From the Counters to the Floor, the Best All-Purpose Cleaners Do It All
And we tested our favorites to prove it.
Published May 13, 2022 6:00 PM
Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
Sometimes there’s no time to get your home in tip-top shape before the arrival of unexpected guests. If you’ve ever made an even bigger mess while fishing out all the right cleaning tools, sprays, and powders needed to take your wood floors, laminate counters, and stainless steel sink from dull and dirty to sparkling, we’ve been there. To make tidying up in a time crunch less stressful, we turn to one bottle that promises to do it all.
All-purpose cleaners are incredibly handy to have around, as most are safe enough to spray on more than just a few surfaces, so all you have to do is grab a cloth and start wiping down every room in your home. Although this may have you wondering: Is this too good to be true? In an attempt to discover if a plant-based, chemical-free formula is strong enough to tackle all sorts of grime (buildup in the bathtub, a forgotten coffee drip, food caked on the stove)—and look good while doing it—we tested a bunch (12, to be exact) of the best all-purpose cleaners and found six standout favorites worth adding to your daily cleaning ritual. We’ve pretty much replaced our specific cleaners altogether for these. Cutting back on germs and clutter? The best all purpose cleaners are a win-win.
- Best overall: Blueland Multi-Surface Starter Set
- Best value: Safely Universal Cleaner
- Best splurge: Guests on Earth All-Purpose Cleaner Kit
- Best range: L’Avant Collective Multipurpose Surface Cleaner
- Best antibacterial: Method All-Purpose Antibac Cleaner
- Best newcomer: Pottery Barn Homekeeping All Purpose Surface Spray
Best Overall: Blueland Multi-Surface Starter Set
Type: Dissolvable tablet | Surfaces: All nonporous hard surfaces | Size: 24 fluid ounces
What we like:
- Tablets shipped in 3-, 6-, and 12-packs
- 60-day returns
- Cradle to Cradle, Leaping Bunny, EPA Safer Choice, and USDA BioPreferred certified
- Only 1 scent option that’s pretty faint (but it’s a lovely lemon)
Why we chose it: This solution far exceeded its trendy reputation when we threw soot and dirt its way—zero chemicals needed.
Blueland nails the trifecta of the best all-purpose cleaners: strong, stylish, and sustainable. The fun yellow-branded bottle, shipped in completely plastic-free packaging thanks to the cleaner’s original state as dried powder tablets, plus a girth of certifications and third-party verifications (not to mention the fact that the company itself is a certified B Corporation and Climate Neutral), certainly prove it. “Our cleaner was tested against three leading multisurface cleaner competitors in a study conducted at an independent third-party lab and outperformed them, including the industry leader in grime removal,” says founder Sarah Paji-Yoo. “As a mom, it was important for me to formulate products that are safe and made without harsh chemicals or harmful ingredients.” When we put it to the test, this spray did the best at wiping away dirt in the tub and dried food on the stove, requiring little to no elbow grease. The only trouble is being patient enough to wait for the tablet to fully dissolve before going into full-on cleaning mode.
Best Value: Safely Universal Cleaner
Type: Liquid spray | Surfaces: Most surfaces including steel, marble, hardwood, and porcelain | Size: 28 fluid ounces
What we like:
- Affordable ($6) and refillable
- Free of artificial stabilizers and dyes
- Pretty, colorful bottle designs
- Corn-derived alcohol
- While we didn’t have problems with the nozzle, others noted the plastic feels a bit flimsy and can break
Why we chose it: Hate having to frequently order refills (or often completely forget)? Safely’s large offering should last you longer than most of the other bottles here half its size (and cost far, far less).
