“All-purpose” doesn’t mean what you think it does

By Jessica Migala
Updated August 11, 2020
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Can’t you just spray, wipe, and go? Not if you want to keep the multitude of surfaces in your kitchen—wood, tile, granite—sparkling and clean, not to mention do the best thing for the health of you and your family. Here are the five cleaning products that you should avoid for the health of you and your kitchen.

Vinegar on your floors

Many people use vinegar and water as a natural option for floors, but vinegar is acidic and will degrade the finish on your hardwood, says Vicki Brown, owner of Harmony Clean in Bucks County, PA. For hardwood, she uses Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner, which is Greenguard Certified. Other floor surfaces can be cleaned with a slurry of hot water and dish soap, she says.

Produce washes

Your fruits and veggies will get adequately clean when washed under plain running water, which removes dirt and other organisms, says the FDA. Avoid using soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes to get them clean, as they may leave behind a residue on your food. For one, something like soap on your produce will make it taste icky, and two, the FDA hasn't yet looked into if these residues are ultimately safe for you.

Stainless-steel cleaner

You want your appliances to shine, but did you know that some stainless-steel cleaning products can be harmful to your flatware? “We find there’s a new stainless steel that has a finish on it where using one of these products will cause streaks,” says Katrina Keith, a franchise owner of Molly Maid in Dallas-Fort Worth. Look to see if the manufacturer has a guide for caring for the outside. Otherwise, “if you don’t know, go with the neutral and safe option,” she says. Plain soap and water should do the trick.

Multi-surface cleaner

It may surprise you to know that a multi-surface or all-purpose cleaner isn’t, in fact, safe for all surfaces, says Keith. Some may be too acidic, for example, which would degrade surfaces. To be really safe, look for one labeled pH neutral, which will be gentle on all surfaces (check out Frosch Natural pH Neutral Universal All Purpose Cleaner, for example). Bonus tip: When it comes to your floors, think about using a microfiber cloth (we love these from amazon.com, $33 for 8 cloths), she says. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), past research shows microfiber cloths pick up 99% of bacteria, compared to 30% with a traditional cloth-loop mop.

Highly scented products

You may yearn for the “clean smell,” but scents added to household cleaners can pose risks to your health. Fragrances (including ones branded as “natural”) can react with the air to form formaldehyde and fine particles that can irritate your airways, warns the American Lung Association. They recommend choosing unscented products, opting for soap and water most of the time, and avoiding using air fresheners completely.