In Consumer Reports tests of all-purpose cleaners the best all-around has been around a long time: Pine-Sol Original. And at only nine cents an ounce, it was one of the least expensive we tested earning it a CR Best Buy. Cleaners with such names as Fabuloso and Nice didn't live up to their upbeat monikers and some familiar brands of the 19 we tested left behind stains and soap scum.
All-purpose cleaners are typically used to clean such household surfaces as kitchen counters and bathroom tiles. In our labs we pit them against four soil types—grease, grape juice, ketchup and mustard that we spread on glass, ceramic and metal tiles. Then it's on to the soap scum test. Finally, we see if the cleaners leave streaks behind. Only the Pine-Sol aced that test. It was also very good at removing stains and soap scum and was the only cleaner to make our list of top-picks.
For bathrooms, we found that Clorox Clean-up with Bleach was tough on soap scum and because it contains bleach it should be able to handle mildew and mold as well. But in the kitchen, it was only so-so at removing the food soil.
The best spray cleaner we tested was also the greenest—Seventh Generation Natural All-Purpose Cleaner. It was very good at removing soap scum but needed extra elbow grease to remove the food and was only so-so on the streaking test. Only one cleaner in the batch, Trader Joe's Multi-Purpose Cleaner made claims that it was streak free. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. One of the streakiest cleaners was Nice! from Walgreens. And it was no match for either the soap scum or food stains.
Pine-Sol was created in 1929 by a chemist who lived near a pine forest in Mississippi, according to the company's website. And it wasn't an overnight sensation. In fact, for the next 17 years it was only sold in Mississippi. A Pine-Sol timeline boasts that its staying power is "proof positive that when something works, it lasts."
—Mary H.J. Farrell