We found Safely’s formula for glass (and mirrors) to be one of the best shower cleaners we tested, but the brand’s Universal cleaner is also a total standout. This relatively new plant-powered cleaning line with a pleasant, spalike scent (created by candlemakers!) rivals old-school sprays’ germ-banishing abilities. You can rely on this cleaner for a quick, standard clean on most surfaces (though it did leave behind some streaks on a superglossy coffee table). There’s a lot to like about it. We can’t get enough of the pleasantness of the scents, including Rise—a bright floral combination of orange, violet, jasmine, and geranium, with woodsy bois de gaiac base notes—and the company just launched a new fragrance: Calm. Lavender forward and coconutty (coconut oil is great for tackling grime), it smells like a piña colada (but don’t drink it). And if you hate having to frequently order refills, Safely’s large offering should last you longer than most of the other bottles listed here that are half its size. Or never forget to order again, by subscribing and saving 10 percent on every future order.
Best Splurge: Guests on Earth All-Purpose Cleaner Kit
Type: Liquid concentrate | Surfaces: Nonporous surfaces, including sealed marble, stone, wood, granite, plastics, and stainless steel | Size: 16.9 fluid ounces
What we like:
- Chic, soft-metal exterior
- Powerful formula
- Free of preservatives
- Refills cost $17 for a 2-pack
- Startup based in Toronto
Why we chose it: Stylish and sustainable, you’ll pay extra for aluminum packaging. The company is currently working to establish a send-back/collection program to wash and refill empty vials to keep them in circulation longer.
Guests on Earth cofounders Jackie Prince and Liz Dayton saw a gap in the market for cleaners directed at millennial homeowners—an intersection of sustainability, self-care, and a countertop-worthy appearance, with a brand that would reinforce their good choices. In fact, it’s the only bottle on this list that isn’t made from plastic or glass; it’s aluminum, and the matte, soft-to-the-touch exterior in a trendy green really stands out in a sea of all-purpose cleaners. “Designed to be seen and enjoyed, not hidden beneath the sink. We intentionally set out to create beautiful objects that complement—and even add—to people’s spaces,” shares Prince. But this bottle isn’t all about looks. Give it a quick spritz and sniff, and you’ll feel transported to a flowery field when using our favorite scent, Dunes at Dusk. And that is the point—the two scents were designed to evoke the smells of natural landscapes.
“Our innovative home system employs reusable, full-size bottles (sold empty), and small-format concentrated refills that reduce packaging and emissions by 10 times,” adds Prince. “We intentionally chose aluminum for its high recyclability; it is 100 percent recyclable and retains its properties indefinitely (does not degrade), which is why nearly 75 percent of the aluminum ever produced is still in circulation (compared with only 9 percent plastic).” Aluminum requires less carbon to ship, is durable, and doesn’t rust. And while you do pay an up-front cost for this bottle, the refillable concentrates are where the magic happens—this cleaner is tough on germs and grime, and refuses to leave behind streaky residue. Trust us, we tried it on every surface, from matte finishes to shiny stainless steel.
Best Range: L’Avant Collective Multipurpose Surface Cleaner
Type: Liquid concentrate | Surfaces: Pretty much everything and anything, including some soft surfaces | Size: 16 fluid ounces
What we like:
- Most versatile application ability on the list
- Antibacterial essential oils
- Leaping Bunny certified
- Save 15 percent when you sign up for the CLEAN subscription program
- First-time purchase for the full kit is a bit pricey
Why we chose it: Works out stains not just on typical surfaces, but shoes, rugs, and even shirts.
Of course, you expect multisurface cleaners to work just fine on a variety of materials, but L’Avant took its formula a step further, encouraging users to spray, well, pretty much everything, including white sneakers. We loved the brightening potential of this bottle, which not only tackled soap scum and coffee spills in a few wipes, but made our tiled grout lines look brighter, on the floors and walls. All of this and the option to spray down upholstery—we’re talking carpets and rugs and fabric-covered couches—and this brand brings a whole other level to all-purpose cleaners we didn’t even think about. Because instinctively, you’d figure this type of cleaner is suited for hard surfaces only, but L’Avant can even be sprayed on a soiled shirt to prevent a stain from setting in—if you don’t have time to swiftly get it to the washer. The cleaner is presented in an elegant container that reminds us of pricey hand soap (note the textured exterior and gold font) despite being recycled plastic. And the equally luxurious fresh linen scent (a mixture of lavender, geranium, basil, and lemon) makes this a countertop-worthy tool. All you have to do is decide whether to go with the single- or three-pack refills (and with the latter you’ll save 70 cents per bottle of concentrate).
