Cleaning house means cleaning surfaces like floors, walls, windows, rugs and appliances. Except for rugs and upholstery, most household surfaces are “hard.” Technically, household cleaning is “hard surface cleaning.”
No single product can provide optimum performance on all surfaces and all soils. Thus, it is not surprising that many different household cleaners are available in the marketplace. They are formulated to clean efficiently and conveniently in the many different situations found in the home. Some are designed for more general use, such as all-purpose cleaners, while others are designed to work best on specific surfaces and/or soils.
Click on the links below to learn more about the following types of household cleaning products:
Kitchen, Bathroom, Glass and Metal Cleaners
Disinfectants and Disinfectant Cleaners
Glass and Multi-surface Cleaners
Hard Water Mineral Removers
Metal Cleaners and Polishes
Shower Cleaners – Daily
Toilet Bowl Cleaners
Tub, Tile and Sink Cleaners
Floor and Furniture Cleaners
Carpet and Rug Cleaners
Floor Care Products
Furniture Cleaners and Polishes
Other Cleaning Aids
Abrasive cleaners are designed to remove relatively heavy amounts of soil often found in small areas. They come in powder and liquid form and contain a kind of built-in elbow grease, which helps cut down on the hard rubbing required to remove soil. Scouring pads are also included in this category.
The abrasive action is provided by a variety of ingredients: small particles of minerals or a network of fine steel wool, copper, nylon or metal particles imbedded in a matrix of solid plastic.
The degree of abrasiveness of products varies. Over an extended period of time, the overuse of some abrasive cleaners can remove the glaze or coating from some surfaces. Always read and follow the surface manufacturer’s instructions before using a product.
Some cleaners disinfect surfaces. They include an antimicrobial agent to reduce the bacterial population that lives on soiled surfaces. Such agents can include pine oil, quaternary ammonium compounds or sodium hypochlorite. Such products will be labelled “disinfectant” or “kills germs.” In order to use this labelling, these products are regulated and approved by Health Canada.
Powdered cleaners have a long established place among household cleaners. Their cleaning and polishing action is provided by fine particles of minerals, such as calcite, feldspar, quartz and silica. In addition, powdered cleaners contain small amounts of surfactants for removing oily soils, such as the greasy film often found in sinks after dishwashing. Where removal of food, beverage, or mould and mildew stains is required, a bleaching agent is usually present. Where removal of rust stains is a performance feature of the product, oxalic acid or sodium hydrosulphite may be present.
Liquid cleaners are a suspension of solid abrasive particles in a thickened liquid matrix. They contain more surfactant and softer abrasives than are found in some powdered cleaners. As a result, their abrasive action is usually gentler than powders.
Scouring pads, like powdered cleaners, are products with a long history of use. In the most widely used types, a ball of fine steel wire provides the scouring action. For chemical cleaning and as a polishing aid, the steel wool pad may be filled with a cleaning mixture whose principal ingredient is soap.
Particularly on metal surfaces, the soap and metal pad can provide effective cleaning and a pleasing shine. On continued use, the cleaning mixture is used up and the pad begins to corrode.
Some scouring pads are made of non-corroding materials, such as a mesh of copper, stainless steel wire or nylon, while others are a plastic material imbedded with small particles of abrasives. These pads are not impregnated with a cleaning mixture and rely on mechanical action alone.
Other scouring pads consist of a cellulose sponge with a polyurethane backing. These pads significantly reduce the scratching of surfaces.
Non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaners are marketed in different forms. They are offered as powders that can be dissolved to the proper strength and as liquids that can be diluted or used full strength. The newest powders and liquids are concentrated products. Liquids are also available as trigger sprays, in aerosol cans or in pump-actuated bottles.
Non-abrasive cleaners can also contain antimicrobial agents to disinfect. Such products will specify on the label that they “kill germs” or “disinfect” and are regulated and approved by Health Canada.
