Americans spent more than five billion last year on cleaning products, so an all-purpose cleaner that's supposed to tackle dirt and grime in kitchens and baths sounds like a good deal.
Consumer Reports tested 13 regular all-purpose cleaners. Testers spread mustard, ketchup, and cooking grease on glass or tile and let them stand overnight. Then they apply the cleaners and let them sit according to manufacturers' instructions. Next, testers wipe away the spills using the same number of passes.
Testers also checked to see how well the cleaners removed caked-on soap scum and whether they streaked. There were big differences.
Because cleaners can spill and you may not notice, Consumer Reports also left them overnight on marble, granite, stainless steel and other surfaces to see if they caused any damage. It turns out almost all the cleaners left visible stains on brass.
So can one all-purpose cleaner do it all? Several green cleaners excelled, though not on everything. Top-rated Nature's Source did particularly well on soap scum, and it left fewer streaks and stained surfaces. However it's not great for grease. Better for that and other stains is Ecover Natural, but use it with care as it stained many surfaces when left on overnight in Consumer Reports' tests.
Best for jobs where you need a disinfectant, like cleaning your toilet, is Walmart's Great Value with Bleach cleaner. It also costs less.