Which surface cleaners do I need for my home?
January 4, 2023
Keeping your home clean is a never-ending challenge, especially if your household includes children, pets or multiple adults with crazy schedules and different ideas of what “clean” means.
One thing that makes the task easier is ensuring you have the best products for each job. Sure, you can likely use an all-purpose cleaner everywhere, but is it really getting the job done in the most efficient way possible?
And what about sanitizing vs. disinfecting? Are you removing germs, killing them or just smearing them around? We chatted with formulations research scientist Eric Pattok, Amway’s expert on surface cleaners, to get some guidance on what products are best to clean your home.
So back to that all-purpose cleaner—can it really be used everywhere? Or should your cleaning supplies include specialty products for each area, such as a kitchen cleaner, a bathroom disinfectant or a disinfectant spray for fabrics?
All-purpose cleaners, or multi-purpose cleaners, mean just that: They are suitable for multiple surfaces without fear of damage—when used correctly, of course. A good one will take you far.
But Pattok says you shouldn’t dismiss cleaners that are designed for certain rooms or surfaces because they’re formulated for the specific things that you’re trying to get rid of.
“For example, our Amway Home™ Kitchen Cleaner contains specific kitchen-targeted ingredients like orange oil, which is excellent for stuck-on grease,” Pattok said. “Likewise, our bathroom cleaner is formulated to be more acidic than our L.O.C.™ Multi-Purpose Cleaner, so it takes off soap scum and hard water spots without scrubbing.”
So whether it’s bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner or glass cleaner, it might be smart to get the specialized cleaning products. Without those formulation tweaks, you would likely be using more time and energy than necessary to get the job done.
When it comes to cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, we might all feel like we’ve had a crash course in recent years. But let’s hear from the expert on what those terms really mean.
“In our nomenclature, cleaning is used as a broad term to represent the removal of unwanted substances,” Pattok said. “Disinfectants are simply chemicals that kill microorganisms and are typically used on surfaces.”
You clean the floors by removing dirt and grime, clean the counters by decluttering and wiping off the crumbs and clean the shower by removing soap scum and hard water stains. While all those surfaces will be clean, they won’t be disinfected unless your product includes a disinfectant.
“Sanitizers are a type of disinfectant and are typically more mild as they are intended to come in close contact or be used on humans,” Pattok said. ““They typically work to a lesser degree due to their more mild nature.”
You might see the term “broad spectrum” on the label of a disinfectant, which means they may be effective against many different types of harmful microorganisms, Pattok said. “As an example, our Pursue™ Disinfectant Cleaner is considered broad-spectrum and is effective against many different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi.”
Ok, that makes sense, especially when it comes to hard surfaces we’re used to wiping or scrubbing. But what about soft surfaces like furniture, drapes or rugs? Is there a disinfectant spray for fabric or some type of sanitizing product for those porous surfaces?
Yes! Often they come in the form of deodorizers. Read the label to see if they have the extra ability to disinfect or sanitize, as well.
“Some deodorizers, like our Pursue Disinfectant Deodorizer Spray, work by killing, or disinfecting, the source of smells like mold and mildew,” Pattok said “These tend to be long lasting as they act to prevent mold and mildew from growing back for a certain time period which provides a longer-lasting deodorizing effect than a deodorizer without a disinfectant.”
You can also use Pursue Disinfectant Deodorizer Spray or Pursue Disinfect Cleaner to sanitize soft surfaces, like couches, mattresses or pet beds, regardless of odor, he said. Simply follow the directions with each product for spraying on and letting air dry.
“As with every cleaning product, it’s important to read the packaging and labels because they will have instructions on how to correctly use it,” Pattok said.
What if you don’t have any commercially made products on hand? Can you use alcohol to disinfect? Is vinegar a disinfectant? What about bleach? For some of these questions, the answer depends on the concentration, Pattok said.
“Bleach is a powerful oxidizer and can be used as both a disinfectant and a sanitizer,” he said. “At higher concentrations it is a fairly effective disinfectant.”
Alcohol—usually ethanol—can also be both a sanitizer and disinfectant, Pattok said. “Alcohols actually work best on bacteria when diluted to a specific amount due to their evaporation potential; they need time to penetrate the cell membrane. At higher concentrations, alcohols can be effective against certain viruses.”
Vinegar, on the other hand is not a disinfectant recognized by the EPA, Pattok said. “It does have some disinfectant properties but is not effective enough to be deemed a disinfectant.”
While making homemade cleaning products may give you a sense of satisfaction or feed your minimalist soul, they likely won’t work as well as commercially made products that are based on years of research.
“The reality is that commercial cleaners are carefully formulated to include the chemistry necessary to most effectively clean what you’re trying to clean,” Pattok said. “A good example of this is the trend of using vinegar to clean everything.”
Pattok said vinegar does a good job at certain tasks, like removing limescale in the shower, but it doesn’t have the extra ingredients that help prevent limescale from returning or that leave the surface streak-free.
OK, but what about using cleaners to make homemade wipes? Multi-purpose wipes are super convenient to have on hand for quick cleanups, so making your own seems like a great idea, right? In theory, yes. But Pattok cautions against it because wipes involve more than just a cleaning solution and a cloth.
“Wipe formats are actually quite challenging because the high-water content plus the wipe substrate form the perfect environment to support microbial growth,” he said. “Commercial wipe products contain preservatives, which prevent this growth and keep the product safe to use through its entire shelf life.”
If you do decide to purchase a cleaner that’s commercially produced, you’ll be faced with a seemingly endless variety of options. One of the first choices is whether to purchase one that’s ready to use or a concentrated one that you mix with water.
It’s very much a personal preference, but Pattok is a fan of concentrated cleaner products because ready-to-use products, by design, are actually mostly made up of water.
“Water is the most important solvent in our world and a necessary part of our cleaning products,” he said. “But by choosing a concentrated cleaner, we can avoid shipping all that water. That cuts down on shipping and packaging and presents a better value for consumers.”
Bonus tip: Concentrated cleaners also allow the user to choose their own strength of the final product, which can be useful when mixing for light usage like in a spray bottle, or heavy usage for tough projects, Pattok said. (Make sure to follow instructions for each use!)
Something else to look for is the Safer Choice label or other key certifications. The Safer Choice label from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency means that the product has been evaluated by EPA scientists to ensure it meets stringent criteria of choosing ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment.
Click on over to the Amway Home page to learn more about surface cleaners, laundry products or other household items sold by Amway.
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