Best Antibacterial: Method All-Purpose Antibac Cleaner
Type: Liquid spray | Surfaces: Great for food-prep areas and germ-prone surfaces like doorknobs | Size: 28 fluid ounces
What we like:
- Made in the U.S.
- BPA- and gluten-free
- Sold in large sizes
- Kills up to 99.9 percent of germs, including influenza, salmonella, and rhinovirus (yuck!)
- Some may be sensitive to its stronger, chemical-like scent
Why we chose it: If disinfecting is your biggest concern (especially if a family member or roommate is getting over a cold), then this food-safe spray is your best bet for keeping bacteria at bay.
This one is for the hypochondriacs. If you need a spray that will clean and sanitize all your surfaces, without having to worry if whatever is left behind on your sink, counters, or stovetop may seep into your food, then turn to this option from Method. While testing we used it on everything, but especially found it helpful in the kitchen: on food-prep surfaces, namely countertops, where poultry juices spilled off the cutting board; near the garbage can; and in the sink, where we prefer to spray down fruits and veggies. Simple and affordable (we’re talking less than $5), while offering the largest variety of scents (citron, lavender, lime and sea salt, apple, and pink grapefruit), the antibacterial cleaner is our favorite from Method (and the brand has a standard, all-plant formula, too). It’s no surprise that this spray is safe to use around kids and pets. One other bonus worth mentioning: The bottle is made from 65 percent recycled plastic.
Best Newcomer: Pottery Barn Homekeeping All Purpose Surface Spray
Type: Liquid spray | Surfaces: Most nonporous surfaces including wood and stone (if sealed) | Size: 16 fluid ounces
What we like:
- Made in the U.S.
- Fresh scents thanks to premium botanical oils
- Natural de-greaser
- No prep or assembly needed
- Not refillable
Why we chose it: For less than $10, you can have it all: a chic, minimalistic vessel; a fresh, spalike fragrance; and a formula strong enough to cut through grime and make every room in your home sparkle.
Yes, Pottery Barn has entered the cleaning world with its exclusive Homekeeping line, offering an all-purpose spray that’s incredibly gentle on your hands (our tester’s sensitive skin was unbothered!), just as much as it promises to be gentle to the environment. Before spritzing with this bottle (an easy on-and-off nozzle prevents any leaks), give it a good shake to fully enjoy streak-free shine. The trigger is smooth and the spray covers a relatively wide area—despite coming in a smaller bottle—so you don’t need to worry about dowsing everything and wasting the product. All you need is a couple of squirts to dampen the targeted surface before wiping it down in large, circular patterns with a cloth. Choose between two main scent options: citrus and cedar or aloe and juniper (our personal favorite) with underlying notes of seagrass, rhubarb, cactus pear, and cedarwood. Seriously, the birch and bark extracts round out the floral with a welcome woodiness.
We Also Tested
- Saje, a brand on our best essential oil diffusers list, now offers a Multi-Surface Cleaning Kit made with the same high-quality essential oils but combined with disinfecting properties. It comes in a chic refillable amber bottle that the company claims prolongs the product’s life span, since it’s exposed to less light. We just wish it were as tough on dirt as the others.
- Murchison Home All-Purpose Cleaner also comes in a recyclable plastic amber bottle, encased in a white label that looks as if it were being sold at an open market in France. Although available in an Australian white grapefruit scent, the green fig option is what first garnered the brand’s cult following.
- Deputy editor Julie Vadnal will attest to the Homecourt Surface Cleaner (specifically in its floral scent, Cece), which she now solely relies on to spritz down her bathroom before guests visit after one friend said, “It smells like a spa in here.”
