Non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaners are marketed in different forms. They are offered as powders that can be dissolved to the proper strength and as liquids that can be diluted or used full strength. The newest powders and liquids are concentrated products. Liquids are also available as trigger sprays, in aerosol cans or in pump-actuated bottles.
Non-abrasive cleaners can also contain antimicrobial agents to disinfect. Such products will specify on the label that they “kill germs” or “disinfect” and are regulated and approved by Health Canada.
Powdered or liquid cleaners mixed with water are most often used on fairly large washable surfaces like floors, painted walls, countertops and woodwork, where accumulations of soil are relatively uniform. For heavy soiling, more concentrated solutions can be prepared. Liquids may also be used full strength.
The major ingredients in non-abrasive cleaners are surfactants and builders. A surfactant’s presence is noticeable by the appearance of foam, particularly in diluted water solutions. All-purpose cleaners are generally formulated to produce only a moderate amount of foam, which makes rinsing easier.
Since most all-purpose cleaners work best in alkaline conditions, they often contain an alkaline buffer salt, such as sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate can also function as a builder.
These cleaners can also contain other ingredients, such as ammonia, pine oil and organic solvents like ethanol or isopropanol.
Spray cleaners are designed for use on smaller washable areas. Soiled walls around switch plates, chrome fixtures, appliances and cooktops are examples. Like the dilutable products, sprays are formulated with surfactants and low levels of builders; most contain an organic solvent. The combination of surfactant and solvent makes such products particularly effective on greasy soils.