Powdered or liquid cleaners mixed with water are most often used on fairly large washable surfaces like floors, painted walls, countertops and woodwork, where accumulations of soil are relatively uniform. For heavy soiling, more concentrated solutions can be prepared. Liquids may also be used full strength.
The major ingredients in non-abrasive cleaners are surfactants and builders. A surfactant’s presence is noticeable by the appearance of foam, particularly in diluted water solutions. All-purpose cleaners are generally formulated to produce only a moderate amount of foam, which makes rinsing easier.
Since most all-purpose cleaners work best in alkaline conditions, they often contain an alkaline buffer salt, such as sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate can also function as a builder.
These cleaners can also contain other ingredients, such as ammonia, pine oil and organic solvents like ethanol or isopropanol.
Spray cleaners are designed for use on smaller washable areas. Soiled walls around switch plates, chrome fixtures, appliances and cooktops are examples. Like the dilutable products, sprays are formulated with surfactants and low levels of builders; most contain an organic solvent. The combination of surfactant and solvent makes such products particularly effective on greasy soils.
Specialty cleaning products have a narrower spectrum of uses than all-purpose products. They are designed for specific surfaces, such as glass, bathroom surfaces, ovens, drains, metal, floors, carpets, furniture and upholstery, and the soils that usually collect on these surfaces. By concentrating on specific conditions, specialty products can deliver optimum performance and convenience.
KITCHEN, BATHROOM, GLASS AND METAL CLEANERS
BleachesUse of liquid household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) for removing stains on fabrics is well known. Sodium hypochlorite is similarly effective on stains found on hard surfaces. In addition, it can be used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi, including moulds and mildew.
Disinfectants and Disinfectant CleanersDisinfectants contain antimicrobial agents, such as pine oil, sodium hypochlorite, quaternary ammonium compounds or phenols, which kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces. A surface should be free of heavy soil for effective disinfection.Disinfectant cleaners contain surfactants and builders to remove soil in addition to antimicrobial agents to kill germs. Therefore, they are effective at cleaning surfaces as well as killing germs. Label instructions must be followed to assure the surface is disinfected.
Drain OpenersToday, drain opening products fall into two categories. The newer category includes maintenance products or “build-up removers”; the second category includes traditional drain openers.Build-up removers are liquids formulated to prevent the grease and soap scum build-up which causes clogged drains. They contain enzymes or a culture of bacteria which produces enzymes. The enzymes break down and digest organic materials, such as grease, that accumulate in pipes. Build-up removers can be used on an ongoing basis to keep drains free flowing.For opening clogged drains, a traditional drain opener may be required. Drain openers are chemically strong liquid or crystal products formulated for this demanding job. Clogged kitchen drains are often caused by plugs of solid grease which may have all types of materials imbedded in them, obstructing the free flow of water. Sodium hydroxide is often used to generate heat to melt fat and break it down to simpler substances that can be rinsed away. Some products also contain agents to produce gas which provides agitation in the drain, a further help in opening drains.Clogged bathroom drains are often caused by hair, soap particles, toothpaste or combinations of these materials. On these problems, liquid drain openers containing sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide can work well.
Glass CleanersGlass cleaners are designed to clean glass surfaces without streaking or leaving any residual soil or product. Liquid glass cleaners are available in bottles with trigger sprays or in aerosol containers.The products contain surfactants to loosen soil, solvents to dissolve oily soils, and water as the medium to carry surfactants and solvents. Builders are included to remove heavier soils, especially oily soils. Alkaline builders, such as ammonia, are more effective on acidic soils like body oils or cooking grease. Acetic acid (vinegar) provides better performance on alkaline soils like mineral salts.The spraying arrangement, a pump or a pressurized aerosol container, helps in applying the product across the surface to be cleaned, assures uniform distribution and minimizes product waste.Opaque creamy glass cleaners contain surfactants and solvents. They also contain colloidal clays and silica, which absorb soil and dry after spreading. Any remaining dried solid shows areas that need to be wiped.
Glass and Multi-surface CleanersThese function as effective cleaners on a variety of kitchen surfaces and