- One reviewer revealed Humble Suds’s All Purpose Spray was gentle enough on a decades-old wood cutting board but also strong enough to remove a Sharpie marker gone awry. Our only caveat is that the scents linger a little longer than we’d prefer.
- Rosey also offers a lemony all-purpose cleaner, which can be added to a variety of different bottle options (with a colorful bottom and nozzle in a navy blue, turquoise, and sunny yellow); our only complaint is that the cleaner ships like a thick dish soap, foaming up quite a bit once you add water. A fill line would help make the prep process a lot less sticky.
- If you’re looking for a floor cleaner that can do it all, you may be tempted to swap your Swiffer for the Casabella Infuse Spray Mop kit—it features a neutral pH, is 100 percent biodegradable, and the extra bottle of concentrate can be used on other surfaces aside from sealed hardwood and ceramic or vinyl tile, to wipe down the whole house.
How We Chose These Products
To find the best all-purpose cleaners, we prioritized formulas that touted natural, plant-, and mineral-based ingredients, and those that steered clear of harmful additives or chemicals that can easily irritate the skin or may be unsafe for children and pets. We also took overall design into consideration, especially when it came to bottles that were easy on the eyes. And this included a simple spray handle and unfussy assembly. Then we put them to the test to see if they really were as tough against grease and grime as they claimed, while still offering pleasant, candlelike scents. We spritzed all sorts of surfaces: stainless steel appliances, laminate countertops and coffee tables, ceramic tile floors, sealed wood furniture, glazed shower tiles, and even painted walls. We checked for streaky or sticky remnants (only a few fell short here, on certain surfaces, but it wasn’t enough to totally write them off; we just moved them under our other likes as opposed to listing them as a top favorite). We lived with these cleaners for weeks to see which we naturally gravitated toward when a spill or mishap arose in the kitchen or for a daily spray-down in the bathroom. In the end, our favorite cleaners rivaled the scents of our favorite candles and laundry detergents, and were just as good at keeping all the surfaces in our home sparkling clean.
Our Shopping Checklist
Ingredients and Formulas
While every formula of an all-purpose cleaner can vary, there are a few ingredients you’ll recognize as gentle cleaning agents if you turn your bottle over to give the label a closer look. Here’s a quick glossary of common scientific compounds, as Yoo and Prince share:
- Decyl and lauryl glucoside are naturally derived from coconut to trap dirt and remove it from the surface. They’re often found in facial cleansers and body wash. Both are a part of the alkyl glucoside family, which means they’re formed by mixing alcohols and sugar. These are great for cleansing but not stripping moisture.
- Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is a natural disinfectant.
- Sodium gluconate is a salt that helps cleaning agents work in water.
- Sodium citrate is used as a pH adjuster and water softener, and is an organic acid found in all sorts of fruits and veggies.
- Sodium carbonate also helps with softening water, in addition to breaking up oils. It’s more commonly known as soda ash and naturally found in mineral deposits.
- Sodium phytate comes from cereal grains and is used as a stabilizer; it boosts the antimicrobial properties of preservatives and protects the integrity of products.
- Potassium sorbate is a naturally derived ingredient to help preserve the shelf life of a product.
Surfaces and Application
While it’s always smart to test out a small, inconspicuous area of your designated surface first to make sure it’s safe (you don’t want to ruin your prized marble counters!), we’re pretty confident you can spray to your heart’s content when choosing a cleaner from this list. Counters, sinks, tubs, tile, floors, walls, cabinets, and in some instances even stovetops—these multisurface cleaners are truly all-purpose. While you’re generally fine to spray and wipe all in one go, for tougher stains or soiled areas, let the product soak into the surface a bit longer (say, five to 10 minutes) before giving it a good scrub.
Reliability and Packaging
Determining if a product is eco-friendly goes beyond the ingredient label, though. We also prioritized refillable and recyclable bottles and packaging. These bottles are made from glass, plastic, and aluminum.
