Types of Household Cleaners

Honestly speaking, there are way too many cleaners out there. And sometimes, it’s all marketing. The all-purpose tile cleaner and the all-purpose kitchen cleaner might be the exact same thing. Except one has a citrus scent and the other a mint scent. And at other times, you do not need specific cleaners to clean different types of surfaces, for example, mirrored surfaces, metal, carpeting, and upholstery.

But they all work the same way – by scrubbing away dirt from hard services.

An Array of Solvents

Because no sole product can provide you with maximum cleaning performance, it comes as no revelation that the market is flooded with an array of solvents. While some cleaners are designed to be all-purpose in nature, others are made to work on specific kinds of surfaces or dirt.

Plus, unlike the ingredients listed in food, all the ingredients in a cleaner are not revealed. Therefore, you have to somewhat become a domestic Sherlock Holmes to make your selection. To make it easier for you, then, let’s look at the types of cleaners that are regularly used.

All-Purpose Cleaners are Available in Abrasive and Non-Abrasive Formulations

As stated, the all-purpose cleaner is a popular type of product. The cleaner is made up of abrasive scrubbers that come in powder and liquid formulas, as well as scouring pads. Non-abrasive all-purpose cleaners are available, too, and are formulated into sprays, liquids, and powders.

Specialty Cleaning Products - Specialty cleaners are those products that are made to clean such areas as the bathroom and kitchen as well as specific surfaces, such as metal and glass.

Types of Specialty Cleaners

Specialty cleaners are sold in the form of:

  • Bleaches;
  • Multi-surface cleaners;
  • Disinfecting agents;
  • Glass cleaners;
  • Metal polishers;
  • Oven cleaners
  • Hard water mineral deposit removers;
  • Bathroom cleaners that clean the shower, toilet bowl, tub, tile, or sink;
  • Carpet and rug cleaners;
  • Furniture polishers;
  • Upholstery cleaners; and
  • General floor cleaning products.

Plus, along with all the above commercial products, you have more natural cleaning choices, too, such as baking soda and ammonia.

Defining the Abrasive Cleaner

Now that you have been given a good overview, if not a laundry list, of the products that are regularly used, you can see how each of the cleaners can be utilized to its full dirt-removing effect. For instance, abrasive cleaners, as the name implies, are made to adroitly get rid of concentrated or embedded soil that has accumulated in a small space. Think of an abrasive cleanser then as a solvent that supplies you with a bit more elbow grease, thereby making it easier to remove stubborn soil. Abrasives can consist of mineral particles and materials made of nylon, copper, steel wool, or metal particles.

Read the Label Instructions Carefully on Any Cleaning Products you Buy

Because the abrasiveness of a product can vary, it’s important to follow the label instructions carefully. Otherwise, you stand the chance of removing more than just grime or dirt.

All-Purpose Cleaners Advertised as Disinfectants

While abrasive, all-purpose cleaners are used to get rid of dirt or soap scum, abrasive cleaners can also be designed to disinfect surfaces in the home as well. These kinds of cleaners contain an agent that features antimicrobial properties and therefore is designed to reduce surface bacteria. Disinfectant all-purpose cleaners, which contain either ammonium compounds or pine oil, generally are advertised to kill germs on contact.

Abrasive Powders

Among abrasive cleaners, powders have long held a spot in cleaning the home. Cleaning and polishing are provided by such mineral particles as feldspar, silica, calcite, and quartz. These types of all-purpose powders typically contain surfactants, which are helpful in getting rid of grease and oil, such as what is found in the kitchen sink. For the removal of mold and mildew then, a bleaching agent is usually added to the cleaner.

Scouring Pads

Just like abrasive powders, scouring pads have been used for a long time. When steel wool is used to polish surfaces, a cleaning mixture, which mainly contains soap, is included in the pad. The pad is designed to corrode after continual use. Some scouring pads, however, are made of non-corrosive materials and are made into stainless steel, copper, or nylon mesh. If you want to avoid making marks on surfaces, then choosing a sponge made of cellulose with a polyurethane backing is your best bet.

Abrasive Liquid Cleaners

Liquid all-purpose cleaners that are abrasive in nature are made up of a suspension of abrasive-type particles in a thick gel or liquid. Usually, liquid cleaners contain gentler abrasives than what is included in abrasive powders.

Non-abrasive Solvents

Non-abrasive solvents are available in numerous forms. Many products are featured in a powder that can be diluted. Other solvents are featured as liquids that can be either used full-strength or mixed with water. Newer cleaners are often sold in a concentrated form and are available in bottles with trigger sprays or in aerosol cans. Just like abrasive cleaners, some non-abrasive cleaners are formulated to disinfect.

Where are Non-abrasive Cleaners Used?

Liquid cleaners or all-purpose powders that are combined with water are primarily used on large cleaning surfaces, including walls, floors, woodwork, and counters. These kinds of cleaners should be used on hard surfaces with a uniform amount of dirt. Full-strength or concentrated cleaners are usually recommended for hard surfaces that are heavily soiled.

