Cleaning products

Types of Household Cleaning Products

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.

  • All-purpose Cleaners
    • Abrasive Cleaners
      • Powders
      • Liquids
      • Scouring Pads
    • Non-abrasive Cleaners
      • Powders
      • Liquids
      • Sprays
  • Specialty Cleaners
    • Kitchen, Bathroom, Glass and Metal Cleaners
      • Bleaches
      • Disinfectants and Disinfectant Cleaners
      • Drain Openers
      • Glass Cleaners
      • Glass and Multi-surface Cleaners
      • Hard Water Mineral Removers
      • Metal Cleaners and Polishes
      • Oven Cleaners
      • Shower Cleaners – Daily
      • Toilet Bowl Cleaners
      • Tub, Tile and Sink Cleaners
    • Floor and Furniture Cleaners
      • Carpet and Rug Cleaners
      • Dusting Products
      • Floor Care Products
      • Furniture Cleaners and Polishes
      • Upholstery Cleaners
  • Other Cleaning Aids
    • Ammonia
    • Baking Soda

ALL-PURPOSE cleaning product


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.

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