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The Best Multipurpose Spray Cleaners
We spent weeks cleaning and disinfecting counters, appliances, cabinets, and more. Our mission? Find a spray we could count on.
Published May 5, 2023.
What You Need To Know
Multipurpose cleaning sprays are formulated to tackle messes on a wide array of home surfaces. Only a few products consistently cleaned well in testing. Method All-Purpose Cleaner, French Lavender, dissolved stubborn messes in our homes and test kitchen, leaving behind virtually no streaks or residue. Its reliable cleaning power and pleasant scent make it the best option for most home cleaning jobs. We also think it’s a good idea to keep a safe yet effective antimicrobial product to disinfect high-contact surfaces or clean up after working with raw meats. Method Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner, Bamboo, is our favorite antimicrobial spray. It excelled in all our cleaning tests, and it killed germs effectively when used properly. It contains fewer harmful chemicals than most of the antimicrobial sprays we tested but outperformed them all in our tests. It has a strong scent that a couple testers disliked.
What You Need to Know
As their name suggests, multipurpose spray cleaners (also labeled “all-purpose” or “multi-surface” cleaning sprays) are intended to be versatile. They’re designed to work on a variety of surfaces in your home, from kitchen counters to stovetops to bathroom sinks. To accomplish this goal, they use chemicals from three main categories: surfactants, solvents, and buffering agents.
Surfactants alter the surface tension of grease and soil particles, allowing solvents (usually water) to penetrate and loosen stains. Buffering agents (also called pH adjusters) help stabilize the cleaning product. They balance out the pH of the spray's components to a level that will be effective at fighting grease and soils. By stabilizing pH, these ingredients help the sprays clean a variety of messes.
Some sprays also contain ingredients called antimicrobials, which “disinfect” (or kill germs on) surfaces. Many popular products use traditional antimicrobials, called quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats” for short, that work well but are potentially harmful to inhale or touch. Some newer antimicrobial products use milder disinfectants such as citric acid. These alternatives are widely thought to be safer and similarly effective (more on this below).
We talked to industrial chemists, laboratory scientists, and public health and cleaning experts to learn more about multipurpose cleaners. Then we put our lineup through a litany of tests. Only a few products excelled across the board, and we homed in on what set them apart.
Everything We Tested
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Chase is an associate editor for ATK Reviews. He's an epidemiologist-turned-equipment tester and biscuit enthusiast.