Multi-purpose cleaners: Which are the best for cleaning your home?

Multi-purpose cleaners that were used in The Sunday Times' test.
Multi-purpose cleaners that were used in The Sunday Times' test.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

With the sheer number of cleaning products on the market, it can be bewildering to decide what you should use for your home. To make things easier, start by settling for a multi-purpose cleaner.

As its name suggests, the product can be used on a variety of surfaces – be it stainless steel, glazed ceramic tiles, linoleum or glass – and different areas of the house such as countertops, stove tops, sinks, floors, cabinets and walls.

Three multi-purpose cleaners are on a National Environment Agency’s (NEA) interim list of household products and active ingredients that can kill coronaviruses.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam of the Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena says it is safest to go with the NEA list, but adds that the virus also dies when one uses soap or detergent and water.

For general home cleaning, he recommends “cleaning high-touch areas often”.

For those who want to clean with more than just detergent and water, The Sunday Times puts eight multi-purpose cleaners to the test, including the three on the NEA list – Mr Muscle Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Zagro Zazacorona Ready To Use Disinfectant Multi Surface Cleaner and Clorox Scentiva Disinfecting Multi- Surface Cleaner.

Performance

CURRY STAINS ON GLAZED CERAMIC TILE

I splatter curry gravy on white glazed ceramic tiles.

The Method cleaner comes up top. With four sprays, I manage to get most of the stains off after the first wipe. I do not need to exert much force either.

The second most effective one is Ecover. This and the FairPrice product do not leave streaks after wiping.

When I use Dettol and Clorox, the stains turn reddish but are easy to wipe off. Zagro Zazacorona is also effective. 

Naomi Shinagawa needs more sprays and wiping to get the job done, as does Mr Muscle.

OILY STAINLESS STEEL STOVE TOP

I splash a teaspoon of used cooking oil on my stainless steel stove top.

For all the cleaners, I need to spray a second time after the first wipe to remove the remaining grease.

But Method is the winner again. The light green cleaner turns the oil stain pinkish, but it is easy to wipe off and does not leave greasy track marks.

Dettol and Clorox turn the oil stain such a bright red colour, it reminds me of an uncooked blood-streaked egg. I feel grossed out wiping up the mess although the oil stain comes off rather easily.

Mr Muscle performs decently in removing the grease.

The Naomi Shinagawa cleaner, which is colourless, turns the oil stain a light pink and does a great job at getting rid of it. But it reacts with the oil, giving off a pungent smell.

FairPrice gets most of the oil off at first wipe. Ecover and Zagro Zazacorona leave streaks after rounds of spraying and wiping to remove the oil.

DIRT AND NEWSPAPER INK STAINS ON PLASTIC SURFACE

I test the cleaners on a white outdoor garden table that has stains from dirt and newspaper ink, which are not easily removed by a damp cloth.

It is a tie between Ecover and Naomi Shinagawa as the most effective in removing the newspaper ink stains, even the stubborn ones. A few sprays and gentle wiping get the job done.

With Dettol, Clorox and Method, I have to use some strength to get rid of the older stains.

Mr Muscle performs better than FairPrice, but with both, I need more sprays and effort.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The FairPrice cleaner is the most economical at $4.40 for a 2-litre bottle. There are directions on the bottle – to use one to two caps to four litres of water for non-rinse mopping; and two to three caps to 500ml of water for spray-and-wipe cleaning. But in my tests, I use it undiluted.

Mr Muscle can be mistaken for a floor cleaner as the label has a prominent picture of a kitchen floor, bucket and mop. At its usual price of $6.50 for a 3-litre bottle, it still offers value – dilution instructions for general cleaning like mopping is one cap to a bucket of water.

Method is pricey, but looks and smells good. It also boasts non-toxic plant-based technology, with no animal-testing, and the bottle is made from recycled plastic.

Ecover, which is “formulated to minimise the risk of allergies”, is cruelty-free. The bottle is made of at least 25 per cent recycled plastic and is recyclable.

Other value-add features

SCENT

Method is the clear winner here. The lime and sea salt fragrance makes the oil stain smell delicious.

Some people may associate certain Dettol products with a “hospital smell”, but the Dettol cleaner has a mild fragrance of lemon and lime.

The Clorox cleaner’s floral scent can be overpowering during use. The lavender scent of Mr Muscle smells artificial but is not overpowering.

Ecover does not contain fragrance or colour, but as it mixes with oil stains, it smells like stale beer. As mentioned earlier, Naomi Shinagawa turns pungent on reacting with oil stains even though its original scent is of lemongrass and lemon basil.

FairPrice’s lavender scent smells like cheap air freshener and is choking during use.

PACKAGING

Dettol, Clorox, Method, Naomi Shinagawa, and Zagro Zaracorona come in convenient spray bottles and are easy to use. The nozzles of the Dettol and Clorox bottles are the most powerful, with the spray covering a larger radius – but this can be a disadvantage if you are cleaning a small area.

Method, which comes in a clear bottle, has the most attractive packaging.

Zagro Zazacorona comes in a functional white bottle with a pink and green label that reminds me of the packaging of liquid fertiliser.

Mr Muscle and FairPrice come in large bottles with no spray nozzles so you will need to get your own spray bottles. The Ecover bottle also does not come with a spray nozzle.

CONCLUSION

If you are looking for a multi-purpose cleaner that will inspire you to clean, go for Method. It looks and smells good and performs as it should for the price you are paying.

Dettol and Clorox are reliable brands, but between the two, Dettol’s citrus scent is easier to work with.

If you are looking for cleaners for the floor and other surfaces, FairPrice and Mr Muscle are good choices given their prices and directions for dilution.

Naomi Shinagawa and Ecover are functional cleaners.

Zagro Zazacorona is on the NEA list, but it is my least favourite in terms of price and effectiveness in stain removal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 'Clean up your act'. Subscribe