When it comes to household products, whether it's toothpaste or window cleaner, I'll readily admit to being a pragmatist. The product has to work, first and foremost. If it doesn't, I don't care how natural or sweet-smelling or biodegradable it is, nor how much the manufacturer boosts wages in developing nations. That's all great stuff, but what's the point if the product doesn't get the job done? At the same time, pragmatic thinking leans toward an optimized approach to housecleaning and the simple idea that one cleaner is better than three ... or 12. Well, I'm happy to report that I found at least one all-purpose cleaner that tackles multiple surfaces and rooms, and it does it all without subjecting my children's touch-everything hands (and the city sewer system) to toxic chemicals. It's called Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day.
Why I chose Mrs. Meyer's
To be honest, she wasn't my first choice. From my days as a backcountry camper, I'm a big fan of Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap, the ultimate Earth-friendly all-purpose body cleaner. So I called around town in search of Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds household cleaner. But nobody carried it. (Sorry, Doc.) Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner seemed like a similar product, and I found it at the nearest Whole Foods. It's also less than half the cost of Sal Suds — another victory for pragmatism, not to mention robust product distribution. I specifically wanted a cleaner that can be added to a bucket of water, as that, to me, is the key to all-purpose cleaning. Spray cleaners are fine for countertops and bathroom fixtures, but I find they're not practical for floors, tubs and other large surfaces.
Best in show
What impressed me most about Clean Day was not only how well-rounded it was as a cleaner but also how consistently it outperformed several other cleaners I typically use (yeah right, like I hire a Denver area house cleaner). The first thing I tried it out on was my stainless steel kitchen sink. I poured a little Clean Day straight into the basin and used that as a reservoir for scrubbing the sink and stainless faucet. Sorry for the cliché, but it made both look like new. The cleaner I usually use here is Bar Keepers Friend, a cleanser-like powder with an odor that makes you want to escape to nearest bar (maybe that's where the name comes from!). I think the Clean Day did a better job, sans smelliness and chalky residue.
Results with the bathroom sinks were similar. Usually I break a sweat scrubbing the soap scum from the worn enamel basins, using conventional cleanser. Not so with Clean Day. I was truly amazed at how well it worked here (maybe because it's like soap, I don't know from chemistry). It also shined up the chromed plastic faucet spouts (yes, they're chrome, but plastic inside), something that previously required window cleaner because the cleanser never would leave a shine.
The clincher was the bathroom floor's tile grout, which is supposed to be off-white but typically ranges from a sickly tan up through the earth tones and into a rich, brownish gray. I tested some homespun remedies on this very same grout for an article awhile back, trying out vinegar, baking soda and Borax. Clean Day — in regular diluted strength — put them all to shame. Previously, only the Borax was effective at whitening the grout, and this required a full-strength application of the gritty powder.
The liquid formula of Clean Day calls for 1/4 cup of soap for 1 gallon of water. This dilution was strong enough for every surface I tested (using full strength on the kitchen sink was a rookie mistake; just a lot more soap than I needed). For tough cleaning situations, the label says you can apply it full-strength and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping. I tried this on some deeply grease-stained grout on my tiled kitchen counters. It worked well, perhaps not as well as the strong bleach-water solution I use every once in awhile, but the Clean Day didn't fumigate the entire kitchen or make my eyes sting, like the bleach does. The regular dilution of Clean Day worked well on all other surfaces, including a laminate floor, painted cabinets, toilet, tub and an enameled stovetop.
Having test-driven Clean Day on all of the above surfaces and more, I highly recommend it for general household cleaning, especially for those of you who like to just git 'er dun by lugging around a bucket and scrubby sponge. The Clean Day label warns against using the soap full-strength on wood floors and stone, and I second that opinion. I won't be using it, diluted or full-strength, on my hardwood floors because they're polyurethaned. My floor finisher (and several other experts I've interviewed over the years) says not to use oil-based soap on polyurethane, as it leaves a residue that could preclude the option of recoating the floor (as opposed to sanding and refinishing). Diluted Clean Day doesn't leave an oily feel on any surface, even without rinsing, but it does contain natural oils, which probably is why it works so well.
Linger no longer
I actually like the smell of my "Lemon Verbena" Clean Day, mostly because it's authentic; I can't stand artificial odors. But when I entered our bathroom a short while after a thorough scrubbing and mopping with Clean Day, the lemon scent was all but gone. This was icing on the cake for me. The last all-purpose cleaner I bought was Pine-Sol, which has a wickedly phony odor that pervades and lingers like nuclear fallout, alerting your neighbors three doors down that you've finally cleaned your bathroom.
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