How to Choose the Right Cleaning Chemical for the Job

There are many options to choose from when it comes to cleaning chemicals and products, and it’s important to ensure you get one that is right for the job. Choosing the wrong cleaning chemicals could have unwanted results like surfaces or fabrics not being adequately cleaned or contamination of food. This article covers some of the most common cleaning products and lets you know what they do and don’t do, helping you to choose the right one for the job.


Household bleach products are well known for being able to remove stains from fabrics. Many bleaches are equally effective on stains that form on hard surfaces. Bleach can also be used as a disinfectant that will kill virtually all forms of bacteria, viruses and fungi, including mildew and mould. Bleach is toxic and should never be ingested, and you should always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands when working with bleach. It is best practice to avoid using bleach on areas where people or animals eat.


Degreasers are sometimes called solvent cleaners. They are used to remove built-up grease from various surfaces like oven tops, grill backsplashes and countertops. In the past, methylated spirits or white spirit were commonly applied as degreasers. Today, most food-based businesses like restaurants and caterers opt for non-fuming, non-toxic degreasing solutions in their operations to ensure there is no chemical contamination of their food.


Disinfectants are chemicals that contain special antimicrobial agents to eliminate bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces. For disinfection to be effective, the surface should be free from heavy soiling. Many disinfectant cleaners contain builders and surfactants that help remove soil, in addition to the antimicrobial agents that kill germs. They are therefore very effective surface cleaners as well as germ killers and are a good solution for areas where food is prepared. Always follow the label instructions to ensure a surface is fully disinfected and no contamination of food will take place.

Hard surface cleaners

Hard surface cleaning chemicals comprise mainly liquid solutions designed for cleaning surfaces like metal, building facades, toilet bowls and other hard surfaces. Their contents will vary depending on the targeted surfaces, and you will usually need to find a cleaning option specially designed for the surface you need to clean. Their properties and effectiveness vary depending on the amount of dirt involved and the nature of the surface.

Multi-purpose cleaners

Multi-purpose cleaners come in a variety of forms. Abrasive cleaners are helpful in removing fairly heavy soiling in small areas and come in both powder and liquid form. They contain a kind of built-in ‘elbow grease’, helping to minimise the hard rubbing you have to do to get rid of heavy soil. Scouring pads come under the category of abrasive cleaners.

Non-abrasive cleaners come in powder and liquid form, and generally don’t include that ‘elbow grease’ of their abrasive counterparts. Their major ingredients are surfactants and builders, which will result in foaming that needs to be rinsed off. You will also find spray cleaners under this category, aimed at cleaning smaller washable areas.

The common feature of these different types of multi-purpose cleaner is that they will contain other ingredients that make them effective for cleaning a range of surfaces. Ammonia, pine oil and organic solvents like isopropanol and ethanol are common, making these cleaners very versatile and effective. They may also contain disinfectants in some cases.

Getting it right

Choosing the right chemicals for a cleaning job isn’t rocket science, but it is an important step in ensuring your cleaning is done to a high standard. Do your best to be informed about your options, and you won’t go wrong when choosing the cleaning chemicals you need.


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