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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best natural all-purpose cleaners

When stocking your cupboard with household cleaning supplies, don’t forget the all-purpose cleaner. A staple in any clean household, all-purpose cleaner assists in the removal of dirt, grime, and stains from surfaces like wood, glass, and tile. But if you have pets or kids — or if you’re simply concerned about the nature of the chemicals in your environment — you might want to opt for a natural all-purpose cleaner.

Natural cleaners consist of gentle ingredients that are safer for humans and animals than many commercial cleaners. Before you hit the “add to cart” button, however, there are some factors to consider. For example, if you’re sensitive to smells, you may want to avoid a natural cleaner with a scent. It’s also wise to find out whether the cleaner is considered to be antibacterial and how effectively it works on stubborn grime.

At BestReviews, we’re pleased to inform your decision-making process. For a squeaky clean home with minimal hazardous residue and fumes, read this buying guide to learn what you need to know about all-natural cleaners.

We don’t recommend using all-purpose cleaner for heavy-duty bathroom cleaning. Bathrooms are high-germ areas, and a product dedicated to “all-purpose” use may not be strong enough.

Key considerations

VOCs

When evaluating your collection of cleaning products, it’s helpful to know about the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, found in some conventional cleaning products. VOCs are characterized by high vapor pressure and low water solubility. You’ll also find VOCs in petroleum fuels, hydraulic fluids, and paint thinners. The effects of VOCs on health vary; a lot depends on how long the VOCs are inhaled and the concentration at which they’re inhaled. Acute symptoms of high VOC exposure include eye irritation, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

You can reduce your chance of inhaling VOCs by using a natural all-purpose cleaner. Many of these products are made with environmentally friendly ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and borax.

Antibacterial vs. regular

A cleaner that’s antibacterial in nature can inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria. Antibacterial products have become more popular in recent decades. Even so, you may wonder if you really need one. Remember these points when making your choice.

  • Antibacterial cleaners are proven to temporarily reduce the presence of bacteria. This is especially helpful in the homes of people with weakened immune systems.
  • Antibacterial cleaners can be helpful in settings with lots of children. However, washing with soap and water can remove a lot of bacteria, too.
  • Some people worry that using too much antibacterial cleaner may cause bacteria to become resistant. Little conclusive evidence exists to validate this concern.

Scented vs. unscented

While natural all-purpose cleaners don’t usually smell as pungent as conventional cleaners, the odor may still be too strong for those with sensitivities. In most natural cleaners, the fragrance is based on a citrus agent such as lemon or grapefruit essence. Other essential oils may be added, too.

Unscented cleaner is less likely to flare up allergies or trigger migraines.

Features

Vegan

Vegans and animal lovers may opt for all-purpose cleaners that aren’t tested on animals. Several companies specialize in vegan cleaning products. More often than not, vegan cleaning products are free of dyes, fragrances, and toxic chemicals. Look for a "cruelty-free" label on the product.

Method of application

Like conventional all-purpose cleaners, natural cleaners have varying methods of application. Some products come in big bottles meant to be diluted. Others must be sprayed onto a microfiber cloth. Consider what would work best for you. If you're mainly going to wipe surfaces like countertops or tables, a pre-diluted cleaner in a spray bottle may be best.

Accessories

Rubber gloves: Playtex’s Reusable Rubber Cleaning Gloves
Cleaning products of any kind can dry out your hands. Protect your skin with a dedicated pair of rubber cleaning gloves. These gloves from Playtex include a handy drip cuff to keep your hands, arms, and clothing dry. Buyers say they’re comfortable and long-lasting and that they don’t stick to skin.


Microfiber cleaning cloths: MR. SIGA’s Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
An eco-friendly must-have for any cleaning activity, microfiber cloths are versatile and easy to toss in the washer. These cloths are lint-free and non-abrasive, so you won’t have to worry about scratching delicate items. To maintain longevity, avoid using fabric softener when you wash them.


Spray bottle: DilaBee’s 3-Pack of Empty Spray Bottles
If you have concentrated all-purpose cleaner, you can mix it in these handy spray bottles and be ready to go. This three-pack is color-coded so you can use them in multiple rooms. The bottles dispense liquid easily.

Natural all-purpose cleaner prices

Natural all-purpose cleaner costs anywhere from $3 to $15. Price depends on quantity, quality of ingredients, and the strength of the cleaner. Natural cleaners tend to run a few dollars higher than conventional cleaners, but for many, the peace of mind that comes with using these products is priceless.

Inexpensive: Natural cleaners that cost less than $5 usually come in 16-ounce spray bottles. These products tend to be better for simple surface cleaning (wiping countertops, etc.) than heavy-duty cleaning. It’s possible to find vegan cleaners at this price, too.

Mid-range: The $5 to $15 price range will open up your options. Here, you’ll find a greater selection of vegan cleaners, several of which will be sold in packs of two or three. Most of these cleaners are heavy-duty enough to clean grimy tubs and other fixtures.

Expensive: It’s rare to spend above $15 on a natural cleaner. If you do, chances are it’s because you’re buying in bulk (think 48 ounces or more) or from an exclusive manufacturer who sells limited quantities.

Tips

  • Wear rubber gloves. This is true whether you’re using a natural cleaner or a commercial one. Gloves help protect your skin from drying out or developing a rash or another type of reaction.
  • Don’t put cleaner on a hot stovetop. A hot surface could cause the cleaner to burn and steam into the air. It could also damage the stovetop.
  • Never mix ammonia and bleach. Remember this rule for always. The mixture will produce a dangerous chlorine gas that people and pets should not be exposed to.

Other products we considered

We’re fans of Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner because it’s great at cleaning dirty surfaces while working up some satisfying suds. The refreshing lemon verbena scent is delightful, and you can also use it as laundry soap and to get rid of insect infestations. Mrs. Meyer’s is a cruelty-free product.

Sapadilla’s Rosemary + Peppermint All-Purpose Cleaner is another top-notch choice. In addition to this rosemary and peppermint cleaner, Sapadilla makes scents like lavender, lime, grapefruit, and bergamot. Don’t worry if you have a sensitive nose — the scent in this vegan cleaner won’t linger long. Because the substance is concentrated, you can dilute a tablespoon or two with water and put it in a spray bottle. A little goes a long way.

For glass, remove all excess dirt from the surface before spraying your all-purpose cleaner.

FAQ

Q. Do natural cleaners really work?
A.
Natural products can work just as well as conventional ones. Contrary to what some may believe, you don’t need lab-made chemicals to disinfect. For example, a natural substance like white vinegar is a natural germ killer.
 

Q. Will a natural all-purpose cleaner expire?
A.
When stored correctly, a natural all-purpose cleaner can last up to two years. Keep it in a cool, dry place away from heat. Note that scented cleaning products may lose their scent over time.
 

Q. Can I use a natural all-purpose cleaner to clean carpet stains?
A.
Yes, quite a few all-purpose cleaners are suitable for carpet. We suggest testing the surface first to be sure it won't stain the carpet.

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