The surface cleaners that really work

On the surface of it, you’d think there might not be much difference between household cleaners. But it is our household surfaces themselves that prove there is, according to a new CHOICE report. 

On Friday the consumer advocacy organisation published The best and worst surface cleaners from our expert testing. And the report did partially confirm the notion of not much difference between cleaners. But that difference relates specifically to the best of the surface cleaners. CHOICE found that the worst cleaners differed dramatically from the best.

The CHOICE experts were unable to separate the best seven surface cleaners, all earning a rating of 95 per cent. Another four cleaners achieved ratings of 85 per cent or higher, taking to 11 the total number of surface cleaners that qualify as ‘recommended’. 

A number of expensive cleaners scored much lower than the best of them. Incredibly, four of the surface cleaners tested achieved a 45 per cent rating. This is the same rating achieved using water and nothing else!

CHOICE head of reviews and testing Matthew Steen was pleased that two of the highest-ranked cleaners used plant-based ingredients. “The Earth Choice ‘Antibacterial All-Purpose Spray’ and the Earth Choice ‘Undo This Mess Grease Blaster Multipurpose Spray’ both scored 95 per cent”, he said.

How are the surface cleaner ratings determined?

Each of the cleaners tested underwent an identical process, Mr Steen said. “All surface cleaners were rigorously tested using pre-soiled melamine tiles, each scrubbed 40 times by a scrubbing apparatus,” he said.

“A tool called a spectrophotometer is used before and after scrubbing to determine how much dirt each cleaner removes.”

Using this method, 11 cleaners attained the 85 per cent rating required to be classified as ‘recommended’ by CHOICE. Interestingly, almost all of the cleaners that didn’t reach that mark fell well short of it.

“Almost every other product in the test scored less than 55 per cent”, the CHOICE report revealed. 

The best of the best

In all, CHOICE tested 55 surface cleaners. The seven that scored the highest rating of 95 per cent were:

  • Ajax Professional Kitchen
  • Dettol Healthy Clean Kitchen
  • Earth Choice Antibacterial All Purpose
  • Earth Choice Undo This Mess with Grease Blaster Multipurpose
  • Easy Off Bam Kitchen Specialist Universal Degreaser
  • Jif Cleanboost Kitchen
  • Nifti All Purpose Cleaner

‘Koh Universal Cleaner Ultimate Multi-Purpose’, ‘Pine-O-Cleen Brand New Day Multi-Purpose Cleaner’ and ‘Scrub Daddy Magic Multi-Surface Cleaner’ got honourable mentions. They each earned a 90 per cent rating, with Bosisto’s Multipurpose marginally behind on 85 per cent.

The products that need to clean up their act

And so, to the cleaners that failed to live up to expectations.

“Unfortunately, our testing found four cleaners performed the same as plain old water,” Mr Steen said.

Each of the four, which included some well-known brands, scored 45 per cent.

“If you’re wondering which products to steer clear from, these would be it,” he said.

The four banished to the surface cleaner ‘naughty corner’ are:

  • Diggers Multi-Purpose Surface Cleaner
  • Jif Antibac & Shine Multi-Purpose 
  • McLintocks Vanilla Fresh 
  • White King 4 in 1 Multipurpose Cleaner

Among its other findings, CHOICE found that supermarket brands, which have a history of out-rating name brands, did not live up to that reputation in surface cleaners. “None of the supermarket sprays performed well in our testing, all scoring just 50 per cent,” the experts said. That’s only marginally better than plain water.

The full CHOICE report is available here.

Did your regular surface cleaner make the top 11? Will you be making a change? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: How household cleaning products can promote bugs

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. From what is presented here, it is an almost valueless test by Choice.
    They have only assessed by an optical viewing. Where was the microbiological swabbing and growth of cultures?
    Clean does not mean sterile and sterile does not mean “clean”. A surface can appear to be dirty but be clinically sterile. Also a surface can appear to be clean but be covered in microbiolgy.
    Spraying with the most effective cleaner can be pointless if a person than wipes it down with an average kitchen cloth or wipe.
    Your best protection against “nasties” is cooking your food and handling with sterile implements (legacy knives and forks and spoons in clean plates and bowls) and avoiding handling with our fingers.
    A balance of bacteria is essential to a healthy body, so washing our hands is under-rated and sunshine is one of the best disinfectants (or any UV light source).

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