Surfactants and Builders

The primary ingredients in a non-abrasive cleaner are builders and surfactants. If your non-abrasive cleaner contains a surfactant, you’ll notice that the product will foam, especially when it is diluted in water. This reduced amount of foam makes it easier for you to rinse away the cleaner. Because most all-purpose cleaners are designed to work in conditions that are more alkaline in nature, they will often contain sodium carbonate, which acts as a buffer and builder. Non-abrasive products also frequently contain organic solvents, such as isopropanol, pine oil, or ammonia.

All-purpose Sprays

Spray cleaners that are non-abrasive are made to be used on washable spots that are smaller. These areas can include switch plates, appliances, stovetops, appliances, and chrome fixtures. Like non-abrasives that are diluted with water, spray cleaners are made with an organic solvent, builders, and surfactants. A surfactant and a solvent in a cleaner make it ideal to use on soils that are greasy or oily.

Specialty Cleaners Used for Specific Areas of the Home

Specialty cleaners, as their name suggests, are made to be used for specialized surfaces, including glass, metal, tile, carpeting, and upholstery. Therefore, if you use these products for their intended purpose, you can obtain excellent cleaning results with a minimum of difficulty. The following information can assist you in your use and understanding of these types of products.

Bathroom and Kitchen Cleaning Products

Specialty cleaners for the kitchen and bath include the following:

Bleach products (containing sodium hypochlorite) are often used for removing fabric stains. The ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is also effective for getting rid of stains on hard surfaces and killing mold and mildew, viruses, and bacteria.

Disinfectant cleaners contain such antimicrobial type agents as sodium hypochlorite, phenols, or pine oil – all made to kill viruses and bacteria on hard surfaces. Surfactants and builders are added to clean dirt off of surfaces too. Follow the label instructions carefully to ensure that the products are used properly.

Traditional drain openers remove drain build-up in the form of soap scum and grease. Enzymes in the products act to get rid of the accumulation. Clogged bathroom drains that are filled with soap particles or hair can be opened up with drain cleaners that contain such agents as sodium hydroxide or sodium hypochlorite.

Mineral hard water build-up can be removed by by-products that are formulated to get rid of dissolved salts that accumulate over time. Products are available in both liquid and powder form and often come in trigger sprays. Minerals, rust, and limescale are dissolved by such agents as hydroxy acetic or citric acid. Some of the products contain organic solvents or surfactants to assist in removing the build-up or getting rid of soap scum. These kinds of products are often used around the doors of the shower, in toilet bowls, and around metal faucets.

Shower cleaners that are made for daily use are designed to stop the build-up of mildew, lime scale, or soap scum without the need to scrub or rinse. The cleaners are available in trigger sprays or liquids. Products generally contain surfactants, chelates (builders), or alcohol, as well as antimicrobial agents. The streak-free cleaners include a fragrance to invoke a feeling of freshness.

While shower cleaners are made to be used on shower surfaces and tiles, some products may not be recommended for use on marble or plastic surfaces. Therefore, make sure you always read the label to make sure the product is safe for use. For the best outcome, use the cleaners on a shower that has already been thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed. Because shower cleaners that are used daily do not require that you scrub the surface, it’s best, to begin with, a shower that is devoid, for the most part, of soap scum and other deposits.

Toilet bowl cleaners are made to get rid of soiling, hard water stains, and rust, as well as disinfect surfaces. Products are available in gel-type formulations and as in-the-tank cleaners. Cleaners are comprised of oxidants, acids, and surfactants that get rid of the soil, while sequestrants are included to get rid of hard water build-up and stains. Oxidizing agents are also added in some cleaners to get rid of stains.

Antimicrobial agents, such as ammonium salts, are used to disinfect. Some toilet bowl cleaners contain especially potent ingredients, such as hydrochloric acid, for removing stubborn stains and rust. Most, if not all, of the cleaners, are made with a pleasant fragrance. Generally, it’s ill-advised to combine the cleaners with other solvents.

Oven cleaners generally come in aerosol containers and contain lye or sodium hydroxide as their main ingredient. Designed to be used inside a cold oven, the lye transforms dried food and grease into soap. Some oven cleaners are made up of salts containing lower alkalinity and are used in a heated oven to get rid of grease. Surfactants are added to wet the oven’s surface and assist in the cleaning process.

Glass and Multi-purpose Glass Cleaners

Besides the specialty cleaners used in the kitchen and bath, specialty solvents are also used to remove dirt from mirrors or glass. Some cleaners are also designed to clean glass as well as surfaces in the kitchen too.

Glass cleaners are made to polish glass without leaving any streaks. Products are available in trigger spray bottles or aerosol sprays. Builders, which are alkaline in nature, like ammonia, are used for removing kitchen grease or body oils. Alternatively, acid builders, such as vinegar, are better used to remove mineral salts. Multi-surface cleaners that also clean glass contain alkalis, builders, and surfactants, all of which keep surfaces streak-free.

Metal Cleaners

Specialty cleaners are also available that clean metal too. These cleaners come in the form of liquids, which contain suspended abrasives or in pastes or gel-type consistencies. If abrasives are used, they are represented by such materials as hydrous silica or kaopolite. Metal cleaning formulas may also include surfactants to assist in removing tarnish. Some of the cleaners include an antioxidant to slow down tarnishing.

Yay. All done. You can now start stocking up on cleaning supplies.

The Cleaning Coach is a nationally-recognized green homekeeping expert dedicated to educating people on keeping their homes, schools and work areas GREEN.