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What Can You Clean With an All-Purpose Cleaner?

What can you clean with an all-purpose cleaner?

You might glaze past the details when you read a label that reads “all-purpose cleaner”. But the truth of the matter is, you might want to be a bit more mindful when handling a product of this nature. An all-purpose cleaner can in fact be used for a range of cleaning tasks. But the fact of the matter is, they’re not always the one-size-fits-all miracle cleaner they might claim to be. 

When you’re using a product on multiple surfaces in your home –your kitchen counter, bathroom, even your children’s toys– it’s important to pay close attention to the contents of it. “All-purpose cleaner” doesn’t always mean “safe for all areas of your home”.

Let’s explore more on what it actually means if a product claims to be an all-purpose cleaner and discuss what you can and can’t clean with one. 

What Is an All-Purpose Cleaner?

All-purpose cleaners aren’t formulated under a standardized set of ingredients. The term is actually more of a catch-all phrase. A cleaner that reads “all-purpose” can act as a detergent, degreaser, disinfectant, solvent, or hybrid of all of these. Since there isn’t an agreed-upon set of ingredients necessary for a cleaner to pass as an all-purpose cleaner, each brand can have a completely different take on the product. 

What Can You Use an All-Purpose Cleaner On? 

All-purpose cleaners are made to clean off dirt and grim. Most all-purpose cleaners will aim to effectively clean glass, steel, and laminate. But since there can be such variance with ingredients from product to product, some will clean a given surface better than others.

Product X may be great on glass but fall short on laminate. Product Y might be perfect on steel but leave a grease film on glass. And Product Z might hit the mark on every single recommended surface. This will all depend on the ingredients.

Effectiveness aside, you can generally use an all-purpose cleaner for the following (unless otherwise directed): 

  • You can use an all-purpose cleaner to clean windows and mirrors. Simply spray on the glass surface and wipe until the solution is gone. Be sure to thoroughly wipe the surface down because, depending on the product formula, it could leave a film. 
  • All-purpose cleaners can also be used to clean your floors. It’s recommended that you dilute about 1/4 ounce of solution per gallon in cold water. 
  • Some all-purpose cleaners can also be used as a disinfectant. Remember, it’s important to leave the wet solution behind on whatever surface you want to disinfect so it can properly kill the pathogens there. 
  • Use an all-purpose cleaner to handle scuffs and splatter on painted walls. Generally, you can clean up the mess without stripping the paint. Just be sure to check the label first.

What You Should NOT Use an All-Purpose Cleaner On

Despite the fact that this type of cleaner is called “all-purpose” they actually aren’t suitable for some surfaces. Depending on their ingredients you might want to avoid using all-purpose cleaners on the following surfaces.   


This can be on a case by case basis but it’s best to skip out on using all-purpose cleaners on wood of any kind. Due to its porous nature, it’s especially important not to use this type of product on unfinished wood. It can seep in and create a sticky, unpleasant residue. 


Upholstery and fabric of any kind is another porous material you should avoid using an all-purpose cleaner on. Most can soak in and deteriorate the materials. 


Yet another porous surface, limestone is also a no-go for all-purpose cleaners. They could discolor the material and not adequately clean the surface.

Tubs, Showers, and Toilets

A lot of all-purpose cleaners don’t include disinfectant qualities or tough enough ingredients to tackle bathroom grim. You can use them or in between major cleans but it likely won’t assist in removing any calcified, rusted messes thoroughly. 

5 Tips For Using an All-Purpose Cleaner 

  • Read the label. Every all-purpose cleaner is made with a different set of ingredients. Each will work best on a unique set of surfaces. 
  • Use gloves. Some ingredients can be irritants and be rough on your skin. 
  • Only buy from transparent companies that are open about their ingredients.
  • Be sure to store your products where pets and children can’t access them.
  • Avoid fragrance whenever possible. Many ingredients used to create scent can be irritating to the skin and eyes.