How to Choose The Best Cleaning Products
Cleaning products are surrounded by ambiguity; more likely than not, at some point during your lifetime, you've found yourself asking questions such as “If I buy a cheaper off-brand cleaner to put in my dishwasher, will it work just as well?”, “Do I really need all these different cleaners just to clean my kitchen?”, and of course, “How do I remove this stain that just won't come off?”
If you asked around for advice, you likely encountered a surprising range of different opinions on the matter; your mother probably has her favourite way of doing things, so does your aunt, etc., so separating fact from subjective evidence can prove difficult. Fortunately, knowing a few general rules and pointers is enough to get you well on your way to choosing the best cleaning products to keep your home spotless, without getting mired in a long debate:
- Pay attention to the cleaner's ingredients. A cleaner's ingredients tell you the most about how suitable it is for the job you have in mind. Cleaners are usually either acidic or alkaline; acidic cleaners work well for removing mineral stains and built up material (limescale, rust, soap scum). Alkaline cleaners, on the other hand, work well on fats, oils, greases, and waxes. Strong solvents like bleach should only be used with caution, when absolutely necessary, to remove the toughest of stains from resilient surfaces.
Always take the time to research whether the surface you need to clean will be damaged by the ingredients of the cleaner you have in mind; carpet and upholstery, for example, can be melted by certain solvents (e.g. acetone) and damaged very easily by bleach. Wood floors are easily damaged by anything water-based.
- Know that price does matter, but only sometimes. Cheaper dish-washing powders really do tend to be less effective than their cheaper brethren, and cheaper surface polishers often result in a less desirable finish. That being said, there are other jobs where you can eschew buying a cleaner altogether and simply use a common household staple like baking soda (deodorizing carpets, refrigerators, a light abrasive for scrubbing away grime) or vinegar (removing mineral deposits from windows and faucets, disinfecting counter-tops).
- Most cleaning products are “antibacterial”. In general, there is simply no need to pay more for a cleaning product because it is marketed as being “antibacterial”, or to buy antibacterial wipes and solutions on top of your usual cleaning products. Plain detergents and water have been proven to remove bacteria and viruses from surfaces very effectively.
- Similarly, if you're concerned about toxins and/or the environment, know that just because a cleaner is marketed as “natural”, “green”, or “non-toxic” does not mean that it is. Once again, it's vital to check the actual list of ingredients and verify what each of them are before purchasing (watch for “sneaky” chemical ingredients like phthalates; as they are merely used for fragrance, many “safe” cleaners include them, but most would argue that this chemical—which has been implicated in hormonal disruptions and other issues—is far from truly green or natural!)