Nearly all of the cleaners on our list of favorites developed a scent with professionals, from perfumers to candlemakers, to craft custom fragrances that are natural and fresh. “The cleaning category either smells overly chemical or excessively fruity,” argues Prince, whose company sought to deliver a multisensory experience for a soft smell that lingers without overwhelming your nose. Because that’s also an important part of the best all-purpose cleaners. Prince’s team discovered that 46 percent of Americans clean to relieve stress, so why not offer a bottle as a means of self-care?
The best all-purpose cleaners all offer unique takes on scent, but you’ll find some ingredient overlap, namely in the form of citrus. Multiple brands offer some sort of take on grapefruit—not only does it smell good but it’s naturally acidic, which can help cut through grease (just like you can cut a lemon or orange and use it to wipe down an array of surfaces until they shine).
Q: Are there any ingredients I should be wary of if I’m sticking to natural cleaners?
The easiest things to avoid, offers Yoo, are bleach, phosphates, parabens, triclosan, ammonia, and any word attached by -phalate. However, since everyone these days is interested in eco-friendly products, there are plenty of green-washing marketing gimmicks you’ll need to avoid, too—unregulated terms such as natural, non-toxic, green, or even sustainable, for instance, can mean anything, without being checked or confirmed by a government agency. “Certifications show that a brand’s ingredients and packaging have been vetted and meet the certifying agency’s standards. The top four certifications to look for are: Platinum Level Material Health Certificate from Cradle to Cradle, USDA BioPreferred, EPA Safer Choice, and Leaping Bunny. These certifications review everything from ingredients and performance to packaging sustainability,” says Yoo.
Q: I hate going through a whole roll of paper towels to wipe everything down. What else can I use?
A microfiber cloth is a great alternative to paper towels, just take it from Prince, who recommends this tool over paper towels when cleaning with Guests on Earth. In fact, the brand offers its own take on the material: Made from 80 percent recycled polyester and 20 percent polyamide (for its high water absorbency and quick-drying properties), its waffle texture is great for scrubbing. “Additionally, the cloths have an antibacterial additive, silver ions, that’s added during the fabric-dyeing process,” Prince points out. “Once the dyeing is complete, the Ag+ adhere to the yarns and create an antibacterial effect.”
Blueland, too, offers its own take on a durable rag called the Cloud Cloth. “It absorbs 10 times its weight in water and can replace 1,500 paper towels,” shares Yoo. “It’s great for deep cleans and wiping down spills every day.”
And if you’re more in the “I used to use Clorox wipes on everything” boat, you’ll be happy to hear that a few of these cleaners offer wipe alternatives. L’Avant’s, for instance, are completely biodegradable and other than the traditional uses (counters, tables, and the like), the company’s cofounders reveal they also work like a Magic Eraser, especially on sneakers, and you can even use them to pretreat a spill and prevent stains from setting in. Another Domino favorite wipe (and just as sustainable!) is Biom, which offers the same germ-fighting qualities with its sanitizing formula in a refillable, display-worthy dispenser (you can’t go wrong with the seafoam color), complete with a magnetic lid that’s easy to open.
Q: Do all-purpose cleaners disinfect?
Long story short, no, unless it explicitly states otherwise. When it comes to safe cleaning, the goal of a plant-based, earth-friendly all-purpose cleaner, explains Prince, is to remove germs, not kill them, which is what harsher, chemical-laden cleaners tend to do. If you’re looking for something that will remove any contagious bacteria, you’ll want to reach for something a bit stronger; the label will often reveal if something is a disinfectant and claim just how many bacteria it can eradicate.
The Last Word
The best all-purpose cleaners aren’t just great for every surface, they’re also the perfect solution for every type of person out there, whether you’re someone who enters a meditative state of calm when wiping down the whole house or a type A who needs a daily tool to keep your space sparkling between work breaks.
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