aren’t better at preventing the spread of household germs.

Don’t buy just by price

Some products that cost 12 or 14 cents per ounce didn’t do very well.

For one task, hard water worked well

Hard water alone removed more soap scum than many of the products.

Bottom line

With elbow grease and repeated application, most of the all-purpose cleaners will eventually remove soils. Those we recommend are easier on your arms. For bathrooms (especially toilets), use a product that contains bleach and is meant for bathroom surfaces.

Did you know?

Makers of cleaners touted as biodegradable don’t have to back up their claim with a time frame, but they would if new green guides proposed by the Federal Trade Commission are adopted.