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The best and worst surface cleaners from our expert testing

We share which surface cleaners scrub up the best, and which perform no better than plain old water. 

some of the best and worst surface cleaners
Last updated: 03 May 2024

Whatever your cleaning style – everything at the last minute or methodical and meticulous – you need cleaning products that work. 

And with so many cleaning products available (seriously, have you seen the cleaning aisle?) it can be hard to know which ones are worth buying and what's a waste of your money. 

To help you make a better choice at the checkout and sort out the winners from the duds, we tested 55 surface cleaners, including multipurpose cleaners and specific kitchen cleaners. Here's what we found.

What we learned from our latest test

two recommended earths choice surface cleaners

These two Earth Choice products scored 95%.

If you love nothing more than scrubbing a surface until it's sparkling with a cleaner that works, we have good news: there are a 11 products from our latest testing that our experts recommend.

Some of those products are a familiar sight amongst our top performers (we test them every year), while there are also a couple of newcomers we haven't seen in our best scorers before: including two products from the Australian-owned, plant-based brand Earth Choice.

There's a considerable difference between the best and worst products, too: while the recommended products scored 85% and above, almost every other product in the test scored less than 55%.

Four of our 11 recommended multipurpose cleaners claim to be either plant-based or products with fewer nasty chemicals 

CHOICE head of reviews and testing Matthew Steen

"If you want a surface cleaner that really works, our testing shows that you need to choose wisely," says CHOICE head of reviews and testing, Matthew Steen.

"An impressive seven products tied for first place in our review with scores of 95%. These include both specific kitchen cleaners and general multipurpose cleaners from well-known brands such as Ajax, Dettol, Jif, Nifti and Pine O Cleen." 

Matthew is pleased that two cleaners made with plant-based ingredients took out the top spots. 

"The Earth Choice Antibacterial All Purpose Spray and the Earth Choice Undo This Mess Grease Blaster Multipurpose Spray both scored 95%."

"In fact, four of our 11 recommended multipurpose cleaners claim to be either plant-based or products with fewer nasty chemicals than traditional cleaning products," says Matthew.

Note: Our multipurpose cleaner review also includes glass cleaners, but we haven't covered these in this article. To find out the best and worst glass cleaners, head to our review and select "Glass" under the filter "Cleaner type".

The best surface cleaners from our tests

In order to find out which multipurpose cleaners are best, lab experts put each cleaner to the test using pre-soiled melamine tiles. Using a scrubbing apparatus with a sponge attached, the sheet is then scrubbed 40 times. 

We use another tool called a spectrophotometer that takes reflectance readings before and after scrubbing to determine how much dirt the cleaners remove.

Here are the top-scoring surface cleaners from our test, along with their CHOICE Expert Rating:

  • Ajax Professional Kitchen (95%)
  • Dettol Healthy Clean Kitchen (95%)
  • Earth Choice Antibacterial All Purpose (95%)
  • Earth Choice Undo This Mess with Grease Blaster Multipurpose (95%)
  • Easy Off Bam Kitchen Specialist Universal Degreaser (95%)
  • Jif Cleanboost Kitchen (95%)
  • Nifti All Purpose Cleaner (95%)
  • Koh Universal Cleaner Ultimate Multi Purpose (90%)
  • Pine O Cleen Brand New Day Multi-Purpose Cleaner (90%)
  • Scrub Daddy Magic Multi-Surface Cleaner (90%)
  • Bosisto's Multipurpose (85%).

The worst surface cleaners from our tests

There may have been lots of diamonds in our test, but there were also plenty of duds. 

Four products received the exact same CHOICE Expert Rating as plain water (45%), which is a pretty dire state of affairs!

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

The supermarket stinkers

We're often pleasantly surprised by how supermarket products stack up against branded products – many of them outperform products that cost several times more. That's good news for bargain hunters!

But unfortunately that wasn't the case with surface cleaners – none of the supermarket sprays performed well in our testing, all scoring just 50%, which is marginally better than plain water.

So if you're looking to reduce your household budget, you'll have to look elsewhere in your cleaning regime to make savings.

Here are the lacklustre supermarket own-brand products that received a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 50%:

  • Aldi Power Force Pro Multi Purpose
  • Aldi Green Action Multi Purpose Cleaner Antibacterial
  • Coles Green Choice Multi-Purpose Cleaner
  • Coles Ultra Multi-Purpose Cleaner
  • Woolworths Strike Pro Multipurpose Spray Cleaner
spray cleaners that scored fifty percent

These supermarket own-brand products failed to impress, all scoring 50%.

The pricey poor performers

At the other end of the price range, some of the most expensive products in our test didn't demonstrate performance to match their price tags. 

Wash Wild Multipurpose Spray

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 55%
  • Price: $6.50 ($2.17 per 100mL)

Cove Surface

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Price: $10.00 ($2.11 per 100mL)

Thankyou Universal Cleaner

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 50%
  • Price: $9.95 ($1.99 per 100mL)

By comparison, the cheapest product recommended by our experts costs just $0.67 per 100mL.

"Time and again we find price isn't necessarily an indicator of performance, and sadly these two are great examples," says Matthew.

A note about prices: The prices listed here are what we paid at the time of testing. Grocery prices fluctuate frequently, so double-check prices before you buy to make sure you're getting the best deal.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.