Choosing and Using Cleaning Products

Cut cleaning product confusion and save money by sticking to four basic cleaning products.

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Abrasive Cleanser

Chemical-based cleaners — like window cleaner or degreasers — rely on chemical reactions to dissolve, lift or loosen dirt. Sometimes, though, you need to add additional scrubbing power to deal with tough or dried-on dirt. Enter abrasive cleansers. These also contain small abrasive particles designed to enhance the scrubbing action. Like sandpaper, they use friction to remove hardened soil.

Abrasive cleansers are made in different strengths. Scouring powder is designed for most sinks; "soft scrub" cleansers feature smaller abrasive particles and are recommended for specialty finishes. Abrasive cleansers may be formulated with other cleaners, such as bleach, to fight stains; be sure to read labels and choose the appropriate variety for the job.

Because these products can be difficult to rinse clean, use them inside sinks, tubs and toilets where rinsing is easier.

Specialty Cleaners for Special Jobs

These special-use products are formulated for specific cleaning issues or specific surfaces. Be sure to read the labels and use as directed by the manufacturer.

Gum, gunk and goo remover. A petroleum-distillate product designed to remove the greasy residues left by chewing gum, oily gunk or adhesives.

Lime and scale remover. A highly corrosive solution to hard-water scale deposits.

Rust removers. Designed to remove the rust stains in sinks, tubs and toilets that can occur in areas where the water supply has a high iron content.

Stainless steel cleaner or polish. Specialty products designed to clean, protect, and shine stainless-steel sinks, surfaces, pots, and pans.

Save Money on Cleaning Products

Commercial cleaning products can make quick work of a clean house, but at a price! Costly cleaners don’t have to break the bank. Try these tips to save money on cleaning supplies.

Match the product to the job. Why bring on the big guns for everyday dirt? Choose the right cleaner for the surface and soil involved; no sense wasting high-strength degreaser on a simple water spot or trying to tackle stubborn grease stains using multiple spritzes of mild evaporative cleaner.

Use just enough and no more. No, more is not better! Using too much cleaning product wastes money and means extra time spent rinsing and wiping.

Opt for half-measures. Try using half as much product, and check the result. If you can’t tell the difference, cut the amount in half again until you find the sweet spot where cleaning and conservation meet.

Can the caps. With generous sizing and barely visible markings, product caps are an inefficient way to measure cleaning products and manufacturers know it. Use your own easy-read measuring cup or mark caps with permanent marker to guard against overuse.

Buy in bulk. With cleaning products, small sizes mean big per-unit prices, so buy supplies in bulk, and add a funnel to the cleaning cupboard. Fill your own bottles and save!

Ditch the disposables. Give these candidates for the landfill the cold shoulder. Replace disposable wipes with reusable cotton cleaning cloths, toilet bowl swabs with a good-quality toilet brush, and swipe-and-toss floor systems with a square-headed mop with replaceable terry covers.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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